(262) 335-4678

Old Courthouse
& Jail Museums

Wednesday – Friday: 11:00 – 5:00 p.m.
Saturday: 9:00 – 3:00 p.m. 

St. Agnes Historic Site
By Appointment Only

Washington County Courthouse Museum

Frequently Asked Questions

Upcoming Events

Jan
31
Wed
Great Lakes Small Streams: How Water Shapes Wisconsin Traveling Exhibit @ Old Courthouse Museum
Jan 31 – Feb 24 all-day
Great Lakes Small Streams: How Water Shapes Wisconsin Traveling Exhibit @ Old Courthouse Museum | West Bend | Wisconsin | United States

Did you know the Great Lakes hold 20% of the Earth’s fresh water?   Join us for a special showing of Great Lakes Small Streams: How Water Shapes Wisconsin, a traveling exhibit presented by the Wisconsin Historical Society.  This 16 panel exhibit explores our state’s long relationship with water and the impact we have had on our vast waterways.

Feb
3
Sat
Lake Michigan Shipwrecks and Discoveries @ Old Courthouse Museum
Feb 3 @ 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm

Great Lakes are known as the inland seas with powerful storms reaching up to hurricane force winds and ships disappearing beneath the waves.  The Great Lakes used to resemble a busy highway with ships crossing them; transporting natural resources, grain, cargo, and people. At times ships collided and sunk.  Join Capt. Jitka Hanakova as she takes you back in time from when the first ever ship, the Le Griffon, crossed the Great Lakes to discovering missing schooners, steamships, freighters, and even airplanes.  You will find out how these ships sunk and what they look like on the bottom of the lakes now – some still containing precious cargo of Christmas trees, Nash automobiles, and even a safe with gold coins.

 

Free with museum admission.

Feb
17
Sat
Matinee Courtroom Mystery Trial: Trial of Freddy “the Fish” PART ONE @ Old Courthouse Museum
Feb 17 @ 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Matinee Courtroom Mystery Trial: Trial of Freddy “the Fish”  PART ONE @ Old Courthouse Museum | West Bend | Wisconsin | United States

A rash of crimes have been haunting 1930’s Washington County and it is believed Chicago Gangster Freddy “The Fish” is responsible. Judge Bucklin will preside over this unique interactive evening where each guest is a victim, witness, juror or  “friend” of Freddy’s.  Period dress is popular and encouraged.  Based on real crimes and historical characters, and locations in Washington County and beyond.

Doors open at 2:30.  Matinee Dessert Trial tickets include an assortment of cookies, bars, chocolates, fruit and savory snacks and non-alcoholic beverages with a cash wine and beer bar.

Dinner Courtroom Mystery Trial: Trial of Freddy “the Fish” PART ONE @ Old Courthouse Museum
Feb 17 @ 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Dinner Courtroom Mystery Trial: Trial of Freddy “the Fish”  PART ONE @ Old Courthouse Museum | West Bend | Wisconsin | United States

A rash of crimes have been haunting 1930’s Washington County and it is believed Chicago Gangster Freddy “The Fish” is responsible. Judge Bucklin will preside over this unique interactive evening where each guest is a victim, witness, juror or  “friend” of Freddy’s.  Period dress is popular and encouraged.  Based on real crimes and historical characters, and locations in Washington County and beyond.

Doors open at 5:30.  The Dinner Mystery Trial tickets include a buffet by Catering by Bryan with salmon, bacon wrapped pork tenderloin, red potatoes, green beans, baby carrots, tossed salad and dessert.  Includes ice tea and coffee.  Cash bar.

Feb
28
Wed
West Bend High School Band Concert @ Old Courthouse Museum
Feb 28 @ 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm

The West Bend High School Band preforms in the Old Courtroom.

Mar
3
Sat
Junior Girl Scout Program: Mystery in the Museum @ Old Courthouse Museum
Mar 3 @ 9:00 am – 12:00 pm
Junior Girl Scout Program:  Mystery in the Museum @ Old Courthouse Museum | West Bend | Wisconsin | United States

The Junior Girl Scouts are called to the scene of a robbery at the Old Courthouse Museum. Complete activities and put the clues together to discovery who the culprit is!

-Dust for Fingerprints

-Analyze Handwriting

-Learn Chromatography

-Collect Trace Evidence

-MORE!

Who: Junior Girl Scouts (grades 4 & 5)

Where: Old Courthouse Museum, 320 S. 5th Avenue, West Bend 53095

Fee: $9.00/Girl Scout or adult. Cash, check, or credit cards. Due to limited space, only registered Junior Girl Scouts may participate.

REGISTRATION and PAYMENT REQUIRED by February 23, 2018. Each Girl Scout must be registered by a parent or guardian. Troop leaders may attend for no charge but, please, no additional parents. Badges not included.

Contact Tori (262) 335-4678 or education@historyisfun.com to register.

Mar
11
Sun
Tea Dance with Mike Mattek @ Old Courthouse Museum
Mar 11 @ 2:16 pm – 3:16 pm
Tea Dance with Mike Mattek @ Old Courthouse Museum | West Bend | Wisconsin | United States

Mike Mattek will be teaching brief introductory lessons on the Waltz, Tango, Charleston, Mambo, and Samba to help you get on the dance floor. A wide variety of ballroom dance music will be played for general dancing.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

1:00 –4:00 Workshop/Free Dance & Tea – $20

2:00 – 4:00 Free Dance and Tea Only – $15

Advance Reservations Appreciated

 

All Proceeds Benefit the History Center Washington County

 

Mar
20
Tue
Show ‘n’ Tell with Mike Paul @ Old Courthouse Museum
Mar 20 @ 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm
Show ‘n’ Tell with Mike Paul @ Old Courthouse Museum | West Bend | Wisconsin | United States

Dig out your family treasures, dust them off, and bring them to Show ‘n’ Tell with Mike Paul. Mike Paul is a professional appraiser and auctioneer of Paul Auction Company, Inc. in Kewaskum.

Mike will share his incredible knowledge of antiques with the audience as he examines each piece.

Even if you don’t have anything to share, this evening is fun & informative.

$5.00/non-member. Free/WCHS Member. Please, only ONE ITEM per person.

Don’t have an item? There’s no charge to watch.

May
2
Wed
History of the Doughboy Monument @ Old Courthouse Museum
May 2 @ 11:00 am – 12:00 pm
History of the Doughboy Monument @ Old Courthouse Museum | West Bend | Wisconsin | United States

In honor of the opening of our new traveling exhibit WWII Beyond the Trenches: Stories from the Front courtesy of The Wisconsin Veterans Museum, our executive director Patricia Lutz will be presenting on the history of the Doughboy Statue.

Free with museum admission.

WWI Beyond the Trenches: Stories from the Front Traveling Exhibit @ Old Courthouse Museum
May 2 @ 3:00 pm – Jun 2 @ 4:56 pm
WWI Beyond the Trenches: Stories from the Front  Traveling Exhibit @ Old Courthouse Museum | West Bend | Wisconsin | United States

Over 122,000 Wisconsin men and women served on land, sea and in the air during WWI.  WWI Beyond the Trenches, a traveling exhibit from the Wisconsin Veterans Museum, features an up close and personal look at the Great War through the eyes of Wisconsin veterans using photographs and first person accounts.  This special exhibit is free with museum admission.

General FAQS

Q: Do I need an appointment to visit the museums?

A: No, the Old Courthouse and Old Jailhouse Museum are open regular hours year-round. Groups of 10 or more should call ahead and talk with the Curator of Education (262) 335-4678 or education@historyisfun.com.

Q: Are the museums accessible?

A: The Old Courthouse Museum has an elevator that is accessed from the parking lot. The Old Jailhouse Museum does not have an elevator and several steps and stairs.

Q: Can I take pictures in the museum?

A: Yes, non-flash photographs are allowed in the Old Courthouse and Old Jailhouse Museums. For professional photography, contact the History Center (262) 335-4678.

Q: How can I go up into the tower?

A: The Old Courthouse tower is closed to the public. However, the It’s In the Details Architecture Tour includes a trip up to the tower. Or, you can purchase a Trip to the Tower certificate in the Treasurer’s Vault Gift Shop.

Q: Who owns the buildings?

A: Washington County has owned and maintained the property and the buildings on it since 1854. An agreement with the County allows The History Center Washington County to operate within both the Old Courthouse and Old Jailhouse. St. Agnes Historic Convent and School Site is owned and operated by The History Center Washington County.

Q: Do you accept credit cards?

A: Yes, we accept cash, check, and credit cards.

Q: Is museum admission required to shop in the Treasurer’s Vault Gift Shop?

A: No. Shopping in the gift shop is free.

Q: How do I rent the Old Courthouse Museum/Circuit Courtroom?

A: Contact Sue (262) 335-4678 or susan@historyisfun.com.

Q: When are the museums open?

A: The Old Courthouse Museum is open year-round on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from 11:00am-5:00pm and Saturday 9:00am-3:00pm. It is closed Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.

The Old Jailhouse Museum is open for guided tours year-round on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from 11:00am-5:00pm. Call ahead (262) 335-4678 to check Saturday tour availability. It is closed Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.

St. Agnes Historic Convent & School Site is open on specific days June-August and by appointment. Contact the History Center (262) 335-4678 to check dates or to schedule a tour.

Membership/donate FAQS

Q: Do I have to live in or be from Washington County to become a member?

A: No. Anyone interested in preservation of the past is welcome to join. Find more about becoming a member on the Support page.

Q: Am I expected to attend meetings to become a member?

A: No. As a member, you are invited to the annual November membership meeting and vote on the incoming Board of Directors.  

Q: How do I make a memorial gift or a gift in honor of someone?

A: Contact the Executive Director, (262) 335-4678 or director@historyisfun.com, or fill out the form on the Support page and return with a check. 

Q: How would I make a bequest gift?

A: Contact the Executive Director, (262) 335-4678 or director@historyisfun.com.

Q: I have an object that I would like to donate. What do I need to do?

A: All object donations must first have approval of the Curator of Collections and Exhibits. Please do not drop them off or leave them at the door. Make an appointment by contacting the Curator of Collections and Exhibits, (262) 335-4678 or curator@historyisfun.com.

Q: I would like to make a gift to the Washington County Historical Society Foundation, Inc.

A: Endowment Fund gifts can be mailed to The History Center Washington County, 320 S 5th Ave, West Bend, WI 53095. Make checks to "Washington County Historical Foundation, Inc."  and include any specific instructions. Contact the Executive Director, (262) 335-4678 or director@historyisfun.com, with any questions.

Common Research Center Questions

Q: What records do you have?

The Research Center holds collections concerning the people, places, and events of Washington County. Please see the Research Center page for more. 

Q: How does "this" (the Research Center) work?

While appointments are not required they are recommended. All Research Center materials and collections are in storage. We have indexes and catalogs to help us find information.  Essentially, you tell us what you are looking for and we find and pull the materials that will have the information you are searching for. This is why an appointment is recommended. We can do a search and pull the materials before your arrival so all you have to do is start researching.

Please, also remember that unless you are a member of the History Center, there is a $5 daily Research Center fee; copies are extra and no cell phones or personal scanners.

Contact the Curator of Archives, (262) 335-4678 or research@historyisfun.com, for more information.

Q: How do I find out information regarding my home?

We are looking for and collecting information when it becomes available, there is no way the Research Center can have a detailed history of every home - that would be a monumental task and think of the space! Such a collection could make up its own archives. 

While we don’t have detailed histories of every house in Washington County there are ways to find out some basic information using the sources that we have here and those at the Register of Deeds Office.

To determine when a house was built check the inside and outside of the home for a date carved in stone or wood. Your next step would be to look through the tax records for a spike in property value. The tax record will not tell you that a house was built; a significant spike in property value does indicate that a structure was built on the property. Plat maps are also helpful. The Research Center does have tax records, but not for every township or municipality.

To determine who first owned or built the house you will need to go to the Register of Deeds Office in the County Courthouse. There you will be able to look through land deeds by property description, or by the surname of a previous owner.

Q: I would like birth, marriage, and death certificates.

The Research Center does have pre-1907 vital records on microfilm. Please note that it was not mandated that people had to file these vital records with a governmental body. For this time period a search of our church records may yield more information. 

For certificates after 1907, a visit to the Register of Deeds office will be needed. The RC does have church records through 2000 for most churches.

Contact the Curator of Archives, (262) 335-4678 or research@historyisfun.com, for more information.

Q: I would like a copy of a photograph. Can you photocopy it?

The Research Center does not photocopy our photographs. We do photographic reproductions. Reproduction sizes are from 8x10 to 17x22. Please contact the Curator of Archives, (262) 335-4678 or research@historyisfun.com, for pricing. 

All of our photographs are digitized and cataloged. Sometimes finding a photograph is as easy as typing in the right search term and other times researchers find the binder copies of the photographs easier to navigate. Either way there is a way to find the one photograph you are looking for in our 16,000 (and growing) photograph collection.  

Q: Are Research Center records online?

The Research Center is working on cataloging collections that have not been cataloged to put the catalog record or Finding Aid online. Check the Digital Collections page often to see what has been added recently.

Q: I have materials to donate.

All archival materials come to the Research Center. This includes photographs, maps, papers, letters, books, and more. Contact the Curator of Archives, (262) 335-4678 or research@historyisfun.com, or see our Support page for more information. 

Q: Is there a fee to use the Research Center?

A: Yes, there is a fee to use the Research Center. A $5.00 daily fee is charged for use of the Research Center unless you are a member of the History Center. Members can use the Research Center for free. Any photocopies, photographic reproductions, and scanning are extra.

Q: I would like to know where my great-great grandfather is buried.

A: The Research Center does have information regarding burials in Washington County. Often, it’s as easy as looking in our Death and Burial Index. Other times more research is needed. Contact the Curator of Archives, (262) 335-4678 or research@historyisfun.com, for more information.