(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

Future of the Washington County Historical Society, Inc.

Upcoming Events

Apr
5
Wed
My Great Uncle Carl Quickert, Washington County Historian @ Old Courthouse Museum
Apr 5 @ 11:30 am – 12:30 pm

Carl Quickert (1869-1951) was a well known and personable local historian, accomplished poet, and newspaper man. He was intensely private, too. His 1923 book, The Story of Washington County, remains a source of early county history.

Quickert’s great-nephew, John Brauer, will share the life story of his great-uncle as well as insights into Quickert’s writing style and sources of inspiration.

Program is free with admission to the Old Courthouse Museum.

Contact Jessica education@historyisfun.com or (262) 335-4678.

Apr
14
Fri
Good Friday Hours @ Old Courthouse Museum
Apr 14 @ 9:00 am – 3:00 pm

The Old Courthouse Museum will be open from 9 am to 3pm on Friday, April 14th.  The Old Jail and the Research Center are CLOSED.

May
3
Wed
Wisconsin Remembers: A Face for Every Name @ Old Courthouse Museum
May 3 @ 11:00 am – Jul 8 @ 3:00 pm

Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television and the Wisconsin Veterans Museum are pleased to share Wisconsin Remembers: A Face for Every Name – a traveling exhibit that features a photo for each of the 1,161 Wisconsinites officially listed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C*. The exhibit also includes additional photos for names that are listed on The Highground Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Neillsville, WI. Wisconsin Remembers is a tribute to lost life and lost potential.

May
6
Sat
Blast Into the Past Family Day: 1970s Beyond Disco @ Old Courthouse Museum
May 6 @ 9:00 am – 1:00 pm
Blast Into the Past Family Day: 1970s Beyond Disco @ Old Courthouse Museum | West Bend | Wisconsin | United States

Experience the past at our free family-friendly, indoor-outdoor celebration! This year, we’re celebrating the 1970s Beyond Disco!

Answer U.S. Bi-Centennial Trivia. Rotary vs. Touch Tone phone dialing races. Guess what it is, 70s style. Try some sweet threads. Make a pet rock. Learn about 70s fads and try some far out dance moves.

Guided tours of the Old Jailhouse Museum will be available at 9:45, 10:15, 10:45, 11:15, 11:45, 12:15, and 12:45. Stop at the Old Courthouse Museum front desk for free tour tickets.

All activities are free. All ages welcome. Rain or shine.

May
16
Tue
Town of West Bend: Its First 150 Years @ Town of West Bend Hall
May 16 @ 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm
Town of West Bend: Its First 150 Years @ Town of West Bend Hall | West Bend | Wisconsin | United States

Local historian and author Lee Krueger will share the history of significant locations in the Town of West Bend, including:

  • Lucas Lake and cranberry harvesting
  • Hoppe and Richter sawmills
  • Early days of Nabob
  • Lake resorts: Gonrings, Rosenheimers, the Linden Inn, Timmers, Steges, and Peters

Meet us at the West Bend Town Hall, 6355 CTY Z, West Bend 53095

Free. Everyone welcome.

May
29
Mon
Memorial Day Free Old Courthouse Museum Admission @ Old Courthouse Museum
May 29 @ 11:00 am – 3:00 pm

memorialday_vetsdayEnjoy the Memorial Celebration on the Washington County Veteran’s Plaza then visit the Old Courthouse Museum for FREE!

Jun
21
Wed
Free Museums Admission Week for County Residents @ Old Courthouse Museum
Jun 21 – Jun 25 all-day

Washington County Residents are invited to visit all 3 History Center Washington County Museums this week for FREE. It’s our way of saying, “Thank you!”

On Wednesday, June 21 all Museums are open late.

  • Old Courthouse & Old Jailhouse Museums, 11:00am-7:00pm
  • Father Rehrl’s Rectory & Exhibit at St. Agnes Historic Site, 5:00pm-7:00pm. Open Wednesday only.

 EGG DROP from Old Courthouse tower June 21 from 4-7pm! Group-build a secure, drop-proof egg carton in the courtroom (or at home) for 1 raw egg. For $10/egg/drop, drop it from the balcony level (80 feet) of the Old Courthouse tower.

Hit the target and the egg survives, win a prize. Hit the target and the egg does not survive, you still get a prize. Try as many times as you wish, but it is $10/egg/drop. Tower is open only to those participating in the egg drop.

 

The Old Courthouse & Old Jailhouse Museums will also be open Sunday, June 25 from 1:00pm-4:30pm.

LAST OLD JAILHOUSE MUSEUM TOUR each day begins 45 minutes before close. Stop at the Old Courthouse Museum for a FREE Old Jailhouse Museum tour ticket.

Regular hours for Museums apply the rest of the week.

Residents, please bring a photo id with your current address, or a utility bill with photo id. Regular museum admission applies to non-county residents. Egg drop fee is in addition to museum admission.

Jun
24
Sat
Egg Drop at the Museum @ Old Courthouse Museum
Jun 24 @ 4:00 pm – 7:00 pm

Group-build a secure, drop-proof egg carton in the courtroom (or at home) for 1 raw egg. For $10/egg/drop, drop it from the balcony level (80 feet) of the Old Courthouse tower.

Hit the target and the egg survives, win a prize. Hit the target and the egg does not survive, you still get a prize. Try as many times as you wish, but it is $10/egg/drop. Tower is open only to those participating in the egg drop.

Egg Drop is during our Free Museum Admission Week for Washington County Residents. Residents, please bring a photo id with your current address, or a utility bill with photo id. Regular museum admission applies to non-county residents. Egg drop fee is in addition to museum admission.

Jul
13
Thu
Father Rehrl’s Rectory & Exhibit Open @ St. Agnes Historic Site
Jul 13 @ 12:00 pm – 2:00 pm

Built in 1856, it was here that the Sisters of St. Agnes managed one of the first schools in Washington County, educating children of all denominations.

Within the fieldstone rectory of Father Caper Rehrl, the exhibit “From Mound Builders to Church Builders” highlights the triumph of survival over inexperience on the unsettled Wisconsin frontier.

No charge.

Aug
3
Thu
Father Rehrl’s Rectory & Exhibit Open @ St. Agnes Historic Site
Aug 3 @ 12:00 pm – 2:00 pm

Built in 1856, it was here that the Sisters of St. Agnes managed one of the first schools in Washington County, educating children of all denominations.

Within the fieldstone rectory of Father Caper Rehrl, the exhibit “From Mound Builders to Church Builders” highlights the triumph of survival over inexperience on the unsettled Wisconsin frontier.

No charge.

What is the discussion at the County Board regarding the Washington County Historical Society Inc.

There are two issues that affect operations of The Washington County Historical Society, Inc.  (WCHS) at 320 S. 5th, West Bend, WI 53095.   http://www.historyisfun.com

  1. Washington County Historical Society, Inc.: WCHS, operates two Museums and the Research Center in the property owned by Washington County. The Old Courthouse Museum and Sheriff’s Residence and Jail are known as the History Center Washington County (HCWC). Many programs and events are offered to the public, along with exhibits and research documents and services, throughout the year. The 2017 County budget provides $134,000 for the Historical Society for operations.  This amount has been reduced every year for the past five years and now is targeted to be discontinued completely possibly as soon as the 2018 calendar year.  WCHS also operates the St. Agnes Historic Site, which is not funded by the County.
  2. The Courthouse Museum and Old Jail/Sheriff’s Residence are owned and maintained by the county. Due to the expenses in preserving the historic buildings, the County is exploring options for other uses.  This could prohibit WCHS from operating a History Center in these buildings.
Isn’t the Washington County Historical Society a part of County government?

No.  The Washington County Historical Society, Inc.  is its own organization, a not- for- profit tax exempt entity that is over 140 years old.  Created in 1875, it was known as the Old Settlers Club with leadership from all communities in the county participating.   It is a membership based organization.  Join here. 

How much is the Historical Society funding in the total county budget?

The County’s total budget for 2017 is $125,000,000 and the funding for the WCHS is $134,000 or .001% of the total or approximately $1.00 per resident of the County.  Maintaining the buildings is another .001%.

How is the Board of Directors of the Washington County Historical Society, Inc. addressing this reduction in funding?

The Board of Directors is asking for the funding to be continued while they create a plan to mitigate the serious reduction in funds.  A long range strategy for the financial security and future operations of the WCHS needs to be completed.  In the short term, the WCHS Board of Directors’ position is:

  • The County should continue to own and maintain the buildings.
  • WCHS should remain as the tenant; the museums are the best use of the buildings.
  • WCHS needs an additional 5-10 years of funding and time to determine its future.
  • A long term lease is needed in order for the Society to fulfill its mission.

 

What does the Washington County Historical Society, Inc do?

The WCHS staffs and operates the History Center in addition to the St. Agnes historic site in Barton.

    1. The Society is responsible for preservation of a collection of over 35,000 artifacts specific to Washington County that has been donated for preservation and safe keeping. These items are used for exhibits, for discovery boxes, and for programming in the community including:
      • A collection from businesses such as West Bend Co., Regal Ware, Enger Kress.
      • A large Veteran collection of those that served from this County.
      • There are over 100,000 items preserved in the Research Center that include obituaries , church cemetery records, photographs, newspapers on micro-film, family papers, Veteran’s information and business materials.
      • Over 2200 children were visited with Discovery Boxes in 2016.
      • Over 8400 visitors came to the Museums in 2016.
    2. Programming for school children, seniors, members and the public. See historyisfun.com/visit/events.(Link)
      • Demand is increasing for home school group programs and visits to the local schools for programs that support curriculum based topics.
      • School outreach: The new “Every 2nd Grader in a Museum” program gives all 2nd graders and their families in the county a free pass to the Museum. This program supports the second grade school curriculum on “community”.
      • School outreach: The 4th grade curriculum is the history of Wisconsin, also increasing Museum utilization at the Museum and in many classrooms throughout the County.
      • Discovery Boxes are theme based traveling artifacts and photographs presented to classes and adult groups.
      • The Volunteer Outreach Committee creates additional monthly programming and annual Pioneer Kids Day for children.
What Does the Research Center do?
  1. Research Center: The WCHS Research Center includes church records, obituaries, over 16,000 historical photos, real estate records, cemetery records and county newspapers microfiche back to the l850’s.  Digitization of documents/photos is an ongoing project.
  2. Administratively, the Society is completing the SteP program, a national credentialing program for Museums that ensures policies and systems are in place and working.
What will happen to the History Center Washington County if funding is lost?

If unable to make up the lost funds elsewhere, museum programs, staff and accessibility will be reduced or the museums and research center could be closed completely.

What happens if the Courthouse and Jail/Sheriff’s Residence property is not available for the WCHS?

If we cannot stay here, the WCHS would have to consider relocating and/or downsizing and/or closing. Since the County owns the buildings, it is their decision what to do with the properties.

What happens to the research archives and collections that are housed in the Courthouse and Sheriff’s Residence and Jail buildings?

Laws that govern museums are complex and vary between states. Collections are held for the benefit of the public and the responsibility for care of the public trusts in each state rests in the office of the attorney general. Care and documentation of the collection is guided by state and federal laws, and professional and ethical standards set by organizations such as the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) and the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH).

There are legalities and ethics behind what we would be required to do if WCHS could no longer care for the artifacts.  But the consequences most likely will include a vast collection that is no longer catalogued, preserved, and accessible to its community.

What can I do to support the Washington County Historical Society, Inc?

Become a member of the Washington County Historical Society.  Attend our programs and consider volunteering.

Who can I talk with about the County’s financial support of WCHS?

Call, write, or talk to your County Board Supervisor as well as the County Administrator. For contact info: http://www.co.washington.wi.us/uploads/docs/clkdir20162017.pdf

These talking points may be helpful:

  • The WCHS needs time to develop a funding plan to support their operations and the level of community support. Funding should continue until this is completed.
  • Museums are the best use of the buildings. Any other uses would require significant updates and remodeling that would destroy the historic features and character of the building.
  • The Courthouse Square property was deeded to the County by four families specifically to be for the use and benefit of the county forever.
  • The Old Courthouse is an iconic symbol of Washington County and should represent the people of Washington County.
  • The Museums attract visitors from outside the area contributing to the tourism activity and sales tax revenue to the County.
  • The buildings and museums create a sense of place for our families and children as to the development of the county from early pioneer days to the present.
  • The Courthouse and Jail/Sheriff’s Residence are listed on the National Register of Historic Sites for historic significance locally, regionally and nationally.
  • Once destroyed and the WCHS collection disposed of, it is gone forever.  Future generations will never have the history of their community accessible.
  • The History Center is a part of the community’s quality of life which attracts families, seniors, and a workforce. Cutting these facilities will impact economic development and sales tax dollars.
  • Previous County Boards for over 100 years have felt the county has a responsibility to preserve community history.
  • Encourage the County Board Supervisors to become members of the Society and attend programs.    Only 1 of 26 supervisors is a member or attends any programs.
Who should I contact if I wish to speak to the WCHS Board of Directors?

For more information contact Patricia Lutz, Executive Director at director@historyisfun.com or 262-335-4678.