A groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday, Nov. 8, marked the official beginning of construction of a new 38,000-square-foot Visitor Center and Wesley W. Jung Carriage Museum at Wade House historic site in Greenbush. The new year-round facility, owned and operated by the Wisconsin Historical Society, will overlook Highway 23, the busy Sheboygan County thoroughfare, midway between Sheboygan and Fond du Lac.
"The Visitor Center and Wesley W. Jung Carriage Museum at Wade House historic site in Greenbush will be a fantastic addition to the area," said Governor Walker, who attended the groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday morning. "Tourism is one most important industries in Wisconsin, continuing our state's strong historic tradition will only help maintain and expand this sector of the economy."
In addition to Governor Walker, those breaking ground for the new building included: Kohler Co. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Herbert Kohler Jr.; Ellsworth Brown, The Ruth and Hartley Barker Director of the Wisconsin Historical Society; President-Elect of the Society's Board of Curators Conrad Goodkind; Wisconsin Historical Foundation President David Stoeffel; Wade House Site Director David Simmons; Sheboygan County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mike Vandersteen; Del Wilson of Uihlein-Wilson Architects of Milwaukee, the project's architectural firm; and Terry Owens, superintendent of C.D. Smith Construction of Fond du Lac, general contractor for the project.
The Wisconsin Historical Society has worked with Uihlein-Wilson Architects since March 2010 to design a facility that will represent the principal element of a new master plan that will guide development of the site in coming years.
The project will create jobs through construction contracts, with additional benefits accruing locally during construction. Every budgeted dollar in new state building projects benefits the local economy by more than double that amount, according to the Associated General Contractors of Wisconsin.
The project is one of the major initiatives in the $77 million fundraising campaign, Forward! The Campaign for the Wisconsin Historical Society.
A public-private partnership between the state of Wisconsin and generous benefactors is funding the $12.1 million building project. Additional costs for new wagons for horse-drawn wagon rides, signage and marketing bring the total project cost to $13.8 million, with 45 percent of the total cost paid for by private individuals and foundations, including the Kohler Trust for Preservation and the Mark Jung Family.
The state Legislature appropriated $6.5 million through the sale of general purpose revenue bonds to private investors, with the state's share of funding included as part of the 2009-11 capital budget. Another $800,000 in funding comes from a competitive federally funded Transportation Enhancement grant program administered by the state Department of Transportation. A special state fund for financing geothermal heating and cooling added another $150,000 to the mix.
The project will also employ environmentally conscious building standards and practices that will allow it to meet the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) silver status standards.
The new Visitor Center will include a multi-tiered orientation to the historic site and its themes; a large room for public and private functions; a classroom that will accommodate a variety of programs for school children and adult learners alike; and a museum store, café, ticketing and restrooms.
The Wesley W. Jung Carriage Museum will bring the compelling stories within the world of horse-drawn transportation to life in vignette settings, interactive exhibits and hands-on experiences within a space environmentally designed to showcase these treasures for generations to come. The entire
complex will transform the visitor experience, offering a new portal to the site from which visitors will board a horse-drawn wagon, travel through the woods and over the Mullet River, seemingly back in time, to the core of the historic site.
Completion of the project is expected in time for a grand opening on June 6, 2013, 60 years to the day after the historic site's original dedication in 1953.
Once the project is complete, the Society expects the improved amenities and more rewarding visitor experience to increase attendance and earned revenue for Wade House by expanding the audience, increasing repeat visitation and maximizing the historic site's educational potential.
The Wisconsin Historical Society, founded in 1846, ranks as one of the largest, most active and most diversified state historical societies in the nation. As both a state agency and a private membership organization, its mission is to help people connect to the past by collecting, preserving and sharing stories.