Community and staff celebrates grand opening of Chippewa Area History Center

Published: Jun. 3, 2023 at 7:46 PM CDT
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CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. (WEAU) - The Chippewa Valley is rich in history and now there’s a new place community members can go to learn more about it.

After several years of planning and $4.7 million, The Chippewa Area History Center is operating in full swing.

“We just wanted to invite the public and show off a bit. A bit of show and tell. We have the opportunity to tell other stories we never told before. And, so I think if you come here once every couple months, you’re going to see a different kind of place,” said Frank Smoot, the history center’s director.

Stories in the History Center include an old model fire truck, musical instruments and several paintings. There are also exhibits that offer more insight on notable figures in the Chippewa Valley.

The funds making the history center possible came from 600 individual and business donors. The top donors being the foundations of Edward Rutledge, William Casper and L.E. Phillips.

“It’s really a great historical look at philanthropy when you realize, that not only people are that are here today, but so many people that have lived in the past left money for this building. I found it interesting that the top three donors were born between 120 and 190 years ago,” said Bob Hogseth, the co-chair of the history center’s capital campaign.

Funding regional historical centers is something Director Smoot finds to be important, learning that lesson from a mentor at the beginning of his career.

“For the people not from around here you come to find out where you are. What’s unique about this area and what’s unique about this town. But for the people who live here, you come to find out who you are,” said Smoot. “How you got to be here in this moment. If you want to fall in love with the place you live, getting to love it, getting to know it is the most important way. That’s how we all fall in love, right? We get to know someone.”

Those involved in making the grand opening possible are excited for the future.

“There’s probably a good hundred stories that need to be told. There’s a lot of fun stories that will be told in the future. We’re just beginning,” said Hogseth.

“We built this big building, but we don’t know in five years from now exactly how it’s going to be used. And, I think that’s a wonderful thing. I am not scared of that at all. I think that’s the best part of it,” said Smoot.

The Chippewa Area History Center also features a library provided by the Chippewa County Genealogical Society.

They have old Chippewa Herald Articles dating back to 1870, census data, cemetery guides and city directories along with other information interested in learning more about their lineage.