The past year has been an exciting and productive one for the Eagle River Historical Society. In March, the largest membership drive in history was launched, resulting in over 100 new members. Across the rest of the year, we operated a full summer museum schedule, offered a summer lecture series, conducted tours for several NPSD classes, acted as judges for the National History Day regional competition, and attended the Wisconsin Historical Society state conference at Lake Geneva.
In September two professional museum assessors (an archivist and an architect) spent two days evaluating all facets of the museum buildings and the collections. Their reports will be a road map for years to come. All costs related to the assessment were covered by a $7800 grant from the American Institute for Conservation.
The final event of the year will be the launch of a totally revamped website to better serve and connect with our members and friends. Look for the notice in your inbox soon.
We expect 2020 will be just as busy. The high point will be the Historic Home Tour, this year at the former estate of Ed Kelly who was mayor of Chicago from 1933 to 1947. The home has a colorful history as does Ed Kelly.
All this activity was supported by our members and friends. There would be no Historical Society without you. Thank you for your support.
Morgan's Store at the southeast corner
of Wall St. and Railroad St. after the explosion.
The Big Bang
Friday, April 24, 1908, was anything but a slow news day in Eagle River. The night before, an estimated 300 pounds of dynamite that was stored in the Strong & Manley hardware store warehouse caught fire and exploded. Damage estimates ranged between $12,000 and $25,000 – in current value between $32,760,000 and $68,250,000. In spite of the huge financial loss there was not one fatality.
Strong & Manley Hardware store was located on the south side of Wall Street in the middle of the block closest to the railroad tracks. Their warehouse was located about 300 feet northwest of the current Depot Museum. The warehouse held hardware and other equipment as well as the dynamite. The powerful explosion propelled nails and other hardware for blocks. At daylight it was said the exteriors of many buildings “looked like porcupines” from the hundreds of nails blown into their wooden sides.
Six blocks of businesses and residences were destroyed or severely damaged, including McIntyre’s Hotel on Railroad Street. Guests there had hair-raising stories to tell! A piece of hot iron landed on the bed of a hotel guest who had just left it. A man was blown off the street into the space between two buildings. The home of James Morgan was devastated but the family escaped unharmed.
Had the dynamite exploded minutes later it would have killed the firemen in the Hose Company which responded to the alarm. The firemen were able to contain the blaze and prevent more extensive damage. The residents of Eagle River refrained from bringing damage suits against Strong & Manley, knowing they would bankrupt the business and lose their hardware store. In return the owners guaranteed replacement of the shattered glass from the explosion. They were astounded at how far the explosion had reached. Claims came in from up to 15 miles outside the village.
Not many people today remember even hearing stories about the catastrophe, but anyone who knows the name of the business agrees there was never a better name for a hardware store than Strong and Manley!
Save the Date!
Historic Home Tour
The home of the former Chicago mayor Ed Kelly, Indian Point Manor, will be the site of the Historical Society’s 2020 Historic Home and Cocktail Tour. The date – Monday, July 27, 2020 - has just been confirmed with current owners Wendy and Dan Dulak.
The Dulaks purchased the property in 2018 and have been doing extensive renovations. The Society is very excited about the opportunity to showcase this significant property. The first Historic Home tour was held at Sunset Point, which adjoins Indian Point Manor and whose original owner, Monte Tennes, was a close friend and associate of Ed Kelly. Sunset Point owner, Kim Goluska, will be a lead member of the committee developing the 2020 tour.
Historical Society members will receive advance notice of ticket sales and will be able to purchase tickets a week before the general public. Businesses and individuals who want to purchase blocks of 10 tickets or more will also be able to take advantage of the early sales.
More information, including ticket ordering and prices, will be available after January 1, 2020.
New Family History Display
Family histories have been on display for many years and have been moved twice, at a cost to their appearance. New poster-type histories are being created and will not only be a visual improvement but will allow more family histories to be displayed.
If your family has been a part of Eagle River history, consider bringing your family history materials into the museum for our project consultant, Lauren, to help you create a display for your family. The Society is sponsoring this project at no cost to the families with the help of a grant from the Green Bay Packers Foundation. Lauren will go through a checklist with you and review your photos and other information before digitizing it and having it formatted.
For more information or to schedule a time to meet with her, send Lauren an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A second grade student tries on a military helmet
during a class tour of the historical museum.
NPSD Student Tours
Each fall several classes of Northland Pines School District elementary students visit the Historical Museum. For the 4th graders, the tour is an extension of their Wisconsin history class and for the 2nd graders, it is a look at the wider Eagle River community.
During the visits docents wearing period dress guide the children through the history of the Eagle River area. Each tour ends with free time for everyone to revisit the new children’s interactive activities, which include stacking logs with a crane and a mini archaeology site.
Over the past 5 years, the Society has been increasing its availability as an educational resource. The 4th grade bus transportation is funded by the Society to supplement the scarce money available for field trips. In 2018 the Society also purchased new history texts for every 4th grade classroom in the NPSD, including teachers’ editions and a CD full of activities to complement the textbook. The books are fully compliant with the new Wisconsin Department of Education social studies guidelines.
If your children didn’t have all the time they wanted to explore, you can book an out-of-season tour by calling 262-212-6369 or 715-479-9197 or email us at email@example.com.
Do You Want to Donate an Object?
The Eagle River Historical Society establishes principles and procedures and has legal responsibilities for the acquisition, care, loan and use of collections. Historical museums preserve the past by collecting artifacts they believe deserve a place in the public memory. The collections are held in trust for the people the museums serve.
How do we decide what to accept?
The Accession Committee (made up of volunteers} uses criteria that are set out in our Accession policy to determine whether each object should be accepted. Donors are asked to complete a Temporary Custody Receipt form when they bring objects in for consideration. The more information a donor can provide, the better. When completed properly, this form provides us with important information about the object and allows us to consider it for accession and, if accepted into the collection, to preserve and share its history.
The Accessions policy criteria include:
1. Does the object have a tangible link to people or events in the Eagle River area. There must be enough information about the object to confirm its connection (also known as provenance) to Eagle River history.
What is the story of ownership and usage?
Does it typify the experience of many people in the Eagle River area?
Does it offer tangible evidence of events that occurred or provide explanations about how things were done in the past?
2. Is the object consistent with the ERHS mission which is to collect, preserve and share Eagle River history? Is the donor/depositor the legal owner of the object?
Does the physical nature of the object lend itself to exhibition or storage?
Do we already have the same or a similar object in the collection?
Is the object in acceptable physical condition to warrant the cost of conservation using specific archival preservation materials and techniques?
Is the object visually appealing? Is it novel or rare?
Some objects are declined because they to do not fit our accessions criteria. They are returned to the donor or, in some cases, may be offered to a more appropriate museum.
What happens once an object is accepted into the collection?
A Deed of Gift form or loan agreement is signed by the donor. A copy is retained by the donor.
Additional research about the object may be conducted to best appreciate its value and significance to Eagle River history.
A unique number is assigned and affixed to the object.
The object is photographed.
The object is assigned a specific location, either in storage or on display in one of our museums.
All data is logged into the museum’s Past Perfect cataloging software program for easy access and retrieval.
Eagle River Historical Society is committed to dynamic, stimulating and creative displays that bring history to life for viewers. We have several permanent exhibits that have broad appeal as well as specialty displays that rotate annually. Decisions about artifacts to display are based on available space, the theme of current or planned displays, condition of the objects and consistency with our museum mission.
Our Temporary Custody Receipt will soon be available on our website at http://eagleriverhistory.org. To streamline the donation process, you are invited to either review the form online to determine what information you will be asked to provide or print and complete the form at home before bringing it in along with your object.
We appreciate all donations! Please stop in the museums during open hours (after Memorial Day) or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a message at 715-337-0811.
November is an important month for the Society – we open our Annual Appeal. Last year a member base of 106 responded by donating $10,000. Our current member base is nearly three times that size. This year our goal is $15,000. The proceeds of our annual appeal fill a large space in our budget and support the general fund so, unlike other fund raising, can be used for a wide range of activities.
Please look for the Saving History email in your mailbox soon. Your generosity will allow the Society to continue to operate many current programs, including free admission to both museums, funding Northland Pines programs, offering free summer history programming to the community, and improving the museums and collections.
We are also working on new programs. We are redesigning and adding to the family histories display, improving the collections storage facilities at the Historical Museum, completing the 1910 Railroad Street diorama at the Depot Museum, and rolling out a new website.
We are grateful to the members and friends who have agreed to receive emails rather than paper copies. Not only does that reduce waste, it saves the Society an estimated $2,000 in postage, ink, and paper costs per year and supports our efforts to be good stewards of your gifts.
We save history. When you support the Historical Society you help to save our heritage.
Board of Directors
Karen Sailer, President
Ken Stallman, Vice President
Alice Kramer, Secretary
Nancy Stott, Treasurer
Craig Moore, Member at-Large
Our museums are open from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend or by appointment. If you would like to arrange a tour of either of our museums, contact Karen Sailer at 262-212-6369.
1181 Hwy 45 South
Eagle River, WI 54521
116 S. Railroad St.
Eagle River, WI 54521