September 2013 Newsletter

September, 2013  ­­                                                                             Volume 11, No. 1



“The Legacy of Fred Kraege”

Date:               September 25, 2013

Time:               7:00 p.m.

Place:               Irvin Young (Whitewater Public) Library


Late last spring, Whitewater historian Fred Kraege passed away.  The passing of someone who worked on local history for decades is a big loss, but fortunately for Whitewater, Fred left us with literally dozens of notebooks filled with his research efforts.  Fred put together notebooks on many different topics of Whitewater history from his intensive work on the Esterly Manufacturing Company to downtown businesses to historic photographers. 


The program for the Whitewater Historical Society next week will showcase Fred’s research to the public: what is included, how it is organized, and how it can help anyone looking for primary research materials on both family and local history.  Fred’s legacy to the public is significant and of interest to all who appreciate Whitewater’s history. 


The program is being held at the public library where Fred’s research materials are housed.  Please join us for a look at the important work of Fred Kraege. 


A Message from our President, Ellen Penwell

After the Grand Re-Opening

In the months following the grand Depot reopening we’ve been busy behind the scenes planning the first exhibits to occupy the main hall, considering a topic for the next temporary exhibit, processing new donations, responding to public inquiries, purchasing additional basement shelving, and most importantly, with the help of several new volunteers, maintaining more open hours. High on our list of things to do was tweaking our management of the new basement environment before moving back collections. We’ve been carefully monitoring temperature and relative humidity in the basement since April and learning how the space reacts to changes in ambient weather. By July we were convinced we needed a more powerful dehumidification system. With support from the City, a self-draining commercial dehumidifier was purchased and installed. The improvement it’s made is truly remarkable. We’ve since purchased additional basement shelving and can now move forward with plans to return collections.


Although our website administration suffered over the summer with the loss of interns we relied on to load new content, the University is back in session and we once again have access to the technical skills needed to keep the website current and filled with new content. Check it frequently for our fall hours and upcoming programming information as it develops.


If we’ve learned anything from the past four years of the restoration project, we’ve learned that change takes time and patience. We appreciate everyone’s continuing support and belief in our vision of a new, more informative and engaging local history museum, however long it takes to materialize.


Buy-A-Brick Update

We’re delighted to report that the Society’s second order for commemorative bricks has arrived! They’re currently at the city garage and will be installed in the walkway in front of the Depot as soon as public works staff can schedule the work.  We have additional orders pending and are accepting more that will constitute a third order scheduled to be placed before the close of this year. Brick brochures are available at the Depot Museum and on the website.


Fall Hours for the Depot Museum

While we have yet to install our permanent Whitewater history exhibits as explained above, there is still plenty to see at the depot.  First of all, there is the beautiful building restoration that shows off the fine passenger waiting room. Once the exhibits are all installed, it will be more difficult to see this important element of the original building. 


We still have our railroad history exhibit on display, and if you attended the grand re-opening, you may remember that because of the crowds, it was difficult to see and read this fascinating history.  It will be removed in December, so catch it now. There is also a display on the Esterly Manufacturing Company featuring the Esterly Seeder. 


The fall hours are as follows: 

            Thursdays:       1:00-4:00 p.m.

            Fridays:           10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

            Saturdays:       1:00-4:00 p.m.

            Sundays:         1:00-4:00 p.m.


Recent Collections Received at the Depot Museum

Some fascinating artifacts and manuscript materials have been added to our collections recently.

Last winter, we received a group of wood carvings by Chester Lawton from his family.  These folk art carvings were made during the mid-twentieth century and have been added to the previous two that the museum already possessed.  The carvings show the broad range of Lawton’s interests, from log cabins to Abraham Lincoln, to Native Americans. 

In early summer, we received an extensive collection of local business memorabilia from Donna Henry, including several items from her father’s business, the Baker Garage.  The items range from calendars to pens, to buttons, to yardsticks, mostly from businesses of the twentieth century.  These items are very useful in exhibits about historic businesses in Whitewater. 


Donna also donated a Whitewater High School band uniform, but she was unsure of the date the high school acquired this type of uniform.  Luckily, a donation of photographs from Sue Leffingwell, also in early summer, solved this mystery. Many of you remember Leffingwell’s men’s store, one of the longest retail businesses in Whitewater that dated back to the mid-19th century when it was started by the Halverson family.  Of the family and business images Sue donated, one was a 1935 photograph of the Whitewater High School band in a uniform that had a cape.  Donna’s donated uniform was different, but exactly matched the uniforms worn by the band in a photo in the 1937 Whitewater centennial history book.  So, thanks to Sue Leffingwell’s photo donation, we could precisely date Donna Henry’s old band uniform—1936-37. 


Another large donation was a number of scrapbooks of news clippings from primarily the Whitewater Register for the 1940s into the 1970s.  The donation came from a woman in Waukesha whose relative, a railroad buff from Fort Atkinson, had come to see the depot once it opened in the spring.  The woman was not sure what to do with these scrapbooks, so the railroad buff asked if we would be willing to take them, then convinced his relative to donate them.  These types of scrapbooks are often a gold mine of information that normally would take months to research in old newspaper microfilm, so we accepted them and they did not disappoint.  Filled with local news, wedding announcements and other helpful articles, eventually they can be indexed and put on-line to help researchers and genealogists. 

This is a close-up of the log cabin tableau carved by Chester Lawton and recently added to our collections. 


Whitewater Historical Society

P. O. Box 149

Whitewater, WI  53190