WCHS has a building, and a mortgage

Plans to continue fundraising effort


The Washington County Historical Society has owned the building that will become the organization’s new heritage center since late February.

Now the society has to pay their mortgage.

“We still have to do fundraising. We still have a lot of fundraising to do,” said Brent Peterson, WCHS executive director.

The WCHS closed Feb. 28 on a vacant building on two acres at 1862 S. Greeley St. But the organization will not get into the building for a number of years. For the next 45 months, the location will be leased by the state Department of Transportation as the St. Croix Crossing project office.

“MnDOT, they will be under our thumb,” Peterson said with a laugh.

MnDOT agreed to lease the South Greeley Street building from the previous owner. When the WCHS bought the building, they also got the lease that pays about $600,000 total. Although some of that money will help pay the mortgage, Peterson said the organization must raise funds to cover maintenance and renovation costs.

“Four years will go awfully quick. We still need to meet our financial goals,” he said.

As part of its fundraising, the WCHS and Northern Vineyards host a “Celebrate Taste” wine-, cheese- and chocolate-tasting fundraiser with live music and a silent auction from 3 to 6 p.m. April 7. Tickets to the event are $20.

The wine-tasting event also marks the 80th anniversary of the end of prohibition of wine in the U.S., according to Peterson.

The wine tasting immediately follows the annual History in Your Backyard event from noon to 3 p.m. April 7 at the Washington County Historic Courthouse. That event features tours of the courthouse at Third and Pine streets and a WCHS display on high school sports in the county.

The high school sports history display on exhibit at the Historic Courthouse is one example of what the WCHS would do once it moves from the Warden’s House Museum in downtown Stillwater to the South Greeley Street site.

Peterson said the society will spend the next four years working on designs that turn the South Greeley Street building into a exhibit gallery, records archive, research center, storage facility and administrative facility. He adds that the society plans to have “generic displays” about agriculture, railroads and logging in the county.
“One of the main features is going to be a traveling exhibit gallery,” he said. That gallery would bring national and state historical exhibits to the St. Croix Valley, he added.

“It brings a new dimension of preserving and telling the history of Washington County. We’re going to be able to tell more stories of our history.”

Another more immediate task the 80-year-old WCHS faces is taking stock of its collection, according to Peterson.

“We have to do an inventory of all the artifacts we have,” he said.

But Peterson said he does not need an inventory to know how badly the historical society needs its new heritage center.

“We have several strong selections that we can’t display. We need to keep telling these stories from one generation to another generation,” he said.