BAST BELL MUSEUM Celebrates 10 years on JUNE 30/JULY 1, 2010
The Germantown Historical Society is celebrating the birthday of its youngest addition. The Sila Lydia Bast Bell Museum was completed and opened 10 years ago on June 30,2000.
In 1998, the estate of Dr. Ernella Hunziker came to the attention of the Society. Hunziker was the niece of Sila Lydia Bast, from the Dheinsville/Germantown Bast family. Hunziker’s estate included the extensive bell collection of Sila Lydia Bast and was the inspiration for the restoration of the Wolf/Shuster Barn on the Historical Society property on Holy Hill Road at Maple.
To date, the restoration of the barn, including the raising of funds and the project as a whole, has been the biggest challenge, as well as accomplishment of the Germantown Historical Society. Funds were used from the Hunziker Estate, an M&I Bank Loan, three year pledges, in-kind donations, financial donations and five years of Museum admissions and sales. The successful completion of this project shows what can be done when people work together for a shared goal.
The Bast Bell Museum has brought more visibility to the Historical Society and provided a new direction for educational and informational opportunities. The Bast Bell Museum hosts a Kaffee Haus the First Wednesday of every month from 1-4pm. During the Kaffee Haus, at 2pm, the Bell of the Month program is led by an experienced and knowledgeable volunteer. Tours of large groups and individuals from all over the Midwest arrive and leave with a greater appreciation of not only bells, but of the history of Germantown and our surrounding area.
The Germantown Historical Society itself was the offshoot of the Junior Woman’s Club. In 1970, the Club published a booklet titled, TOUR OF HISTORIC SITES.
Members of the Club visited local schools with items of historical value for the children to examine and learn about. This grassroots approach to educating children grew into greater interest by the adults of the area and the Germantown Historical Society was incorporated with the State of Wisconsin 4 years later in 1974.
Charter members held the first official meeting in November of 1975. At that meeting, the Church Council of Our Saviors UCC offered to lease the Christ Church for the Societies’ museum. The first donation to what is now known as Christ Church of Local History Museum was a volume of Sila Bast’s Genealogy of Related Families (Sila was involved in the Historical Society long before her bells became a major asset).
The first voted Board of Directors were Gilbert Arnold, Village President, Irene Blau, Ray Dausman, Eileen Densow, Robert Kuhn, Howard Rheingruber and Joseph Schmitz, County Chairman.
Local volunteers ranging from high school students to senior citizens prepared the Christ Church for it’s current task. The church was cleaned, polished and painted. The original stained glass windows were covered in a protective polycarbonate. Art work and local historic collectibles were displayed and the Grand Opening Concert of Christ Church of Local History Museum coincided with our Countries Bi-Centennial on June 1, 1976.
Fundraising efforts are currently underway to procure the needed elements to further and more professionally preserve the artifacts in the Christ Church. This is being done in honor of Irene Blau’s retirement as President in 2009.
In 1990, the opportunity presented itself to purchase the 9.5 acres of Schuster property across Maple Road from Christ Church. George Meyer from Milwaukee, orchestrated a land contract that held the property for one year while the Society once again became active fundraisers. This acquisition enabled the Society to expand and continue the preservation of historic buildings.
In 1995, the Germantown Historical Society had raised half the cost and turned the park over to the village, who then covered the remaining $55,000 with acquisition and motel/hotel room tax funds. A lease agreement with the village allowed the society use of the Wolf Haus and the Shuster Barn.
The discovery of the half-timber construction of the Wolf house brought a challenge grant from the Jeffris Foundation for $83,000. The society went to work raising the needed match. Restoration was completed in 1998 with a shoemaker's shop, kitchen, parlor and Research Library.
Over the many years the local community has been intrigued by its ancestry. This interest sparked the development of a genealogy committee which utilized family, church, township county and federal records. The Jeffris Genealogy Research Library was born. The library contains the genealogy index, picture files, Germantown Mutual Insurance Policy Records, Tax Records, State Records, school records and periodical and historic book archives. Work continues on digitizing news clippings and records.
Carol Barkow, original volunteer, has 25 years of hand entered information in an index file that contains over 65, 000 cards that are being used on a regular basis in the Jeffris Research Library, housed in the Valentine Wolf Haus, the restored half timber home and shoemaker shop built in 1854. Local Genealogist, Robert Kohls holds educational research classes for the public several times per year. Mr. Kohls is also on site each Wednesday during season to assist visitors with an interest in their backgrounds. This genealogy research is not limited to the area. Mr. Kohls can assist people with how to access this information on the web, in libraries and at other historical societies.
Today, thirty four years later, the society's Christ Church Museum of Local History stands at the heart of a cultural complex called Dheinsville Settlement and a growing awareness of a pre-Civil War way of life on the frontier of Wisconsin's wilderness. Pioneer Days in May helps to introduce school age children to what life was like for their ancestors in an 1800’s settlement. Volunteers dressed in period clothes mingle and visit with the students and answer their questions about what life was like back then.
If you listen you can hear three antique bells of the Christ Church ring every Saturday evening at 5pm during the summer months. This is made possible through the generous donation of a bank certificate of deposit established by Elmore Kraemer. Mr. Kraemer grew up within earshot of the bells as a youth and remembers them being sounded at 5pm on Saturday to mark the start of the Sabbath. The horses and plows were to be brought in and the day of rest was to begin. This and other nostalgic items and activities are what make the Germantown Historical Society special.
The season for the Germantown Historical Society runs from May to November. Now three museums are open to visitors each week for seven months for tours, research, work, festivals, programs, artifact archives and visitors from around the world.
During that time, there are social events for members and the community. There are educational offerings and there are individual and group tours of the Settlement and Museums. The Grand Finale is Hunsrucker Oktoberfest the last weekend in September. Authentic German food, music, dancing and entertainment is the highlight of the free admission and free parking event. It is said to be to be of the best Oktoberfest celebrations in the State of Wisconsin.
The Germantown Historical Society is pleased to begin its 2010 Season under new direction. The Society has hired a Museum Director/Public Relations Specialist to further their growth and educational outreach.
Jane Riley Best is a native of the area, having grown up on Big Cedar Lake. A Communications graduate from the College of St Catherine, now St Catherine University in St Paul, MN, Jane brings a background in Public Relations, Marketing and Volunteer Management to the Society.
Best is dedicated to growing the volunteer and membership base of the Historical Society through newfound awareness of the group, new educational and volunteer opportunities and the acceptance of new ideas for other programs of interest. Among Best’s other goals, she intends to build a strong foundation for consistent touring of the Museums and Dheinsville Settlement. As a non profit organization, this foundation is critical to it’s survival. It is too precious a gem to be lost.
Best is launching a challenge to local artists in several age groups. The challenge is this:
Draw some of the Historical Buildings of Germantown. (in particular Dheinsville Settlement) Submit them to the Historical Society and they will be displayed and judged by a select group of Society members during our Hunsrucker Oktoberfest, September 25-26, 2010 at Dheinsville Settlement.
Age Categories are:
Adult 18 and over
Judging will be on Saturday, September 25, 2010
Original artwork must be submitted (by August 27) and will be returned, or you may donate it to the Historical Society for future use in fundraising.
The winner in each age category will win a $25 top prize for the best drawing of an historic building. It will be in the form of a gift certificate from a local establishment or the Bast Bell Museum Gift Shop.
Entry fee is $25.00 (nonrefundable)
Deadline for entry is August 27, 2010
Best feels that with the engagement and invitation to all age groups, the benefits of historical education and involvement will spread and grow at much more rapid of a pace. These activities will inspire and create the future leaders of the Germantown Historical Society.
The Germantown Historical Society is always looking for cheerful volunteers to help give tours, polish the shelves, do data entry or otherwise share their talents and time.
The Hunsrucker Oktoberfest is also a terrific way to volunteer. The two day festival takes lots of volunteer hours to pull together….yes, that includes cleanup….one of the most important! These documented volunteer hours can be used for NHS, confirmation or other service organization requirements.
Become an Oktoberfest BUSINESS SPONSOR: $125 & up includes advertising & a booth at the festival!
Crafters and Non-Profit Organizations contact us about a booth.
VOLUNTEER 3hours Sat. or Sun. and receive a FREE t-shirt, brat & soda!
Help needed Sept 23 & 24 setup and Sept 27 take down.
Please call our office to set up an interview to become a volunteer. Call Jane Riley Best, Museum Director at 262-628-3170. http://germantownhistoricalsociety.org/oktoberfest
Throughout the years faces and names on the Board changed, but two have remained. After the retirement of President, Irene Blau, in 2009, the Board now looks like this:
Kevin Nash, President, Jeff Dhein, Peggy Bast, Gordon Bast, Mary Brownell, Irene Blau, Eileen Densow and Sandy Dhein. See the two recurring names here? That is the sign of true passion and dedication to a cause.
Maybe in years to come your son or daughter will have their name affiliated with the Board of the Historical Society? It’s never too early to get involved. That is how we live and carry on.
Dheinsville Historic Park - An Original 1850's Settlement
Open to the public. For Group Tours call 262-628-3170
Sila Lydia Bast Bell Museum
Wed thru Sun April 1 to Nov. 1 1:00 - 4:00
Open year round for group tours of 10 ore more by reservation.
Valentine Wolf Haus Museum & Jeffris Genealogy Research Center
Christ Church Museum of Local History
Wed and Sun June 1 to Oct. 1 1:00 - 4:00
We are located at:
N128 W18780 Holy Hill Road, P.O. Box 31, Germantown, WI 53022
2 miles East of Highways 41/45 on Holy Hill Road at the intersection of Holy Hill Rd/Maple Rd/Fond du Lac Ave. The enchanting intersection of 6 corners…..you cannot miss us.