News: Neillsville - ‘The History Room’ - Glimpse Into Past (2022)

Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon

Surnames: Roberts, Erpenbach, Walk

----Source: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark Co., WI) 6/08/2022

‘The History Room’ to Offer Glimpse Into Past (2022)

Natalie Erpenbach and Steve Roberts pose outside of the historic Walk building, in downtown Neillsville. They are excited to welcome visitors looking to learn more about area history.
Valorie Brecht/Clark County Press

By Valorie Brecht

A repurposed space in downtown Neillsville will provide greater accessibility to historical documents and artifacts that used to be kept at the jail museum.

The Walk building at 442 Hewett St. is opening as “The History Room.” It will provide a space for people to do their own research on Neillsville and the surrounding area, and to look through archives of printed materials, such as newspapers, plat books and maps.

The History Room will be open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. through September. It will be manned by 1897 Clark County Jail Museum volunteers, including Steve Roberts and Natalie Erpenbach, who took the lead on this project.

“We had a conversation with the [jail museum] board over a year ago. We were looking to have a place on Hewett Street, where we could have an office and create more foot traffic,” said Roberts.

The jail museum volunteers looked at several properties before settling on 442 Hewett St., which most recently was The Rocking Chair antique store. The building has its own historical significance. Built in 1897, it originally served as the Walk Brothers General Merchants Store and has housed a number of different stores over its 125-year history, it is listed on the State Register and National Register of Historic Places.

The jail museum took over the building March 1 and moved in a week later. The new space provides much-needed room for historical records, as volunteers were running out of “nooks and crannies” in which to store things at the museum.

“The biggest thing is we wanted our photos protected, because the jail museum had some serious condition issues,” said Erpenbach. “This also gives us some work space to spread out, because at the jail museum we had to put everything away because we have tours coming in.

Over the years, the jail museum has had a number of inquiries of people want to look at old records to learn more about their family history or look at old plat books to figure out where their family lived. Museum members have also received inquiries through the library or register of deeds office. Now, museum members will have a place to meet with those people that is more convenient, being the main road, and more accessible because there are no stairs to climb.

“In the winter, it’s hard to be open at the museum because we don’t heat the jail,” said Erpenbach.

The History Room will be easier to heat and the volunteers plan to maintain regular open hours through the winter.

There is also a downstairs level that will be used potentially for more storage or to display large items.

Roberts and Erpenbach hope people will take the time to stop and check out The History Room, even if it’s just for a few minutes. They have the ability to rapidly scan documents or photos, and can make digital copies for you if you wish.

They feel it’s important to preserve the community’s history—the stories of its people, successes and failures.

“There’s an innate need to know your history and where you come from,” said Erpenbach.

“If no one would keep it, it’s gone. The more that you can document, it provides credible evidence. We gather and keep factual information; it’s something we have a passion for,” added Roberts.

The museum volunteers also invite the public to attend the jail museum’s monthly board and membership meetings, which will take place at The History Room the first Tuesday of every month at 7 p.m.



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