The Washington County Heritage Center (WCHS), located at 1862 S. Greeley St. in Stillwater, will open Saturday, Oct. 16. 

WCHS, which organized in 1934, will present to the public the modern Heritage Center that has taken 17 years to plan, research and fundraise. 

“This is a new chapter in the organization,” said Brent Peterson, executive director. “The historical society has moved from a local group to a regional historical society capable of high-quality exhibits, research and interpretation.”

The WCHS started on the trail of a new Heritage Center in 2005. 

 After several years of organization, the search for the site began. In 2013, the WCHS purchased the old UFE building on Greeley Street. Over the course of the next five years, rent received by WCHS and several generous grants enabled the WCHS to pay off the mortgage of the building and go into the renovations debt-free.

 A lead grant from the Fred C. & Katherine B. Andersen Foundation got the fundraising for the renovations off to a great start. Other foundations followed, along with generous citizens of the county. Unfortunately, plans as well as fundraising were halted during the pandemic. WCHS was determined to do what it could, and the renovations became a phased plan, with the first phase consisting of completing the exhibition galleries, education center, research center, restrooms and museum stores to be ready to open Oct. 16.

 The exhibits in the new center have been designed, built and installed by three of the best groups in the region. Split Rock Studios, Bluestem Heritage Group and Museology have designed the exhibits that tell stories of the rich history of Minnesota’s first county. In the exhibits, there will be hands-on sections as well as interactive and video/audio components that enhance the visitor’s experiences.

The Heritage Center will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. Cost for admission will be $8 for adults and $3 for kids 6-17. Members of the WCHS receive free admission to all WCHS historic sites. For more information, contact the historical society at 651-439-5956 or information@wchsmn.org. 

— Contributed

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