Honor Award Winner
Project Name: Wade House Historical Site
Location: Greenbush, Wisconsin
Design Team: GRAEF
The Wade House Historic Site in Greenbush, WI, is different than most museums. The displays and exhibits are intended to be used by the patrons to transport them back in time, not to merely be observed. Now, nearly 65 years after the dedication of this Wisconsin Historical Society site, there is a new learning and visitor center and a marvelous horse powered transportation museum that draw visitors from all over! Positioned on the south side of STH 23—the main east-west artery connecting Sheboygan and Fond du Lac—the 37,800 square foot project serves as the new portal to the historic site, replacing an outmoded 1968 museum and an inadequate 1971 visitor center.
This unique educational campus includes beautifully preserved, fully functional structures from the original village, including the Wade House Stagecoach Hotel, a blacksmith shop, a sawmill and pond, and various other original attractions.
The main point of this project was to transport visitors back in time. The project was divided into two major elements, the Learning and Visitor’s Center and the Wesley Jung Carriage Museum. Given the large area and massing of the Carriage Museum, it’s setting within the hillside lowers its height and imposition on the site. The Visitor’s Center and its program elements are the entry point to the project and become a visual focal point. The building cluster forms a physical barrier from STH 23 that allows visitors to step back to the historic time of the original Wade House. The 240-acre site also features modern visitor amenities and services.
Careful attention was paid to preserving the site’s original character to provide a uniquely historic and accurate portrayal of Wisconsin’s pre-1900 rural life. To help complete this historic portrayal, employees teach traditional skills, arts and crafts while dressed in period-specific clothing of the late 19th century. Transportation for visitors around the large site is provided by horse-drawn wagons or sleighs.
As the state’s official carriage museum, the Wade House offers exhibition, interpretation, and engagement with Wisconsin’s largest collection of horse-drawn vehicles in a climate-controlled environment.
Since its inception, the historic site has offered year-round educational opportunities such as field trips, day camps, seasonal demonstrations, and even a popular two-day Civil War reenactment weekend. Over time, the structures had aged and became spatially inadequate, leading to the need for today’s new visitor’s center and carriage museum facility. It was critical that the landscape architect’s site design was ecologically sensitive, within budget, and seamlessly integrated into the period-specific theming of the Wade House Historic Site’s overall educational programming.