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101 Things To Do: River Bluffs History Center in Bay City, Wisconsin

The former St. John's Lutheran Church, built in 1933, now houses the River Bluffs History Center in Bay City, Wis. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 3
The Conlin cabin was built in the 1850s and lived in until 1901. It was moved to Bay City next to the River Bluffs Historical Center in 1998. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 3
A painting of the Mississippi River and the many forms of transportation that exist on and near the river greets visitors to the River Bluffs History Center. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 3

Editor's note: This is the latest stop in the series 101 Things To Do. Each week through December 2020, we will select one place or activity around the region to highlight. The stories are compiled at 

The former St. John's Lutheran Church, on Main Street in Bay City, now houses the River Bluffs History Center and the offices of the Pierce County Historical Association.

They will be holding a grand reopening celebration 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. July 20 so people can tour the new facility and see the displays.

"We are very excited to show everyone what we have been working on in the last year," said Julie Huebel, member of the Pierce County Historical Association board of directors. "We have been very busy."

Staff members have spent several months putting together an exhibit called "Pierce County in Photographs."

"We were given a lot of items from the Lawrence Photo Studio in Ellsworth," Heubel said. "We received a lot of their photography supplies and props, so we are featuring them and as many Pierce County photographers in history as we can."

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The move to Bay City, during the summer of 2018, prevented the PCHA from preparing a summer exhibit, but Huebel said the wait will be worth it. With their archives and office in the same location, the volunteer PCHA board members will be able to maintain more open hours for public use of the facility.

The church building was built in 1933 and donated to the PCHA in 1995. In 2001, the building was made handicap accessible.

In addition to the exhibits, the River Bluffs History Center provides visitors with plenty of research materials for family, local, or regional history projects.

"We have lots of family histories, lots of county records, and lots of books in the basement portion of the church building in Bay City," Huebel explained. "We have a large area set up where people can come in and do family research. We also use the research materials for our newsletter."

According to the PCHA website, the "non-circulating library includes books on county and community history, genealogy, biography, and immigration, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Midwestern history."

Research files include photographs, maps, cemetery indexes, manuscripts, artifacts, and newspaper announcements, as well as books written by Pierce County authors.

Located on the same lot near the River Bluffs History Center, the Conlin cabin, built in the 1850s, was moved to its current site in 1998. The cabin was disassembled and moved log by log to Bay City where it was rebuilt with a new roof and chinking between the logs. The cabin contains some period items and "will be open on a regular basis when it is nice out," Huebel said.

If you go...

Name: River Bluffs History Center

Address: W6321 E. Main Street, Bay City, Wis.

Phone: 715-594-3118



Hours: Check the website. Members frequently update the schedule

Admission: Free

Steve Gardiner

Steve Gardiner taught high school English and journalism for 38 years in Montana and Wyoming.  He started working at the Republican Eagle in May 2018.  He focuses on features and outdoor stories.  

(651) 301-7872