The longtime project of converting the old Ely Stage Stop into the Ely Stage Stop Country Museum is rapidly proceeding. In fact, the Stop’s grand opening will occur next month, on July 24, 2011!
The saga leading to the building’s upcoming incarnation as a Lake County Historical Society (LCHS)-run museum and shop has been a long an interesting one. The structure was originally constructed at around 1856. It is believed to be the oldest stick-built structure in the county. It began its life as a stage stop and hotel. Later, it served as a post office and general store. For over a hundred years the building was located at 7909 Highway 29, a few miles away from its current location.
In 1999, the Lake County Historical Society requested surplus county property for a museum site. Word of the request circulated through the county and in 2005 local vintner Andy Beckstoffer came through, donating not only a five-acre plot of land, but also the structure of the old Ely Stage Stop. In April of 2007, Lake County government officials signed a memorandum of understanding with the Historical Society (us), which was tasked with raising funds for the museum, as well as seeking the donations of equipment and barns. We also assumed responsibility for running the museum and maintaining the property. In July 2007 the Stage Stop was moved to its current home at 9921 Highway 281 (Soda Bay Road), about a mile east of Kitt’s Corner. In February of 2008 the building was set on its new foundation. Then in September of that year the walls were rebuilt and replicated windows were installed. Three months later, a well was drilled.
Work on the project has been headed up for the Lake County Historical Society by Greg Dills. Persons involved with fundraising for the project have included Wilda Shock, Marilyn Holdenriied, Broc Zoller, Keith Peterson, Jim Bengard, and Syd Stokes. Also contributing to the Museum’s completion were retired Lake County Public Works Director Gerald Schaul, architect Ted Kirby, and Lake County’s Deputy Development Director Eric Seely.
Still more help came from the Kettenhoffen Family Foundation, which donated $100,000 to the museum effort.
Reconstruction labor has been provided by volunteers and by inmates from the Lake County Jail.
The vision for the Ely Stage Stop Country Museum includes the restored stage stop, the downstairs of which will feature displays and museum information. The upstairs will serve as the administrative offices for the LCHS. It is hoped that the grounds will eventually feature an amphitheater and, possibly, a reconstruction of an Indian village. There also will be five barns to house historical farming implements and equipment, as well as a working blacksmith shop.
The grand opening of the refurbished Ely Stage Stop will occur at the location on July 24, 2011. The general public is of course invited to this historic event. Please stay tuned to this web site for details!
Special thanks to Elizabeth Larson and the online Lake County News (www.lakeconews.com) for providing much of the information included in this article!