Unique artifacts can be found at the Shorewood Historical Society

Since 1984, the Shorewood Historical Society has worked to preserve the history of Shorewood as well as educate community members on its development. Seeking to preserve and promote Shorewood’s past, the Historical Society keeps a collection of photographs and artifacts to encourage curiosity within the village.

Karen de Hartog, Director of Education programs, has been heavily involved with the Society for 15 years, serving as President for eight of them. She believes that being aware of the history of Shorewood is of essential importance to understanding it in the present day.

“[The archives] help people to understand what we have, and the history behind it as well,” de Hartog said. “We really want people to take good care of their homes, because that’s what really makes Shorewood special, they were all pretty much built in the 1920s.”

Many different architectural styles were used in the development of housing around a century ago, most of which are highlighted by the Society.

“We do a lot with housing because that’s a very popular subject in this area,” de Hartog said. “People want to know more about their homes, who built them, who lived there, and what changes have been made to their house… We can’t expect people to appreciate what they have if they don’t know what it is.”

To this day, the Historical Society works with the village to make sure that not only Shorewood, but the integrity of its buildings, is benefited.

The Department of Public Works buildings, for example, play a role regarding historical prevalence the Society works to keep intact. 

“The DPW buildings are not particularly well-suited right now with the work the department has to do,” de Hartog said. “We really like those buildings, so we’re working with them to make sure everyone understands their history.”

Purchasing items is a rare occurrence, as many artifacts or photographs are given to the Historical Society by relatives of previous Shorewood residents. 

“Joe Shelden, [for example], was a photographer in the 1920s and 30s who took a lot of pictures [around the village],” de Hartog said. “When he died his daughter gave us all of his pictures which are beautiful black and whites that really [capture] what the village looked like 100 years ago.”

The Historical Society also keeps a plethora of all the previous newspapers that people can go find to this day.

“They’re just a tremendous historical asset,” de Hartog said. “[Community members] use them all time for trying to find out things, what happened when.”

Although there are about 300-400 historical societies around the state of Wisconsin, the Shorewood Historical Society is one of the more active ones, constantly collecting artifacts dropped off at the Village Hall, or receiving pictures by residents of Shorewood. The Historical Society is mostly supported by the village; they are also chartered by the state and a volunteer, non-profit organization. 

The Historical Society, along with de Hartog, stress the significance of recognizing and appreciating what came before us.

“There are a whole lot of ups and downs and ins and outs that had to happen for things to get to where they are today,” de Hartog said. “I think you can’t get a really good feeling for what is happening today if you are unaware of what came before.”