WILLIAMS BAY — Exhibits in the basement of the Barrett Memorial Library present the bits, pieces and treasurers of village history.
Artifacts and photographs are displayed for the public to browse until the end of September. The exhibits may be viewed from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
“We hope people come down and see what history we have here,” said Pat Grove, president of the Williams Bay Historical Society.
Although settled in 1836, Williams Bay did not incorporate as a village until 1919.
The exhibits are part of Williams Bay’s celebration of its first 100 years as a village. The village will have a special celebration of its centennial on Oct. 19.
The displays focus on the decades between 1919 to 2019.
Grove said planning for the exhibits started in the fall of 2018. Work began in May.
Grove donated some antiques that won blue ribbons at county fairs, and she donated an apron she made when she was a girl.
“Everyone brought something,” she said.
The 18 exhibits are arranged on tables in the downstairs community room inside the library at 65 W. Geneva St.
The exhibits feature life in Williams Bay from the early 20th century through the decades.
The VFW Post 2373, Gage Marine, the Williams Bay Fire Department and Rescue Squad, the five summer camps that are still active along Williams Bay’s shores (one of which is now a college campus), the humble home kitchen and Yerkes Observatory — all have a place in the exhibits.
Also reflected among the exhibits are the Williams Bay Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, Williams Bay Lions Club, Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy, and the Chicago and North Western Railroad.
Artifacts include a steam gauge from the Lady of the Lake steamboat from the late 1800s, a high school diploma from 1912, a World War I helmet from 1919, and a leather firefighter’s helmet from the 1920s.
And there is a table and kitchen utensils from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Ann Becker, a former library director and historical society member, loaned a large antique kitchen hutch for the exhibit.
Members of the historical society went through attics and closets, said Grove.
The exhibits are really about families and family connections, said Sue Vavra, a member of the historical society board of directors and a docent for the exhibits.
“We all have all the boxes of things from grandma in our basements,” Vavra said.
Among the historical family connections, the 1912 Williams Bay diploma was awarded to Henry Kenyon, Vavra’s grandfather. It was donated by her uncle, also named Henry Kenyon.
Her grandfather, Henry Kenyon, and Frank Vavra, grandfather of her husband, Dale Vavra, were charter members of the Williams Bay Fire Department when it was formed in 1923.
Both Dale and Sue Vavra are on the rescue squad. Grandson Kenyon Smith is a firefighter. Five generations of both sides of the family have served with Williams Bay’s emergency services.
LaVerne Duncan, also a historical society member, said she and fellow member Dianna Woss pulled together the histories of five summer camps that still exist in Williams Bay.
“It was neat learning the history and digging up the photographs,” Duncan said of the camp history.
YMCA camp, now George Williams College Campus; the Olivet Camp, now the Norman B. Barr Camp; Collie Camp, now Conference Point; Eleanor Camp, now Wesley Woods; and the Holiday Home Camp were all started in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
“Local people know those camps are there, but they don’t know how long they’ve been there,” Duncan said.
On display is a 1906 map of the Williams Bay area and the Chicago and North Western Railroad line that connected Chicago to Williams Bay.
At 10 a.m. Oct. 12, the historical society will have an archivist from the Chicago and North Western Railroad Museum at the library to give a presentation on the history of that train.
“There’s a lot of good stuff, and we included a lot of original photographs,” she said.
A visitor could take in the whole exhibit in a half hour or less. But those with interests in the camp, or steamboats on Lake Geneva, or military history at the VFW table can peruse through pictures.
“It depends on a person’s specific interest,” Duncan said. “If they want to go more in-depth, they can spend more time.”