History of the Park
For many years, local historians and preservationists had the idea of bringing together all of the historical buildings in Green Bay to one location. After receiving a large bequeath in 1965, support for the development of a historic site grew. In 1966, Robert Flatley, then president of the Brown County Historical Society, appointed an initial planning committee made up of Dorothy Wittig, Amanda Cobb, Len Schober, Michael Raymaker and William Servotte. Reverend Dean Kilgust later joined the committee. Their dream to establish a park that would preserve local history took root and started to grow. Committee members started lobbying in the community and throughout the state. The big break came when plans to build the Allouez-Ashwaubenon Bridge separated the buildings from the orchards at the Green Bay reformatory making it more difficult to supervise prison labor. The route selected went straight through the prison's farm, leaving 48 acres of surplus property and an opportunity for the Historical Park Committee to make Heritage Hill a reality.
Dorothy Wittig Leadership
With Dorothy Wittig spearheading the drive, the Wisconsin DNR was approached seeking their support of the creation of the new historic area. Despite struggles and various setbacks, the land finally came under the control of the Department of Natural Resources. In 1972, the DNR Natural Resources Board approved the establishment of Heritage Hill and the 48 acres of land was transferred to the DNR.
Birth of the Park
In a meeting held at Cotton House on July 18, 1972 the name Heritage Hill State Historical Park was chosen for the new historic site located in Allouez. At the same time a proposed development plan and an opening date were selected. That date, May 1, 1977, saw the culmination of many years of hard work and dreams as Heritage Hill State Historical Park opened its doors to 2,500 visitors.
The Dream Becomes Reality
Over the next 20 years more than 25 buildings and 15 acres of land were added to make up the park as we know it today. Preservation of the buildings and its artifacts and the interpretation of the history of Northeastern Wisconsin and its people remains a primary objective of Heritage Hill. The dream of a few individuals has become a reality to the community.
Heritage Hill Collections
Heritage Hill has more than 6,600 artifacts in its collection mostly displayed in our buildings. Some of this collection is on loan to us from the Green Bay-De Pere Antiquarians, Brown County Historical Society, and Wisconsin Historical Society. This fantastic collection includes original artwork, books, clothing and furnishings dating from the 17th century to present. One unique piece in Tank Cottage is a hand painted screen that belonged to the Tank family. Heritage Hall, located in the Ed Center features rotating displays of items not able to be shown in buildings.
The Betsy Hendrickson and Lucyanna Hitch Education Center
In 2006, the new Betsy Hendrickson and Lucyanna Hitch Education Center was constructed. With this new center, the park has become a year round attraction for education programs as well as business meetings, receptions, and parties. Education programs continue to draw about 18,000 students per year. Children acquire a first hand look at how their early relatives worked and played. Besides being fun, the programs meet benchmarks and standards in history and social studies. With the establishment of Learning Labs in the Education Center programs can focus on more specific learning criteria or current programs can be expanded.
Heritage Hill Foundation & the Department of Natural Resources (DNR)
Two different organizations aid the park in its mission. The Heritage Hill Foundation solicits and manages donated, granted and bequeathed funds to help support the growth as well as the operation of the park. The Heritage Hill Corporation is charged with the operations, maintenance and development of the park under terms of a lease with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
A Public and Private Partnership
The relationship between Heritage Hill State Historical Park and the DNR provides an excellent example of a public and private partnership. Without the assistance from the DNR and the donations and admissions the park generates, Heritage Hill would not be able to help educate and entertain thousands of visitors each year.
Heritage Hill is thrilled to have been a part of so many memories for thousands of people over the years. The park and staff are honored to be a part of the past and are looking forward to a promising future.