Public history students create unconventional tour of historic home

| Judy Berthiaume

Guns, bikes and women will be among the topics covered this spring during a new — and unconventional — tour of a historic home in downtown Eau Claire.

UW-Eau Claire students enrolled in a public history class have created and will present “Guns, Bikes, and Women: An Unconventional Tour of Schlegelmilch House.”

Built in 1871 by German immigrant merchant Hermann Schlegelmilch, the Schlegelmilch House (517 S. Farwell St.) now is part of the Chippewa Valley Museum.

One team of UW-Eau Claire history students focused its work on Hermann Schlegelmilch, who learned gunsmithing in Germany and later sold guns in his hardware store in Eau Claire.

Schlegelmilch also was active in a local German-American marksmanship club, the Schuetzenverein, which competed at the Schuetzen Park on the East Hill in Eau Claire.

The Chippewa Valley Museum recently acquired the Schlegelmilch family’s historic firearm collection, which will be on display during this spring’s tour.

A second team of Blugolds did its research on Schlegelmilch’s son, Herman, and his interest in bicycling.

In 1892, Herman participated in an 1,800-mile cycling tour of Europe. When he returned to Eau Claire, he began selling bicycles at the family hardware store.

He also was active with the Eau Claire Cycling Club, which worked to promote better roads and dedicated bike trails.

The spring “Guns, Bikes, and Women: An Unconventional Tour of Schlegelmilch House” tour will include a guided bicycle tour, which will include stops at sites related to Eau Claire’s cycling history. During the tour, participants will ride on Eau Claire’s first dedicated “cycling path” though Putnam Park.

The final Blugold team has researched the correspondence of the women who lived in the Schlegelmilch House.

For this part of the tour, the history students have coordinated with students from music and theatre arts to stage a dramatic reading of excerpts of the correspondence among the women in the family.

UW-Eau Claire history graduate students will create a panel exhibit that focuses on Prohibition, which will be featured during a special tour of the Ager House (514 W. Madison St.), the historic family home of author Waldemar Ager.

This exhibit will serve as a companion to “Spirited: Prohibition in America,” an NEH On the Road Exhibit currently on display at the Chippewa Valley Museum.

“Guns, Bikes, and Women: An Unconventional Tour of Schlegelmilch House” tours will be offered from 1-4 p.m. April 28 and May 5. The bicycle tours will depart from the house at 2 p.m. both days.

The special tours of Ager House will be available from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on May 11.

For details about the UW-Eau Claire public history project, contact Dr. John Mann, professor of history and director of the public history program, at 715-836-5850 or mannjw@uwec.edu

Photo caption: Public history students are creating new, unconventional tours to help tell the stories of a local historic home in Eau Claire.