News: Colby – Rural Arts Museum Opens New Buildings (2021)


Surnames: Kaschinska, Mueller, Schoelzel, Bruesewitz, Graffunder, Kampmeyer, Krebsbach

Source: Tribune-Phonograph (Abbotsford, WI) 21 Jul 2021

The Rural Arts Museum in Colby used the occasion of the annual Cheese Days festival to officially unveil new two exhibit buildings to the public on Saturday, one showcasing the area’s agricultural history and the other highlighting more than a century of firefighting services.

Back-to-back ribbon cuttings were held to commemorate the openings of a new red barn filled with old-fashioned farm and logging equipment and a two story firehouse constructed by members of the Colby Fire and EMS Association.

Lee Kaschinska, museum president, told audience members that it took a lot of effort to bring the buildings from the planning stages into brick-and-mortar reality.

“This celebration is the culmination of several years of sweat and toil on the part of many volunteers, without whom the completion of these structures could not have been achieved,” he said.

Although many of the items in the barn were previously on display in the nearby Heritage Building, he said space was so limited that it was hard for guests to fully access them.

“Now, you can get a close-up view and a chance to see and appreciate the ingenuity that went into the mechanisms that operate them,” he said.

The items are now also fully labeled so people know what they’re looking at as they stroll through the barn. Some of the exhibits include hand-cranked pumps, wooden plows, seed planters and antique gas cans.

The firehouse, built by local firefighters and EMTs themselves, includes two fire engines, including a 1947 truck from the Colby-Hull Fire Dept. and a 1926 Dodge — the first motorized vehicle used by Colby firefighters.

Mayor Jim Schmidt thanked the firefighters for raising all of the money and doing all the work to get the firehouse constructed.

“It’s quite an accomplishment on behalf of the city, representing and saving history,” he said.

Joe Mueller, chief of the Central Fire and EMS District, said the fire and EMS association originally approached the museum staff about building the firehouse replica for its two antique trucks and display cases of items from the past.

“This is a work in progress yet,” he said, noting that the display cases are still at the back of the garage. “We have a little ways to go to finish the building. We had supplies we couldn’t get, and some of that’s due to COVID yet.”

The cement slab for the firehouse was poured on June 1, 2018, Mueller noted, and since then, firefighters have been donating their time to get it built.

Mueller gave a brief history of firefighting in Colby, dating all the way back to the 19th century when the community was first established by settlers.

Colby’s original fire department was founded in 1883 when a group of area residents agreed to protect the houses and other buildings springing up in the remote area, he said.

“The group became known as the ‘Midget City Fire Department,’” he said. “In those days, Colby was informally known as Midget City because it was the smallest municipality in the state to apply for citizen status.”

In 1893, the department bought its first fire truck from a manufacturer in Indiana, he said, and in the same year, the firefighters built a shed over the railroad platform to house that truck.

The Midget City Fire Department was chartered and formally recognized by the state of Wisconsin in 1902. The Colby Fire Department name did not come about until the 1950s, he said, and in 1955, the members started an ambulance service which is still in operation today under the auspices of Central Fire and EMS, which was formed in 2017.

Randy Schoelzel served as the project manager, getting the design and materials together to build the two-story building. Kevin Bruesewitz poured the concrete, Shane Grafffunder and Jack Kampmeyer helped with the drywall finishing, Roger Krebsbach put in the insulation and Kulp’s of Stratford installed the roof. “Most of the funding of this building came through Colby Fire and EMS Association,” he said. “The rest was from fundraisers and private donations that were very appreciated.”

The museum is open on the first and third Sunday of every month, from June through August, from 1 to 4 p.m.



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