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project overview

The Chippewa Falls History Center is a remarkable architectural and historical treasure located adjacent to the South entrance of Irvine Park in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. This extraordinary building stands as a testament to the region's rich heritage and offers visitors a captivating experience through its carefully curated galleries and research library.

Design and Construction Challenges

The journey of the Chippewa Falls History Center began in the Spring of 2020, during the initial stages of the Covid-19 lockdown. The design documents were completed and bid under the challenging circumstances brought about by the pandemic. Despite the obstacles, the project persevered, and the construction phase commenced in the Fall of 2020. However, it faced intermittent disruptions caused by supply chain issues, leading to design revisions to accommodate material and equipment availability challenges. Despite these setbacks, the project achieved substantial completion in the fall of 2022, resulting in a magnificent structure.

Visit the Chippewa Falls History Center and embark on a journey through time. Immerse yourself in the captivating stories of the past, explore the diverse exhibits, and discover the rich history of Chippewa Falls and its surrounding region.
Architectural Marvel and Private Funding

The Chippewa Falls History Center is a testament to the power of private funding and community support. The building was 100% privately funded, with building costs totaling approximately $3,900,000.00. Remarkably, the project was completed approximately $200,000.00 under the estimated building costs, a testament to the efficient use of resources.

A Captivating Design

The History Center spans approximately 20,000 square feet, spread across five fully accessible floors and mezzanine spaces. An impressive machine room less traction style elevator with a 3,500-pound capacity seamlessly connects all the floors, mezzanines, and a scenic lookout. The lookout, situated approximately fifty feet above street level, offers breathtaking views of the surrounding area.

A Floodway Location and Elevated Construction

Situated in a mapped floodway, the History Center was constructed on a raised platform, ensuring its resilience against potential flooding. Pigmented concrete retaining walls, adorned with a ledgestone pattern, pay homage to the original mill's perched siting above the rocky and cascading waterfalls of the Chippewa River. The first finished floor stands approximately eight feet above street level, providing added protection.

Engaging Exhibits and Research Facilities

The Chippewa Falls History Center is a treasure trove of historical artifacts and knowledge. The facility houses galleries for the Chippewa County Historical Society, showcasing captivating exhibits that rotate on a seasonal basis. From a fully restored Darley Pump firetruck to a mobile "History of Lumber" enclosure trailer exhibit and early 1900s automobiles, the History Center offers a diverse range of exhibits. Additionally, a research library is available for the Chippewa County Genealogical Society, catering to those seeking to explore their family history.

Architectural Splendor and Innovative Materials

The exterior design of the History Center draws inspiration from the original late 1800s Chippewa Boom and Lumber Company's sawmill. Architectural elements such as diamond-shaped windows, a scenic lookout at the roof, and heavy timber pergola and wood bracket elements replicate the historic charm of the original structure. The building features architectural precast concrete wall panels embossed with a woodgrain texture, while floor plates consist of precast concrete atop steel tube beams and columns.

Uninterrupted Views and Structural Ingenuity

A notable architectural highlight of the History Center is the 50-foot long, 10-foot high glass infilled steel tube truss. This truss serves as the floor support for the third-floor meeting room, as well as the support for the roof system and scenic lookout. With its half-inch thick laminated glass, the truss provides uninterrupted views of the galleries, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the historical narrative. The innovative design eliminates the need for intermediate column supports, preserving the open and spacious atmosphere of the gallery and exhibit areas.

A Blend of Tradition and Modernity

The interior design of the Chippewa Falls History Center beautifully blends traditional and modern materials. Rolled formed metal roof trusses and laminated structural glass guardrail systems emulate the interior of the original sawmill, further enhancing the historical ambiance. The exhibit galleries vary in height, ranging from 10 to 30 feet, providing an engaging and immersive experience for visitors of all ages.

Flexibility and Community Engagement

The History Center's exhibit areas were thoughtfully designed to ensure maximum flexibility. This allows for the rotation of exhibits on a seasonal basis, keeping the visitor experience fresh and exciting. In addition to the rotating exhibits, several longer-term exhibits, including a fully restored Darley Pump firetruck and early 1900s automobiles, captivate visitors with their rich historical significance. The presence of a large roll-up door at the rear of the building facilitates the smooth movement of large exhibits, enabling their participation in parades and educational events throughout the Chippewa Valley.

The Chippewa Falls History Center is a remarkable architectural and historical achievement.

Despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19 lockdown and intermittent supply chain issues during the construction phase, the project was successfully completed in the fall of 2022. The building, funded entirely through private contributions, showcases a stunning design that incorporates elements from the original late 1800s sawmill.

With its 20,000 square feet of space spread across five accessible floors and mezzanine areas, the History Center offers engaging galleries, a research library, storage rooms, offices, and a Museum Store. The elevated construction on a raised platform, combined with pigmented concrete retaining walls, ensures the building's resilience in a mapped floodway. The History Center's exhibits, featuring a mix of traditional and modern materials, provide flexible and immersive experiences for visitors, with rotating seasonal displays and longer-term exhibits that include a restored firetruck and early automobiles. The architectural precast concrete wall panels, glass-infilled steel tube truss, and laminated structural glass guardrail systems contribute to the building's aesthetic appeal and functionality.

Overall, the Chippewa Falls History Center stands as a testament to community support, historical preservation, and the enduring spirit of the region.

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