History of the Society

Our Mission: To preserve, present, and share the heritage of Brown County history through preservation activities, exhibitions, educational programs, and events.

By the end of the 19th century, Brown County had seen decades of transformations. The railroad had displaced the Fort Howard complex of military buildings, which were subsequently moved, dismantled, or demolished. Historic buildings from Green Bay’s earliest days were falling into disrepair. The history of the area, contained in the artifacts, buildings, and memories of its people, were being lost, all to the concern of local history-minded citizens.


Forty-eight Brown County civic leaders gather on October 2 to organize the Green Bay Historical Society, with A. C. Neville presiding.


Members lead the effort to preserve Tank Cottage


BCHS assists the Art Colony in the development of a local museum in a room in the Kellogg Library, the forerunner of the Neville Public Museum.


Deborah Beaumont Martin leads the effort to renovate and repair Tank Cottage at Union Park, and to preserve the Fort Howard Hospital building.


The Green Bay Historical Bulletin is established to disseminate a knowledge of the history of Green Bay, De Pere, and the surrounding areas by the publication of original manuscripts and documents.


The Green Bay Historical Society officially changes its name to the Brown County Historical Society.


Historic Cotton House, built in 1842 by John Arndt for his daughter, Mary, and her husband, U.S. Army Capt. John Cotton, is given to BCHS by the Catholic Diocese. The organization moves the building to the current site of Heritage Hill State Park.


Cotton House is restored, dedicated as a museum and opened for Sunday tours. BCHS operates the historic house 40 years.


BCHS acquires the Baird Law Office and the Fort Howard Scullery building. According to BCHS minutes, “Because of the growth and development of our city, the construction of buildings and destroying of others and because our Shrines such as Fort Howard Hospital, Baird Law Office and others are scattered throughout the city, and are not in their original location, it was thought it might be well to have them centered in one location. It was thought more state property could be acquired in the vicinity of the Cotton House and have all Shrines centered there. This would necessitate approaching the State Legislature.”


BCHS begins planning to preserve Hazelwood, the home of Morgan L. Martin, who was a leader in the formation of the Wisconsin Territory and led the effort to draft Wisconsin’s constitution. BCHS passes a resolution to preserve Hazelwood as a historic building on its original site.


Neville Public Museum purchases and restores Hazelwood Historic House and opens it to the public.


Robert Flatley, BCHS president, appoints seven board members to the newly created Historical Park Committee and assigns them to explore the possibility of establishing a historical park.


BCHS leaders Amanda Cobb and Dorothy Straubel Wittig present plans for a historical park to the Wisconsin Board of Health and Social Services.


Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources commits $1.5 million to fund the state park, and BCHS proposes “Heritage Hill” as the name of the new park.


BCHS is awarded the prestigious Reuben Gold Thwaites Award for local history from the Wisconsin State Historical Society for its work in establishing Heritage Hill.


Heritage Hill State Historical Park, governed by a volunteer board of directors, is dedicated on June 24, and opens to the public after more than 25 years of dreams and hard work.


BCHS President George Nau Burridge and UWGB Professor Norbert Gaworek create Voyageur Magazine to communicate and preserve Northeastern Wisconsin history.


Hazelwood is offered for sale by the Neville Public Museum. BCHS purchases the building and launches a $750,000 capital campaign for historic restoration. That same year, the BCHS Preservation Committee institutes an awards program to recognize local preservation and restoration efforts.


Following a successful fundraising campaign, Hazelwood closes for restoration and the construction of a reproduction south wing, the lower level of which would house the office, library, and community room.


In October, BCHS celebrates 100 years of commitment to the preservation of history in Brown County and Northeastern Wisconsin, and publishes In That Place and Time – Remembering Rufus B. Kellogg, a rich source of mid-nineteenth century local history, funded by Associated Bank.


BCHS opens the Meredith B. and John M. Rose educational annex, featuring building techniques used in the 19th century.


The Preservation Committee institutes a Preservation Watch List to track and publicize historic sites and buildings in Brown County that are, or might be, in danger of demolition.


BCHS publishes Green Bay Area in History and Legend, edited by Betsy Foley, with articles by Jack Rudolph and illustrations by Harold Elder.


BCHS begins annual cemetery walks.


Based on an assessment of priorities BCHS launches a three year $1 million dollar capital campaign, for renovation and continued preservation of Historic Hazelwood.