The Washington County Historical Society serves as a historical umbrella for the county’s history organizations and acts as a community resource for individuals and organizations seeking historical information. The Society:

  • about us wash_county_collageoperates two interpretive museums showcasing county heritage,
  • provides educational programs to schools and to the public,
  • assists researchers to document their own, county, and state history,
  • provides expertise to help community groups conserve collections and produce exhibits,
  • investigates and publishes county history,
  • collects and preserves cultural artifacts and documents for future generations, and
  • showcases county history through exhibits and displays throughout the county.

WCHS works with other community groups to facilitate local discussions on history and provide advertising and networking for each other’s projects. The ultimate goal is to provide the opportunity for all county residents to learn about and enjoy their area’s history and build a sense of community heritage.

Statement of purpose of the Washington County Historical Society

The general purpose and plan of operation of the Washington County Historical Society shall be to investigate and study the history of the County of Washington and the State of Minnesota; to provide for the collection, preservation, and dissemination of knowledge and information with reference thereto; to provide for the collection and preservation of papers, books, records, relics, and other things of historical interest; to display such materials in appropriate museums and exhibits; to acquire, hold, own, operate, and provide for the marking and preservation of historic sites and buildings; to publish any and all materials which shall bear upon the history of this county and state.

History of the Society

Founded April 11, 1934, the Washington County Historical Society is a private, non-profit educational institution with about 700 members. There are two membership meetings held annually during the late summer and late winter. The society operates two museum sites, each with two structures. The society’s research library has been growing since that first meeting in 1934. It is housed in the reconstructed carriage house behind the Warden’s House Museum. The WCHS endowment fund was established in 1984 to provide a source of funding for everyday administrative and operating expenses.

In the early years of the society, the membership meetings were held at the Stillwater Public Library. The first society president was Edward E. Bloomquist, who was also the county school superintendent. The first donation to the society was the book History of Washington County and the St. Croix Valley by Warner and Foote.

In 1941, the Society purchased the Warden’s House Museum in Stillwater from the state. It is one of the state’s oldest buildings as well as its second oldest continuously operating house museum. The Society leased the Hay Lake School for a museum in 1974 and purchased it from the Forest Lake school district in 1978. The school’s neighbor, the Johannes Erickson Log House, was donated to the Society in the early 1980s, moved to the site and restored. All three buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places. The historic family-owned Boutwell Cemetery west of Stillwater was purchased in 1978.

In 1996 the Society reconstructed the Carriage House that originally stood behind the Warden’s House. In 2001 climate control was added and the textile collection and archives were moved into the new facility.

Our latest undertaking is opening of the new Washington County Heritage Center to be located on Greeley Street in Stillwater, MN. 16 years in the making, the new Heritage Center represents the rich and dynamic history of all towns and areas in Washington County. Visit the site page for more information. 

WCHS Equity Statement:

The Washington County Historical Society welcomes and serves all communities of people in Washington County in the State of Minnesota and beyond. Our facilities are located on the traditional homelands of the Dakota and Ojibwe Nations. 

We embrace the differences of our members, visitors, and staff, regardless of age, disability, gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, family or marital status, and other characteristics that make them unique.

We value one another’s diverse knowledge, experience, and perspective.  This allows us to create an environment where the stories of the past, present, and future are valued.

We conduct our work to showcase the diverse history of the people, culture, history, and geographic place that is Washington County as a way to meet our mission of collecting, preserving, and disseminating the story of the land and its people.

Board of Directors

A board of eleven directors selected from the membership, three of whom are elected to three-year terms each year, governs the Society.

Directors take an active part in Society operations and provide, as volunteers, such services as budgeting and monitoring finances, fundraising and grant writing, setting goals and organizational policy, hiring and evaluating employees, setting and monitoring collections policy, and representing the Society at community events. The current directors are:

  • Myron Anderson, Denmark Twp
  • Ryan Collins, Vice President, Stillwater
  • Holly Fitzenberger,  Stillwater
  • Sheila Hause, May Twp
  • Dave Lindsey, President, Cottage Grove
  • Karlene McComb, Stillwater
  • Angie Noyes, White Bear Lake
  • Joe Otte, Secretary, St. Paul
  • Becky Pung, Stillwater
  • Tom Simonet, Treasurer, May Twp
  • Mike Wilhelmi, Stillwater