Neatly preserved and displayed within The White Lake Area Historical Society and Depot museum, visitors are greeted with thousands of rich stories and memorabilia that date back to the very beginnings of the community that exists today.
The story of the White Lake Area Historical Society (WLAHS) began around 25 years ago when a group of local residents started a campaign to preserve the former Soo Line Railroad Depot building.
The depot was originally built between 1907 and 1908 in the now obsolete Town of Van Ostrand by the Wisconsin and Northern Railroad. It was relocated to its current location in October 1996 and opened to the public on July 4, 1998.
In May 2014, the WLAHS for the first time, opened the doors to the new White Lake Historical Center, conveniently located next to the depot. To preserve as much of the history as possible, members carefully restored the depot building, leaving the original windows, flooring, doors and walls that are seen today.
WLAHS Treasurer Judy Peterson said donations are always being presented to the group. Between the historical center and depot buildings, there are countless artifacts and displays, including items from the early days of logging and railroads, pioneer family histories, art pieces, military items, a comprehensive collection of White Lake School yearbooks and more.
“We are always looking for donors and volunteers,” Peterson said. “We never know where our donations might come from.”
One of the first traditions initiated by the WLAHS is known as the “Banner Project.” The program started in 1998, encouraging pioneer families, who first settled in the area prior to 1949, to decorate a banner that showcased their family’s history.
Today, more than 100 banners have been created, with more in the works. The banners can be seen throughout the two buildings.
Currently, the members of the WLAHS are working on curating a compilation of files for each of the families that have ever taken residence in the area. Peterson said the driving force behind this project is to provide and preserve the history of each White Lake family for anyone who may be interested.
Peterson shared several instances where she observed individuals from all over the country learning pieces of their family history for the first time.
“You never know who you will meet or who you will impact,” Peterson said.
At present, there are more than 180 members of the historical society. Peterson said that in the coming years, the group hopes to welcome in many new, young, active members who show interest in learning the town’s history, and keeping it alive for future generations.
“Someone could come in knowing nothing about White Lake’s history at all, and we would be more than happy to help as people learn along the way,” Peterson said.
More information and updates can be found on the White Lake Area Historical Society Facebook page.