Plan to form Grafton historical society expected to hinge on response at Feb. 18 informational meeting
How many people out there would like to help preserve Grafton’s history?
Village officials hope to find an answer Thursday, Feb. 18, when a meeting is held to discuss the possibility of forming a local historical society.
The meeting — which will be from 7 to 9 p.m. at The Glass Palette wine bar in the Arts Mills, 1300 14th Ave. — was arranged by the Historic Preservation Commission, which is considering disbanding.
Last month, the seven-member commission decided to hold the meeting to gauge public interest in forming a nonprofit historical society that would replace their committee. Village and Town of Grafton residents are especially encouraged to attend the event.
“We’re hoping for a great turnout,” said commission member Dave Antoine, a village trustee.
“There are communities smaller than ours, like Saukville, Belgium and Random Lake, that have historical societies. Port Washington does, too, and Cedarburg has the Ozaukee County Historical Society.
“Why can’t Grafton have one?”
Since the commission was established in 1995, its chief mission has been identifying commercial buildings, residences and other structures and sites in Grafton as potential landmarks. However, commission members have voiced concern about their role, which is limited because there is no village funding to support their projects.
Creating a nonprofit group with 501(c)(3) status would allow residents, businesses and groups to make tax-deductible donations for preservation efforts and other purposes. The group would also be able to set up fundraising activities.
Antoine said that if a historical society is formed, the group would:
• Seek members who would pay annual dues to support the organization’s projects.
• Adopt a set of bylaws that will describe objectives, membership rules, dues, officers, elections and other guidelines.
• Be governed by a board of directors that would include a president, secretary and treasurer as well as several other committee positions.
Antoine said some of the organization’s initial projects might include video recordings of local residents talking about historically significant events, digitally storing and displaying historical photographs and collecting community memorabilia.
Village Administrator Darrell Hofland said public response at the Feb. 18 meeting is expected to play a major role in whether a historical society becomes a reality.
“Ultimately, the Historic Preservation Commission will make a determination on whether to continue as a village committee or officially create a private, nonprofit organization,” Hofland said.
The creation of a historical society will be determined by “the sheer passion for preserving Grafton’s history,” he added.
Antoine said the work of a historical society could be enhanced by establishing a museum or archives, giving the group a physical presence in Grafton.
“For many historical societies, the creation of a location to store artifacts is important,” he said. “Should a historical society be created, it would make sense for a study to be conducted to determine a suitable site.”
Commission members described the Feb. 18 meeting as an informal community get-together. Refreshments will be available to purchase.
Commission Chairman David Liss, a village trustee, said the committee would discuss public input received Feb. 18 at its March meeting.
A lack of residents’ interest in forming a historical society means the commission “would probably just continue the way we have been,” Liss said.
For more information, call Antoine at 366-3559 or e-mail