Late Port historianâ€™s daughter donates trove of his memorabilia to Historical Society
Ambrose P. Mayerâ€™s extensive collection of historic Port Washington photographs and memorabilia â€” everything from bricks from demolished buildings to promotional items bearing the names of long-gone city businesses â€” is now in the hands of the Port Washington Historical Society.
Mayerâ€™s daughter Jeanne Mayer donated the collection to the society, which her father helped found.
â€śThis way, a new generation can enjoy it rather than it sitting in a closet,â€ť she said. â€śI didnâ€™t want it gathering dust. This way, I can still see it, and others can, too.â€ť
Historical Society President Jackie Oleson said the collection is â€śfabulous.â€ť
â€śItâ€™s such a wonderful donation. We really appreciate the generosity of the family,â€ť she said. â€śItâ€™s pretty amazing.
â€śWe were kind of overwhelmed to see it all. There are a lot of items here â€” some really cool stuff. There are wonderful photos in albums and frames and information about Port Washington, as well as bricks from a lot of the buildings that were taken down â€” bricks that were most likely made here in Port.â€ť
Oleson said the collection includes several tubs of scrapbooks filled with photos, roughly 40 pictures in old frames and memorabilia â€” ink blotters from businesses like Bodeâ€™s Sinclair Service and Port Washington State Bank, caps from Werkingâ€™s Dairy, a coin purse from Ewigâ€™s House of Music and a key chain from First National Bank of Port Washington.
There are items from Port Brewing Co., Ewig Bros. and Schmit Columbia Garage, as well as other businesses.
â€śThis will help us fill in some of the gaps in what we know,â€ť Oleson said.
Jeanne Mayer said her fatherâ€™s collection was extensive, taking up an entire basement wall in his home.
Her father had asked her to keep the collection for a decade after his death on July 4, 2000, before doing anything with it, she noted.
Ambrose Mayer, who was known as the cityâ€™s unofficial historian, had an unabashed love for the City of Port Washington, and served as an alderman and mayor for more than a decade.
His family had lived in Port Washington for six or seven generations, and he told Ozaukee Press in 1994 that his interest in the cityâ€™s history was sparked by his interest in genealogy.
â€śThe more I got into my family, the more I got into Port Washington,â€ť he said. â€śI just love Port Washington.â€ť
He began collecting bits of the cityâ€™s history in the 1960s, a time when people looked to the future and often neglected the past. He treated the items he collected with love, saying he considered it a way to show how much he cared about a community that gave him so much.
His collection may have started slowly, his daughter said, but that changed later.
â€śIt became a bit of an obsession at the end,â€ť she said. â€śHe did as much research about things as he could. He always wanted to make sure there were names or dates on everything he had.
â€śThis was Port Washington. It was his home, and he wanted everybody to love it as much as he did.â€ť
The Historical Society hopes to digitize parts of the Mayer collection, as well as a collection of photographs and slides from the Paul Wiening family, and put some of it online.
Oleson said she hopes the Mayer donation will prompt other donations.
â€śI think there are probably families that have things in their basements and in their attics that they might not want,â€ť she said. â€śOften these things are not valuable monetarily, but they are valuable historically.â€ť
Even if family members donâ€™t want to give up an item, the society would appreciate borrowing it to photograph for its collection, creating a permanent record for the community, Oleson said.
â€śHistorical groups only have what people have been able to save,â€ť she said. â€śOnce itâ€™s gone, itâ€™s lost forever.â€ť
Image Information: THE AMBROSE P. MAYER collection of historic Port Washington photographs and memorabilia was recently donated to the Port Washington Historical Society. Looking over a portion of the collection were Mayerâ€™s daughter Jeanne Mayer and Bob Bretl of the Historical Society. Photo by Sam Arendt