Historical Society accepts offer to buy Exploreum

But group’s president says Port museum property still on market because of ‘major contingencies’ in deal

ALTHOUGH THE Port Exploreum remains open through Sept. 4, the Port Washington Historical Society has accepted an offer to purchase the building. Press file photo
By 
KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Ozaukee Press staff

The Port Washington Historical Society has accepted an offer to purchase its Port Exploreum building in downtown Port, president Nancy Holley said last week.

However, the building remains on the market even with the accepted offer, Holley said.

“We’ve accepted it (the offer) but it’s got major contingencies — really major contingencies,” Holley said.

Because of those contingencies, she said, the Society is hoping to attract secondary offers on the building.

And the Exploreum remains open through Sept. 4, when its World War II exhibit ends.

The Society recently dropped the asking price from $1.5 million to $999,999 in an attempt to obtain additional offers, she added.

In June, Bill Schwalbe, the owner of Schooner Pub, told the city that he was interested in buying the Exploreum building and turning it into an event venue.

He said he envisioned using the building for weddings, reunions and other events he can’t accommodate at Schooner.

The Historical Society announced in March that the Exploreum, which opened to much fanfare in 2015, would close its doors for good after the summer season.

Society members said the interactive museum failed to reach its potential and generate enough income to even come close to covering its expenses.

The building, which was constructed in 1907, was purchased by the Society in 2012 and renovated with more than $3 million in donations.

The Exploreum’s budget shortfall ranged from $38,535 in 2021 to $129,010 in 2018, the Society’s officers said, adding revenues peaked at $21,804 in the museum’s first year.

“I don’t think it was ever envisioned as being self-sustaining, but I don’t think they (Society officials) anticipated it would be a drain,” Past President Jim Pauly said.

Not only did the Exploreum not generate the visitors the Society envisioned, officials said, it wasn’t used as a rental space as often as expected.

In June, society officers said they would host an exhibit, as well as speakers and events, on local World War II soldiers this summer while marketing the building.

Holley said Exploreum attendance has been low this summer, saying many people assumed the building was already closed.

“It’s been a real struggle,” she said.

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