Historical Society sells Exploreum for $750K

Former downtown Port Washington museum purchased by Mequon woman who plans to open store

THE FORMER PORT EXPLOREUM museum was sold last week by the Port Washington Historical Society to a firm owned by a Mequon woman who plans to open a store in the building. Press file photo
Ozaukee Press staff

The Port Exploreum building was sold last week by the Port Washington Historical Society.

The building was sold for $750,000 on May 11 to Wisconsin Commercial Properties LLC, whose principal is Mikelle Flanner of Mequon, Historical Society President Nancy Holley said.

In her offer to purchase, Flanner said she planned to use the building at 118 N. Franklin St. for a boutique clothing and furniture store, Holley said.

“She was moving things in 15 minutes after the closing,” Holley said. “She’s excited about it. The first thing she did was put clothing in the window.”

Flanner is the owner of Fifth-Main in Mequon and E-Collectique in Thiensville — a business that previously was housed in Saukville — according to her LinkedIn page.

The Exploreum building was built in 1906 as a businessman’s club and most recently was home to the Port Exploreum, an interactive maritime museum operated by the Historical Society.

The museum, which was hailed as a state-of-the-art facility that made use of technology to offer hands-on experiences not found elsewhere, was funded by donations from the community.

It opened to fanfare in 2015, but  last year, the Historical Society decided to close the museum, saying it had failed to reach its potential and generate enough income to cover anywhere near the expenses it generated.

There were at least four parties interested in buying the building at different times, Holley said.

“It was sad,” she said of the sale, “but it was also a relief. It’s something that needed to be done. A historic building is an expensive building.

“But the building was saved, and hopefully she (Flanner) will do wonderful things with it.”

Proceeds from the sale will be used “to put the society in a better financial situation in the future,” Holley said, noting a committee is studying what the funds will ultimately be used for.

Many of the pieces of technology in the Exploreum, such as the Lake Michigan table and Ozaukee Press table, have been moved to the Resource Center in downtown, Holley said, while the artifacts that were housed at the Exploreum have been moved to either the Resource Center and the Light Station or stored for the time being.

Holley said the Society is concentrating its efforts right now on preparing the Light Station for the 2023 season, which begins on Memorial Day weekend, and finalizing plans for a celebration from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 3 to mark the return of the restored lifeboat from the SS Milwaukee, which sank in 1929, as well as the Society’s annual gala in July.


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