WISCONSIN HISTORICAL SOCIETY
Full New Arrivals site looking towards parking

New Arrivals

New Arrivals Campaign

A reimagined Welcome Experience will turn this beloved
history attraction into an unforgettable destination.

The visualized plan for the New Arrivals Entrance
A beautiful new Guest Entrance Complex that will serve visitors in numerous ways is one of many dramatic improvements planned in a multi-year, multi-phase Welcome Experience that will transform Old World Wisconsin into a one-of-a-kind historic attraction.

Circular Graphic illustrating the 4 quadrants this will assist. Exceptional Guest Services & Amenities, Audience Growth, Interactive & Enhanced Experience, Revenue Opportunities

A Historic Transformation

Since its opening in 1976, Old World Wisconsin has become one of the more beloved and popular history attractions in the Midwest. The Wisconsin Historical Society is thrilled to launch an ambitious project that reimagines the history attraction’s guest entry area, which has remained mostly unchanged over five decades.

An improved welcome area has long been identified as a critical need for the 600-acre site, which attracts more than 50,000 people each year, including thousands of students on much-anticipated annual field trips.

A 2010 tornado that leveled acres of trees on the site led to the planning for this Welcome Experience and the New Arrivals Campaign to make it happen.

A Guest Entrance Complex, Brewing Experience building, historic tavern, outdoor Beer Garden, Pavilion, Tram Stop and other improvements will make a visit to Old World Wisconsin an unforgettable experience unlike any other, while also helping sustain the site far into the future.

Welcome Experience

Elements of the Project

A reimagined Welcome Experience to better serve our guests at Old World Wisconsin, attract new visitors, and help this treasured 600-acre history attraction become more financially self-sustaining has been a decade in the making. This ambitious project features new elements and rehabilitated or restored existing elements as outlined below.

Map of the New Arrivals Plan, with the new and existing buildings and features

Existing Elements: Lueskow House (renovation/rehabilitation), Ramsey Barn (upper level restoration, lower lever rehabilitation, upper level restroom renovation), Clausing Barn (rehabilitation/renovation)
New Elements: Guest Entrance Complex, Tram Stop, Pavilion, Service Drive, Brewing Experience Building, Wittnebel's Tavern (relocated and restored historic building), Beer Garden, Parking

Phase 1

Brewing Experience Building

The multi-year Master Plan is broken into multiple phases that will move forward only as funds are raised. The first two phases will complete the Brewing Experience building, historic tavern relocation and renovation, and Beer Garden. While Phase 1 construction is set to begin, funds are still needed. You can help complete this exciting project!

Donate Today

Phase 1 of transformative
project is moving forward!

The Wisconsin Historical Society is thrilled to proceed with the
construction of a new Brewing Experience at Old World Wisconsin.

Made possible in large part by the generosity of private donors through the New Arrivals Campaign, this long-envisioned experience will build on what has become one of the site’s more popular features: the historic brewing program created in partnership with the Museum of Beer and Brewing.

Brewing, Women, Beer, Brewer - Cutout
Brewery Building view from the back, with lots of windows.
A newly constructed Brewing Experience building, combined with relocated historic Wittnebel’s Tavern and a festive outdoor Beer Garden, will allow Old World Wisconsin guests to celebrate Wisconsin’s brewing traditions like never before.

When the two phases of this project are completed, visitors will make lasting memories as they explore Wisconsin’s brewing heritage through demonstrations, workshops, tastings and other activities in the new Brewing Experience building, immerse themselves in a 1930s rural Wisconsin tavern, and enjoy a festive, outdoor Beer Garden.

The $5.5 million project marks the first step in a multi-phase overall redevelopment that reimagines a Welcome Experience, with new structures and amenities that will help visitors plan and enjoy an unforgettable journey into the past. The project provides locations for public programs while also offering earned revenue opportunities that will help sustain Old World Wisconsin far into the future.

Dan Freas smiling

“This Brewing Experience, and the larger plan to reimagine our entire entry area, will transform how we’re able to serve guests for decades to come. We’re excited to see this dream become a reality, and grateful to all who donate to make it happen!”

– Dan Freas, Old World Wisconsin Site Director

3 Men brewing beer
Old World Wisconsin’s Historic Brewing Program, led by volunteer brewers through a partnership with the Museum of Beer and Brewing, will be significantly improved with a new building for brewing, including indoor and outdoor areas for guests to sample beer brewed on site, as well as those of our brewing partners.

Brewing Experience building will immerse guests in Wisconsin’s brewing traditions

The Brewing Experience building will be the first new structure completed at Old World Wisconsin as part of the larger, reimagined Welcome Experience guest entry project. It will highlight our state’s proud brewing tradition in numerous ways. The building housing the Brewing Experience features two large masonry fireplaces that our volunteer brewers will use to brew small batches of historically inspired beer (available for purchase), some including heirloom ingredients grown on site. The building will also feature a bar area and a large multi-purpose gathering space with seating for guests to relax and enjoy brewing demonstrations, workshops, tastings, and other activities. In addition, the Brewing Experience will also be available to rent for weddings, reunions and other private events, providing an important source of revenue to sustain overall operations at the 600-acre site.

Brewing Interior view towards tavern

Phase 2

Tavern Restoration & Beer Garden

The multi-year Master Plan is broken into multiple phases that will move forward only as funds are raised. The first two phases will complete the Brewing Experience building, historic tavern relocation and renovation, and Beer Garden. While Phase 1 construction is set to begin, funds are still needed. You can help complete this exciting project!

Donate Today
Wittnebel's Tavern (above), founded in 1906, will be moved to Old World Wisconsin and restored. The experience will be further enhanced by an outdoor Beer Garden inspired by Wisconsin beer garden traditions introduced by German immigrants.
Wittnebel's Tavern (above), founded in 1906, will be moved to Old World Wisconsin and restored. The experience will be further enhanced by an outdoor Beer Garden inspired by Wisconsin beer garden traditions introduced by German immigrants.
Wittnebel's Tavern interior
Wittnebel's Tavern interior

Your generous gift will restore a relocated tavern & create a festive outdoor space.

While early fundraising has paved the way for initial design, site planning, and construction of the Brewing Experience building in Phase 1, $2 million in additional funds are needed to complete Phase 2 and make this immersive experience a reality.

Wittnebel’s, located 30 miles north of Old World Wisconsin in Old Ashippun (near Oconomowoc), was founded in 1906 and operated by two generations of the Wittnebel family until 1987. It will be the first historic structure relocated to Old World in 25 years.

Once placed onto its new foundation and restored, the two-story building will become a prominent, popular attraction and add authenticity to the historic experience. The first floor will serve as a functioning tavern that will transport guests back in time and tell the story of rural Wisconsin tavern life immediately following Prohibition. A vintage beer truck in front of the tavern will offer guests a glimpse at how kegs were delivered and serve as a popular spot for selfies and other photos.

The outdoor Beer Garden, meanwhile, will tie the Brewing Experience building and Wittnebel’s Tavern together, and be a comfortable space for guests to relax, enjoy drinks and food, and discuss their memorable experience.

Traditional German Beer Garden example
Traditional German Beer Garden example

Other Master Plan Highlights

Additional elements of the Master Plan will follow completion of the first two phases only when funds are raised for each. Your financial support will make it happen!

CONSTRUCTION OF GUEST ENTRANCE COMPLEX. The entry and exit point for all visitors, the new complex
CONSTRUCTION OF GUEST ENTRANCE COMPLEX. The entry and exit point for all visitors, the new complex

CONSTRUCTION OF GUEST ENTRANCE COMPLEX. The entry and exit point for all visitors, the new complex features two buildings connected by an open-air plaza that can accommodate pop-up stands. One building includes a retail store, ticket windows with day planning services, and staff offices. The other will be a large restroom facility.

CLAUSING BARN REHABILITATION. The 1890s octagonal barn has long been a signature building, with rentable event space on the upper level and a restaurant and kitchen on the lower level. It will continue to serve those purposes, with renovations creating more space for larger groups. The lower level kitchen will be re-designed to support expanded food and beverage operations as part of the daily guest experience and for private events.

CONSTRUCTION OF NEW TRAM STOP. Guests will come to
this shaded, open-air new structure to board a tram that will take them deeper into the 600-acre site to continue their journey back in history.

CONSTRUCTION OF NEW PAVILION. This much-needed permanent covered open-air shelter will provide student groups and others a shaded place to relax and enjoy lunch. It also offers earned revenue opportunities  through rentals.

RAMSEY BARN RESTORATION. The circa 1890 dairy barn that currently houses ticketing, a small retail shop and storage will be repurposed into a unique space for educational programs, special events, and private functions with support facilities for these activities located in the lower level.

LUESKOW HOUSE REHABILITATION. The first historic structure that guests see upon entry will be repurposed as support space for special events.

old-world-wisconsin-logo

OUR PARTNERS

We recognize the importance of our partners in this transformative project. Strong partnerships with a commitment to improvement of the site will benefit guests for generations to come.

  • Wisconsin Historical Society
  • Wisconsin Historical Foundation
  • Old World Foundation
  • Museum of Beer and Brewing
  • Aro Eberle Architects
  • Wisconsin Department of Administration
  • Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

To complete this unforgettable Welcome Experience, Old World Wisconsin needs you now.

Donate Today

TO MAKE A GIFT OR FOR MORE INFORMATION, contact Wisconsin Historical Foundation Executive Director Julie Lussier at (608) 261-9587 or julie.lussier@wisconsinhistory.org.

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