One of the best kept secrets in our Conference is the existence of our Conference Museum in Greenfield, WI, in the greater Milwaukee area. The story begins with the mission work of the Rev. John Lutz of the Evangelical Association who came from Ohio to southeastern Wisconsin in 1840 and helped form a congregation there of German immigrants. The congregation was formally established on February 9, 1841. In the summer of 1848, the congregation built a log church on land donated by Frederick Hegelmeyer, on the old Janesville Plank Road (now Forest Home Avenue). In 1858, the original log church was replaced by the Cream City brick building that is now our museum. It served the Greenfield Zion congregation as a worship space until 1929, when the present Greenfield Memorial Church was built.
Between 1929 and 1939, the original church still served many purposes—including being the place where an interchurch basketball league was held. In 1939, the Wisconsin Conference of the Evangelical Church formally dedicated the church to be the Conference Historical Museum. The church continued to be so designated after the 1969 union of the EUB and Methodist Churches in Wisconsin. But the building continued to serve multiple purposes. In the 1940s when the Memorial congregation was in the process of building a new parsonage, the museum building housed the Rev. Mel Rohrdanz and his family.
In 1963, the Memorial Church was planning on adding an addition and the original brick church had to be moved slightly off Forest Home Avenue to its present location next to the original cemetery. The Memorial congregation has continued to use the small church for special services and weddings, including a Christmas eve service tradition that continues today. Our museum upkeep, maintenance, and funding for displays has been made possible through the generous bequest made by Leah L. Weiler, who had been a long-time member of the Memorial Church. We thank her for her foresight that has ensured that our museum has been preserved for all of us.
While continuing to serve as a worship space, over the years many exhibits have been mounted in the museum highlighting various aspects of Evangelical, United Brethren, Methodist, and United Methodist history.
Currently the Commission on Archives and History is in the process of revisioning the space to include permanent and interactive displays that lift up and illuminate the history of our Conference. Watch for updates here on our progress.
Museum Contact Information
Wisconsin Conference Archives
The Wisconsin Conference Historical Museum is located adjacent to the Greenfield Memorial UMC just off West Forest Home Avenue at 3450 S. 52nd Street in Greenfield, WI. (view Google map).