Tag Archives: downtown DeWitt

A Celebration 40 Years in the Making!

The Central Community Historical Society was organized in 1977 after DeWitt celebrated its Bicentennial in 1976. There was $2,200 left from the Bicentennial funds and Marvin Doescher, who was the town historian, wanted to start a small museum and historical society in DeWitt. The interested group met at his home and by March, 1977 “The Central Community Historical Society” had its beginning. Ann Soenksen, was elected President, Vice President:  Ed Green, Secretary:  Linda Jasper, Treasurer: Eleanor Arey. Board members : Coral Hesse, Virginia Templeton, Genevieve Endries, and Marvin Doescher.

For the next ten years the Central Community Historical Society held monthly meetings at The DeWitt Community Center. Numerous programs were held during this time including Historical Tours throughout the county for a number of years. Programs on dolls, toys, quilts, aprons, a style show and local artists along with others were presented. The Society also participated in local events in the area. In addition during March the society featured a special “Old Fashioned Day” presentation at the 4-H grounds.

Marvin Doescher passed away in 1983. He had stored all the items that were donated and collected by the Historical Society at his produce business in DeWitt. A year or so after his death the business was sold and the items were taken to the Doescher home and to Floyd and Ann Soenksen’s home. Well the donations kept coming and in 1987 the Society was in dire need of a building as space was running out at the two homes.

Fortunately the Krukow family, who owned the building at 628 6th Ave knew the Historical Society was looking for a building to open as a museum. The society had built up about half the purchase price that the Krukow family was asking for their building. President Ann Soenksen then went to the DeWitt City Council for assistance and got the other half of the purchase price. This was to be received in increments over the next five years.

The Society immediately began restoration of the building which involved many hours and the help of volunteers as there was a great deal of clean-up and hard work to complete the project. The museum doors opened with a dedication on June 14, 1987. Donations kept coming in and soon the original building wasn’t large enough to display all the items. The Society applied for and received a grant from the Gaming Commission and built a metal building to the south of the original museum building

The Society has been the recipient of two estate donations which help tremendously in making it possible for the Society to purchase a third building directly east of the original building and also to allow the building of another metal building to the southeast. The society continues to receive donations and is very grateful to all the donors, members and especially to the volunteers, who have helped to make The Historical Society Museum a great asset to the community of DeWitt and its surrounding area.

I would like to say that spending the last 40 years seeing the Central Community Historical Society grown from $2,200 to the four buildings on a quarter of a city block  museum has been very rewarding. I feel it is very important to save our past for the future generations. To understand how the old phones, cameras, books, toys, clothes, dishes and furniture work and looked like.

My own personal interest in the museum is our genealogy area. I have been doing genealogy since 1963 when my paternal grandmother passed away. I feel that it is very important to know where we came from and the struggles and lives that our ancestors lived. I want to invite everyone to stop in for our open house on Aug. 20th from 1-4 and visit the museum.  We also encourage people who are looking for a volunteer opportunity to let us know.  We can always use help with the many tasks that it takes to keep the museum available for the public to enjoy. Also, think of donating to the Society if you come across things that might be a good fit for our collections and displays.

Ann Soenksen, President: Central Community Historical Society

Fresh Food & Friendly Conversations

At the core of community is the sharing of food.  A farmer’s market is a shared space wherein folks meet face to face and talk about food.  Perhaps this explains why the number of farmer’s markets nationwide have increased from 1755 in 1996 to 8,144 in 2013.  A farmer’s market connects people together.  A farmer’s market provides space for friendly conversations with folks who actually have grown, harvested and prepared food.  Folks at a farmer’s market share not only the food itself, but also information about how the food is grown and prepared.  Shoppers  at a farmer’s market can ask questions and express their preferences in face to face conversations with vendors.

‘Walkable space’ is a term used by city planners and developers to refer to a shared space within community that is accessible on foot.  There’s really nothing new about this concept—in plain English, we call this space a “park”.  Such shared spaces seem to connect people together and enhance the quality of life in a community. Here in DeWitt our farmer’s market is centrally located on the east side of Lincoln Park Thursday afternoons (between 3:30-6:30PM) from May thru October.  Although we struggle from time to time with unpleasant weather, on good days many folks seem to enjoy a walk to the market from their homes.  There is grass, shade, benches, and picnic tables, and a playground nearby.  The DeWitt Farmer’s Market is a relaxing way to get some exercise on a summer afternoon and to visit with neighbors.  It doesn’t cost as much money as some other outdoor entertainment.   It’s truly a nice walk in the park.

John Ivens, Farmers Market Manager

Your Assignment: Shop Local!! Due Date: December 25th

 

Let’s talk shopping.  Ladies smile and get that hint of excitement when they hear that word.  Guys: probably not so much, but there could be a way to change that…

I personally hate shopping, I really do.  I know, I’m a woman and I’m supposed to be giddy at the idea.  Dropping me at the mall with three hours to kill is like torture.  You would most likely find me in a corner at Barnes and Noble with a stack of books waiting for everyone else in my group to be done with their shopping excursions. But, I dare to say there are certain shopping scenarios I can enjoy.  You know that day when you weren’t planning on buying anything but you find the absolute most perfect gift for someone?  That unique gift that you bought the day you had half hour to kill so you walked through that little store in town.

You knew right where I was going with this, didn’t you?  But think about it, shopping local is almost always one of the most rewarding and fun kind of shopping there is.  Right here in DeWitt, we are so very lucky to have numerous unique stores and shops.  I know women from all over who plan day trips to come to DeWitt.  They have some lunch at Whisk Away Cafe & Bakery, and then walk 6th Avenue all afternoon.  I often hear from out of town family and friends just how friendly people are here; and I know that firsthand.  My mom, who often comes from Dubuque to buy her home décor here, is always greeted with a smile and helpful advice when she walks into Meant To Be, her favorite store.  My daughter is always treated as a “mini shopper” there as well and loves being the little jellybean sampler!  Keeping these unique businesses running and thriving adds to the charming character of our community.  And I’m not just talking the antique and craft stores; I’m talking all of our businesses.  We’re lucky to have Barnes Foodland in DeWitt.  They are continually upgrading and adding more selection.  For someone like me with Celiac Disease I especially appreciate that I can now buy some gluten free foods right here in DeWitt and do not have to drive to outside areas.

So let’s do some Christmas shopping this month or next!  If we all bought just one or two Christmas gifts in DeWitt, think of the money that would be staying right here in our community instead of going to a big chain store.  Get your child’s birthday cake from Whisk Away Cafe & Bakery, grab those groceries at Barnes Foodland, expand your wardrobe at The Family Tree, enjoy a coffee at Blondie’s Coffee Out Back drive-thru instead of Starbucks, or take the family to a weekend matinee at the DeWitt Operahouse.  And guys here’s the easy part – drive those few minutes it takes to get downtown and buy your lady something nice from Necker’s Jewelers, or that antique table at Emma Rae’s Antiques & Uniques that she said would look striking in the dining room.

Yes, I have learned that shopping does not have to be torture; it can actually be very enjoyable.  It’s a proven scientific fact (in my mind anyway) that local businesses hire the best people.  The business owners and their staff are our friends and neighbors and their customer service makes shopping locally so very worth it!

Lisa LeConte, DeWitt Resident and Mother

Home, SWEET, Home!

563912_10151068294416121_2003904882_nWhen I graduated from high school in 1996, I was ready to explore the world and say goodbye to DeWitt. However, after thousands of miles on my car, 6 different cities in 3 states over 15 years, I finally realized what I was longing for was my hometown. I wasn’t just missing my family, but missing the sense of community and support that I felt when I was growing up that I wasn’t finding any other place I had lived.

Besides being homesick, I was also looking for a place to begin my next adventure. I had switched careers discovering a passion for the culinary arts while working as a graphic designer for The Kansas City Star newspaper. After attending culinary school in Arizona and working at various restaurants, I decided I wanted to open my own restaurant.

I thought about how I was raised in a family that had run a small business, the Operahouse, in DeWitt for almost 30 years. In that time I’ve seen the community rise up when help was needed, I’ve seen how residents fill the seats each night and I couldn’t think of a better community to support my restaurant. So I took the leap and moved back to DeWitt to open Whisk Away Café and Bakery. I was able to secure just about everything I needed to start my business, from a business loan to a contractor, within the community.

Whisk Away is now in its fourth year of business and it’s because of the opportunities DeWitt provides for businesses. Not only are customers loyal and supportive, but so are the other businesses in DeWitt. The Marketers of DeWitt, an organization of local business owners, work endlessly to create great events and promotions to draw people to DeWitt. The DeWitt Chamber and Development Company provides multiple resources to help businesses succeed. There are several community events to participate in and help promote businesses such as Tunes ‘N’ Town, Autumnfest, Hometown Christmas, Sweetheart Stroll, and many others.

It’s comforting to know that the community genuinely cares about our success as a business. I am so proud to see our town thriving and that I get to be a part of that success.

 

Laura Prichard, Owner of Whisk Away Café and Bakery