Wooden Canoe Museum in Wisconsin


LOVES Wooden Canoes
The founders of the WCHA, the Deans from Madison, WI, have donated 29 restored wooden canoes to the Washburn County Historical Society to form the core collection for the country's first wooden canoe/boat museum in Spooner, WI.

The City of Spooner has purchased a building to house the museum, located adjacent to an existing railroad museum in downtown Spooner. The building, a former feed store and mill, is expected to be restored this winter for a summer 2008 opening of the museum.

For more on the story, click on the URL link below to the Spooner Advocate newspaper.


We've waited a long time for a wooden canoe museum, and it looks like it's finally going to happen!

Gary Peterson, WCHA #2526
Congratulations on a foreward thinking city and a project worthy of success.
I guess I'll find Washburn County on a map if I can find a map that is not just rivers and lakes.
Great News

Spooner is only about five hours away from me-- would love to attend the opening!

Does anyone here know what's in the collection?

The museum will probably get more canoe-donations and find itself growing.

From the WCHA site,

"I am often asked how often we set foot into one of our canoes, which include two Morrises, two Rushtons, a Gerrish, a Seliga, the obligatory Old Town, a MacKenzie, and a Vaillancourt, among others." Jill or Jeff Dean

While back there was a web site up that showed their canoes, I don't know where it is know, and maybe Dan M will chime in, he knows something about it.

The Dean's canoe collection is varied, and includes those makers listed above, plus a double cedar Rice Lake canoe, Racine if I recall correctly, a variety of Old Towns and others. Almost all are wood-canvas. Many can be seen on the covers or in the pages of early issues of Wooden Canoe.
Their complete collection was listed for sale for a few days in May 2001 on a web site and the WCHA classifieds. These were quickly withdrawn when Jill decided to donate instead of sell them. I was interested in the:
16' E. H. Gerrish wood-and-canvas canoe, Bangor Maine, dark green, ca. 1890-1900,
16' 1909 B. N. Morris Model A Type 2 wood-and-canvas canoe, red,
10' ca. 1900 J. Henry Rushton Nessmuk lapstrake canoe, natural, and
16' Dan Herald all-cedar canoe, mid-nineteenth century, natural color
but I didn't record the complete list. It sounds like they will have a good home now. Their canoe catalog collection is even more impressive.

According to the article, Peterborough and it's museum are "off the beaten track"... Is Spooner on the beaten track? Doubt I'll be making there anytime soon.

As for the Dean's collection, Benson mentioned the older, more "desirable" ones they had. There was a large percentage of modern canoes (1970 vintage and later), and a few rarities (Dunphy Indian Girl, e.g.)

Dan, who is glad he lives within 3 hours of three out of four of the best canoe museums...
Beaten tracks

It's all relative, depending on whose track is getting beaten. From Spooner, Peterborough is well off the beaten track... As are Chicago, New York, & LA.... But Duluth is not far from Spooner at all.
Speaking of Chicago, its a shame Ralph Frese never got his canoe museum off the ground - he's got some neat stuff too...
ON the Beaten Track

Located on US Hwy 53, at its junction with Wisconsin Hwy. 63. Spooner is right ON the beaten track--if you own and use a canoe or two.

Hwy 53 is the main thoroughfare from southerly population centers to Duluth, Ely, and the BWCA. Hwy 63 parallels the Nation's first Wild and Scenic River, the Namekagon, and leads directly to the fantastic sea kayaking of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore on Lake Superior. Whitewater canoeists heading for the challenging rapids of the Brule, St Croix, and Totogatic Rivers in northern Wisconsin pass right through Spooner on their way north.

In short, anyone heading for true wilderness canoe country in the Midwest passes through Spooner. What better place for a midwestern canoe museum of classic woodies?

Spooner stands accused of being off the beaten path to the Mall of America and other high-end shopping Meccas. Guilty as charged. And glad of it.
Canoe Musea

I wouldn't rule out Ralph getting his museum off the ground, at least not while he's still breathing. Underestimating the man just doesn't seem like a reasonable thing to do...
Hey Gary,

I'd argue that NW 53 only services the folks who "live east", it's way out of the way for any of us living in the Cities who are heading North.

That said, I'd gladly make that out of the way trip to see the museum.

Being a paddler of the Namekagon, St. Croix, BWCAW and Thunder Bay and beyond. Being a resident of Wisconsin, I've got to pipe in on this. Highway 53 as stated by Gary, is ON THE BEATEN track. That track is beaten by me at least twice year.
And for a guy from MN, the same MN that sends hundreds of paddlers annually to the St. Croix and Namakagon, to suggest that Highway 53 is NOT on his beaten track...OK, maybe I'm a bit stressed by the Vikings Packer game this Sunday, so I won't attack Dan L. any more for his Minnesota bias.
See all of you in Spooner, Wisconsin this summer.
Hey Howard,

Why would you be stressed by the upcoming V-P game, seems like a sure thing for you. :) (though watching AP play and develop is the best thing the V's have offered in many years)

As for the 53 thing, note that I qualified/constrainted my comments to Cities folks heading "North", North is defined (by me :) ) to be that area in MN NE of a line from Duluth to Int falls. All other trips don't count.

Do we know anything more about this thing yet? Is it actually going forward? The Spooner Advocate link seems to be missing now... Suspicious... Is there some kind of grand opening? If memory serves, it was supposed to be this coming summer...
Spooner Wooden Canoe Museum

Not to worry--the project is moving forward as planned. Opening of the museum will happen sometime this summer with the original collection of 29 restored canes from Jeff and Jill Dean.

An organizational meeting is planned for the first week in June to form a local chapter--the Wild Rivers Chapter--of the WCHA. We hope to get enough experienced builders/restorers/canoe-lovers to sign up for the new chapter that we can largely staff the museum and restoration shop the first year with volunteers.

Anyone interested in coming to that organizational meeting should send an email to me (garypeterson@chibardun.net) and I'll add you to the mailing list for the meeting. We're holding this meeting at the impressive new showroom and shop of a local canoe builder a few miles from Spooner. After the business meeting, we'll be canvasing a 16' Octa in the shop, then driving the short distance to Spooner to tour the building being renovated for the museum.

I've tried to attach a Word file of the article from the Spooner Advocate. The Advocate link to the story in the newspaper in my original post has expired. If you can't open the attached word file, email me and I'll reply with the Word file.



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