Pulse of Philanthropy: Why I chose to love the attic
Photo by Len Villano.
For a long time, I couldn’t get excited about the Teweles and Brandeis granary in Sturgeon Bay. A few years ago, many people I admire were vehement about the need to save this 120 year old structure from destruction, but others I respect were also certain that it has no place in it. our future. Frankly, I just didn’t have any strong feelings anyway. The attic just wasn’t part of what I love about Door County.
When I reflect on what I hold dear about life on this peninsula, I think of the natural beauty and performing arts of Door County. Door County is a rare combination of environmental and cultural treasures that is the envy of many cities, but this treasure is located in our small towns, where neighbors still know each other by name. This is what I love most about this place.
I have never been against saving the attic; it just wasn’t that important to me.
But I work for the Door County Community Foundation, and preserving the granary is extremely important to many of our donor families. Finally, the board of directors of the Community Foundation agreed and unanimously voted to support the effort to preserve the granary. No matter if I was excited or not, it became my responsibility to help make the dream of restoring and rejuvenating the attic a reality. And I remember the exact moment when my whole perspective on this project changed.
It was the morning the attic was moved across the bridge, back to its original location. I was standing inside the fenced area, watching the movers do their job, when I glanced over my shoulder. Standing against the fence looking in, almost like smiling little children watching their first real game of baseball, were several members of the Northeast Wisconsin Antique Power Association.
Their charity is commonly referred to as NEWAPA, but you probably know it as the group that organizes the Valmy Thresheree. This massive three-day event is hosted by Farm Families in Door County to celebrate the agricultural heritage of our community. It features an antique tractor pull, a barn dance, an antique machinery parade, a chainsaw competition, and even a polka mass. During this year’s event, which runs August 20-22, up to 10,000 people will tour the 40 acres of Valmy Thresheree to celebrate the history of farm life in Door County.
For NEWAPA members – many of whom were standing in front of the fence that morning – the attic is an important part of the past.
Don Rudolph, one of the NEWAPA officers, later told me that his grandfather, Julius Karl Rudolph, had moved in 1899 from the German colony of Liberty Grove to the best agricultural land in Sevastopol and had transported some countless horse-drawn carts filled with grain to the attic of his day. Don’s father, Edgar, continued the tradition, and Don himself carried on business on the attic until it closed for good.
That morning at the fence I remember meeting a much older man who was crying. He said it took him great comfort to know that the granary that dominated our community long before he was born will continue to watch us long after he is gone.
While the attic was not part of my experience in Door County, it is central to the experience of many families who have made Door County their home generations before my wife and I moved here.
“The granary is one of the last remnants of a once vibrant agrarian business community that included sawmills, flour mills, grain elevators, pea canneries, pea warehouses, processing facilities. cherries and apples, an ice cream factory, tool merchants and other supporting businesses, ”said Don Rudolph.“ As one of the last buildings related to agriculture, it deserves to be preserved to honor the agricultural heritage of Door County. “
The Valmy Thresheree property is just over 10 minutes from downtown Egg Harbor shopping. For generations the tourist part of our economy has lived right next to our farming families, but sometimes nowadays it feels like these neighbors don’t talk much to each other. Yet we are still neighbors.
The attic is important to me not because I have a certain penchant for building, but rather because it is important to many families who have settled down and built the county that my family now enjoys. Although I may be ambivalent about something, I choose to care about it precisely because it is important to my neighbor. This is what good neighbors are supposed to do. This is what it means to be a community.
Contact Bret Bicoy at [email protected]