Wisconsin Registered Landmarks

Princeton, Green Lake County, Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Registered Landmarks program was established in 1964 by the Wisconsin Council for Local History to provide a uniform system for marking Wisconsin's many historic sites of local or regional significance. The program complimented the "Official Markers" program and further met guidelines established by Chapter 44.15 of Wisconsin Statutes [Historical Markers Program] to: "Plan, develop and publicize a uniform system of marking for state and local sites of historical, architectural, cultural, archaeological, ethnic, geological and legendary significance." All of the sites included in the Wisconsin Registered Landmarks program were required to be "of at least statewide significance".

Local historical societies (and sometimes individuals) "nominated" sites for inclusion in this exclusive program. Each site was evaluated by the Landmarks Committee of the Wisconsin Council for Local History. Once a site was "approved" for the program, a letter of congratulations was sent to the applicant, usually from Donald N. Anderson, secretary of the Historical Markers Council: "It is my pleasure to inform you that at its meeting on . . . the Advisory Committee of the Wisconsin Council for Local History approved the nomination of . . . as a Wisconsin Registered Landmark."

Wisconsin Registered Landmarks markers came in three sizes; it was the applicant's decision as to which marker would be displayed:
  • Registered Landmarks Seal Only -- price, $2.40
The seal contained the outline of the State of Wisconsin with the register number inside. These markers are 3"x5" in size and were designed to be attached to a marker already at the site.
Example: WRL-12: First Brick House in Wisconsin
  • A 16"x20" marker with seal attached -- price, $32.00
This is a photometal plate with black lettering on a white background, holding approximately 30 words of text. The registered landmarks seal containing the number assigned to the site is set in the upper left-hand corner of the marker.
Example: WRL-117: Dells Mill
  • A 24"x30" marker with seal attached -- with mounting post: price, $155.00; without mounting post: price: 135.00
This marker is of cast aluminum with white lettering on a green background, holding approximately 60 words of text. The registered landmarks seal containing the number assigned to the site is set in the upper left-hand corner of the marker.
Example: WRL-98: The Mayville White Limestone School Building

Even with all the choices of markers, a Wisconsin Registered Landmark can just as easily look like WRL-39: Site of Camp Smith -- with nothing on it to indicate its Wisconsin Registered Landmark status.

The Wisconsin Registered Landmarks program ended in 1973. Despite my enthusiasm for the program and my willingness to donate my own time and resources to locating the markers, the State Historical Society has been loathe to either acknowledge or assist in my endeavors. I was told there are no records, and that there is no interest in the whereabouts of the markers. While I was shocked and initially discouraged by this contempt for my project, I determined to forge on with my research.

I began to reach out to the local historical societies for assistance in finding markers in their areas. This sometimes resulted in a society member contacting the State Historical Society. They did not know their building / monument had Wisconsin Registered Landmark status; they were excited and wanted to replace their missing marker. They were told that because the Wisconsin Registered Landmark program is defunct, Wisconsin Registered Landmark status is now essentially meaningless. They were also told there was no information on how to order a new marker.

For my role in stirring things up, I was asked to stop my research. I was further told there is neither the "time" nor the "resources" for Society staff to field these (very few) inquiries. I was not dissuaded. My now unmitigated goal is to recreate the lost list of Wisconsin Registered Landmarks, and to identify and document their locations. Once that goal is reached, this post will be updated.

Melinda Roberts
Wisconsin Historical Markers
January 15, 2015

As an aside -- two of the ten "All Time Most Popular Posts" on this website are Wisconsin Registered Landmarks: WRL-74: St. Josaphat Basilica (with nearly 10,000 views) and WRL-54: Jacques Vieau Trading Post (with nearly 3,500 views).


Mary J said...

Do these markers get geocached?

Wisconsin Historical Markers said...

Very few of them are, Mary.

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