Hazelwood: A Slice of Green Bay History Hidden in Plain Sight

The Historic Hazelwood House

If you’re not a local history buff you may not have been to, or even heard of, Hazelwood Historic House Museum.  Nestled in a neighborhood full of historic homes, you may have unknowingly driven past it on Monroe Avenue on Green Bay’s east side.

You might have even walked or biked past it on the Fox River Trail without noticing. It’s one of Green Bay’s lesser known historic places. No flashy signs, no billboards, no ad campaigns, just an amazing snapshot of life in Green Bay in the 1800s.

The House

Hazelwood: A slice of Green Bay history hidden in plain sight

Morgan Martin and his family are described as pioneer settlers. Walking through Hazelwood it’s hard to imagine this elegant house as a pioneer home. This is no one one-room cabin made of rough-hewn logs, sparsely filled with gingham dresses and corn-husk dolls.

You won’t find many similarities to Little House on the Prairie living. No, this pioneer home is a Greek Revival house, decorated in the Victorian style of the 1800s. Wallpaper, hand-painted china, portraits, calling cards and other displays of wealth fill Hazelwood’s rooms.

Hazelwood: A slice of Green Bay history hidden in plain sight

There are no roped-off, mysterious stairways, no locked doors. Unlike many tours of historic buildings, the tour includes the second level. The tour walks you through all of the home’s rooms, giving you the opportunity to soak up all of the details: dormer windows, natural lighting, high ceilings and even an exposed portion of the original structure beneath the wallpaper and paint.

And of course you get to hear the stories, friendships and history of the family home and belongings.

Why is it called Hazelwood? According to Deborah Beaumont Martin in her book, Old Green Bay, the home was named “because of the tangle of hazel bushes that covered the hillside.” There’s no sign of those bushes today as you look out over the beautifully maintained lawn and gardens.

The Man

Image courtesy of Hazelwood HIstoric House

Photo credit: Hazelwood Historic House

Originally from New York, Morgan Martin was a lawyer and later a judge. He was also an influential politician and one of Wisconsin’s forefathers.

You can read the black and white version of Morgan Martin on the internet or in a book, but it’s not until you take the tour through his home on its original site that you get a real peek at the man.

As you listen to the guide talk about Martin, while walking through his study you get a sense of what life must have been like for a wealthy and influential man in 1800s Green Bay.

A decidedly masculine room full of books, it’s not hard to picture Morgan working on the Fox and Wisconsin River development project at his desk. The view from his study might very well have spurred him on as he poured everything he had into the river development.

The Women

Photo credit: Hazelwood Historic House

The stories of family life, of the children, stand out in the tour narrative. It’s clear Morgan L. Martin was important to Green Bay, but the women in the family were amazing  in their own right. The stories about Morgan’s daughter Debbie, in particular, caught my interest.

Morgan’s wife, Elizabeth gave birth to six children, four of them survived. The two remaining daughters were influential in shaping Green Bay as well.

Sarah and Debbie both worked to preserve historic buildings. A writer, librarian (at the Kellogg Public Library) and local historian, Debbie was a supporter of public libraries and also an activist working to preserve the early history of Green Bay. It’s fitting that the home she grew up in has been preserved as part of the city’s history.

The Volunteers

Part of what makes the Hazelwood experience so enjoyable is its volunteers.

To say Hazelwood depends on them is an understatement. The museum relies on volunteers for tours, program preparation, events, gardening, upkeep and more. A visit to Hazelwood means getting to know one of Green Bay’s prominent pioneer families, but it also means getting to meet Brown County residents who are passionate about telling Hazelwood’s (and Green Bay’s) story.

The Details

  • Events. Hazelwood isn’t just a museum. Hazelwood Historic House Museum hosts several special events throughout the year including If Tombstones Could Talk, a Flower Fairy Tea Party and a Holiday Victorian Tea.
  • Lunch. Pack a picnic and eat it on the back lawn (though ‘lawn’ doesn’t do it justice).
  • Games. Ask to use the house croquet set and play a game or two on the back lawn.
  • Fun. Take a seat on the porch and watch as your children wear themselves out rolling down the hill.
  • A little more. Don’t miss the display cases in the basement featuring more history of the home and family.
  • Gift Shop. There’s also a tiny gift shop in the basement where you can buy buttons by the scoop, antiques donated from estate sales and books of local interest.
  • Hours. Hazelwood is open to the public seasonally. June through August: Thursday-Sunday, Noon until 4:00 p.m. December: Hours vary. Admission is $4.00 and includes a tour. For more information visit the Brown County Historical Society’s website.
  • Stay in touch when you Like the Brown County Historical Society’s Facebook page

Catch Terra discovering, creating and parenting, one adventure at a time, on her website, Life as a Field Trip.

Comments

  1. I grew up in the old Astor Historic District and had friends who lived just a stones throw from Hazelwood. While we knew the home had historic meaning, we didn’t really understand or appreciate its historic significance. It was nice to read the article and be reminded of the little nugget of Green Bay’s history tucked so closely to my own back yard.

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