Fun Spot in Wisconsin: Madeline Island Museum

from Off the Beaten Path | 318
Madeline Island Museum, Wisconsin© 2009 RJ & Linda Miller Photography/Courtesy of Wisconsin Historical SocietyArtifacts from the fur trade and the early logging industry are on display at this local-history museum.

2.5 miles from the city of Bayfield, on northern Wisconsin’s Apostle Islands, Wisconsin

Just a short ferry ride from the mainland takes visitors to enchanting Madeline Island on Lake Superior. Since 1693, the date marking its first foreign visitors, the island has attracted dreamers and schemers. Built on a partnership between French fortune-seekers and the Ojibwe people, the island’s fur trade flourished for 150 years. Over the centuries Madeline also has attracted fishermen, loggers, missionaries, and beginning in the 1890s, summer residents.

In 1955 Leo and Bella Capser, a couple who had been longtime summer residents, embarked on a mission to provide the island with a special place to ensure the preservation of its colorful history. Rallying other residents—seasonal and year-round—they amassed a collection and pieced together a complex from part of a surviving American Fur Company building, the former town jail, a memorial to a drowned seaman, and an old barn. On June 15, 1958, the Capsers proudly opened the museum to the public.

Now managed by the Wisconsin Historical Society and substantially expanded with the addition of a modern exhibit hall, the museum tells the island’s unique story—from its prehistoric beginnings to the present day. The museum also features objects that reflect the life and spirit of the Ojibwe people.

Visitors to the island can enjoy seasonal activities such as fishing, swimming, snowshoeing, bicycling, camping, concerts and more.

Open daily Memorial Day – early Oct. Admission charged.

www.madelineislandmuseum.org

(715) 747-2415

Did you know?
The Madeline Island Museum is filled with rare artifacts from the United States Lighthouse Establishment. For example, an 1862 French-made Fresnel lens that once beamed a guiding light from the Raspberry Island lighthouse tower is on display here.