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Escarpment museum hits reset

The wait for a museum highlighting the Niagara Escarpment in Door County just got a little longer. The Greater Escarpment Organization of Door County recently decided to demolish a home it was planning on using for its Niagara Escarpment Discovery Center located in Ellison Bay. GEO-DC President Nancy Goss cited the costs related to removing asbestos and mold along with building a new wheelchair ramp and an extra bathroom as reasons to scrap the original plans. Goss says she believes they will be able to build a better discovery center on the same lot as the original structure.

The decision to demolish the building will have a positive impact on the community.  Door County Habitat for Humanity will remove the salvageable materials for its ReStore and the Sister Bay-Liberty Grove Fire Department will be able to use the structure for training.


Photo courtesy of GEO-DC Facebook Page




Ellison Bay, WI – January 27 2020.  You may have noticed quite a bit of recent activity at 11876 Hwy. 42 in Ellison Bay, the Greater Escarpment Organization of Door County (GEO-DC) Discovery Center site.  Most of the cars, trucks and activity revolves around materials salvage being conducted by Habitat for Humanity.


When GEO-DC purchased the property in 2017, we knew the building was more than 50 years old and had a number of “issues”; mold, a leaky roof, winterization needs, and the need for a great deal of cleaning.  However, we also knew the location, with its superlative view of the Escarpment and the waters of Green Bay, would greatly support our educational mission.  With our hearts leaning decidedly towards sustainability and reuse of an existing structure, we went to work.  Our active team donated many hours of sweat-equity, donning respirators and gloves, as well as wielding crowbars, hammers and shovels (oh my!) to deal with the mold.  Jim Creed fixed the portion of the roof that leaked. 


We began to plan in earnest over the past two years for the significant remodeling project required for public, ADA-accessible, use of the structure and our future exhibits.  What we did not know is that further examination of the structure would eventually reveal some devastating news about worse than anticipated not-to-code construction and, worst of all, asbestos.  Amber Beard, our general contractor, conducted a detailed inventory of what would be needed to remediate these issues, as well as estimated costs of same.  The dollar amount rapidly rose to the point where our Board began to compare demolition/new construction with remediation/remodeling, exploring the pros and cons of each option. 


Ultimately, the Board decided in favor of new construction.  Not only would the materials be new and code-compliant, but new construction would allow us to reposition the structure more efficiently on the small lot, allowing for more parking, and even better views of the Escarpment and the waters of Green Bay.  It would also allow us to build in stages, to accommodate needs and growth.  The final “plus” is that we would be designing a building to fit our planned exhibits, instead of shoehorning our exhibits into an existing space. 


Not wanting the building to simply go to waste, we contacted Sister Bay/Liberty Grove Fire Chief Chris Hecht, and asked if the department could use the building for firefighting training.  We were greeted with an enthusiastic “yes!”  (Our sincere thanks to the Firefighters’ Association for a much-appreciated donation towards the asbestos removal required prior to training).  Because we are still committed to being as sustainable as practicable, we also reached out to Habitat for Humanity to see if they could repurpose anything from the building prior to the Fire Department use.  Habitat/Restore has been removing paneling, flooring, doors, windows, lighting fixtures, shelving, toilet, sink…even the EXIT sign…all to be repurposed elsewhere in the community.

Once Habitat is finished, the Fire Department will take over the scene for training purposes.  Chris Hecht notes, “The Sister Bay & Liberty Grove Fire Department has been very fortunate to have received the donation of the Geo-DC building that is to be removed. The Fire Department has had limited accessibility to surplus structures to use for training and this building will provide a unique opportunity for hands-on training.  Members of the Department will be using the building for real world training including live fire training that will provide hands-on experience in flow path control, ventilation, a variety of search and rescue techniques and fire suppression.  The Fire Department hopes to use the building from late this winter through late spring depending on the weather conditions and the overall need for the complete removal of the building.“


GEO-DC will continue its mission of education with scheduled lectures and events for the 2020 season, while planning for our capital campaign building fund.  Watch our website and Facebook for upcoming details.

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