NEENAH (NBC 26) — Neenah is celebrating a big landmark this year: an event known as a "sesquicentennial." That means 150 years have passed since the incorporation of the city. Next year, Menasha will also celebrate 150 years.
But both of the cities are being honored at the same time in a special months-long event at the Neenah Historical Society.
Erica Suchyta is the Society's assistant director. She's also a fifth generation Neenah resident with a Bachelors in History. She said that the event is a love letter to her home.
“I think growing up in Neenah, you definitely know that there is such a rich history in this area. If you love Neenah, you love its history – whether you realize it or not – because it’s so much of who we are as a community,” Suchyta said.
The event is a self-guided tour through the years, showcasing the people, places, and products that defined so much of life in the area. There are also a few interactive displays, including a playful vote about whether or not the twin cities should combine.
"The histories of Neenah and Menasha are really intertwined. And everyone kind of thinks of this friendly rivalry that the two cities have, but it goes back deep into the 1800s,” Suchyta said.
Walking through the historic Octagon House — a site older than the cities themselves — visitors' appreciation of Neenah and Menasha will not only grow but also inspire the imagination.
“You start to imagine what downtown looked like in a different era," Suchyta said. "And that makes you naturally curious. And then once you learn the stories about the people who were here making all of those things happen, it’s amazing, and you just want to preserve that and tell those stories and share it.”
Preserving, telling, and sharing stories is precisely what the Neenah Historical Society has set out to do in its series of displays, in a way that is meant to engage the community — including members who may not have realized that they could find so much knowledge to be so interesting.
Suchyta's hope is that a newly ignited enthusiasm will be infectious, and recycled back into the community with each new visitor.
Early inhabitants, industrialists, families and founders that have passed through the generations will all be presented in this event that runs through October.
The Neenah Historical Society is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Monday - Friday, but for the sesquicentennial, there will be special hours of operation in the evening.
For more information and precise hours of operation, visitors are encouraged to check the Neenah Historical Society's website.