The City of Sheboygan will have fencing installed surrounding the Municipal Auditorium and Armory this month. In the spring of 2019 the city requested demolition bids which requested that the contractors be willing to install fencing surrounding the building to “discourage passersby from conceiving clever ideas for re-use or rehabilitation.” It was announced Monday, that the city would move forward with those plans. Before actual demolition will take place crews must complete interior work, including further abatement work of asbestos glazed windows and other building elements. The contractor estimates demolition will not be complete for six months.
City leaders have been working towards clearing the site for years. Due to the efforts of community members whom want the building restored and utilized for local residents as well as legal requirements that must be met in order to remove the building, there has been little progress made.
Questions have also arisen as to whether the city would be able to utilize the land for commercial development due to a portion of Wisconsin’s constitution known as the Public Trust Doctrine. For the city to be certain as to whether the property can be used for private development, they must get an ordinary high water mark determination from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. At this time, the city has not requested such a determination.
Previously, city planning has requested development proposals prior to attempting to demolish the building. Currently, they have not made such a request and there are no publicly available plans for development of the site beyond clearing the land and planting grass.
In April 2020, the City of Sheboygan, Sheboygan County Historical Society and Museum, and the Sheboygan County Historical Research Center executed a Memorandum of Agreement with the Wisconsin State Historic Preservation Officer to allow the demolition to proceed based on the mitigation plan that the City will complete. The mitigation items include:
- Salvage Opportunity
- Armory Documentary
- Architectural and Historical Resources Survey Update and Public Meeting.
City staff has been working with the Sheboygan County Historical Society to salvage items for public display at the Sheboygan County Historical Museum. The museum will salvage a number of items from the building including the center court portion of the basketball court, bench seats and brackets, and approximately 250 boards of bench seats. The Museum intends to sell the bench seats to the public to raise money to create an Armory display in the museum. The museum also hopes to salvage the 1941 cornerstone and the “S” above the stage. They had hoped to save the terrazzo canons and logo in the front lobby, however due to their composition it was decided that it would not be feasible. The City commissioned high-resolution photography of the items, in hopes of preserving them for possible use in the future.
City staff and WSCS have started video interviewing multiple city residents with ties to events that have occurred in the Armory. Over the next year they will be developing a documentary on the history of the Armory that will be shown at a public venue when completed. The city plans to make an announcement soon inviting residents to be able to share stories, or memorabilia related to the Armory that could potentially be included in the documentary.
The city has retained the services of a qualified historic preservation consultant to assist with completing a targeted City of Sheboygan resource survey per the National Park Service and Wisconsin Historical Society standards.