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Historic Potawatomi State Park Observation Tower could be saved by state, federal recognition

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STURGEON BAY, Wis. (WFRV) — The Potawatomi State Park Observation Tower is officially a federal historic place.

The designation comes after the tower was added to the Wisconsin Historic Places register in November.

“It was kind of like the first model observation tower built just for tourism,” Kelly Catarozoli of the Sturgeon Bay Historical Society said. “It wasn’t a fire tower like many of the other ones were.”

Since 1931, the observation tower has looked over Sturgeon Bay.

Now, after nearly 90 years, the structure is officially a part of both the State and Federal registry of historic places.

“We’re really excited that now the State of Wisconsin will recognize that it truly is a historic icon for the state,” Sturgeon Bay Historical Society President Christie Weber said.

The DNR had previously determined the tower was not safe and that it should be deconstructed.

With this new recognition, the Historical Society is hoping to change that.

“Historic preservation was omitted from any engineer’s review on this structure from the beginning and we want them to go back and review it again, taking that into account,” Weber explained.

Catarozoli added, “We’re working with our State Representatives, and the Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources [DNR] to see if we can really view this structure differently now that its been designated as historic.”

The Historical Society’s work previously set Sturgeon Bay’s granary on the path toward restoration.

“They both have bureaucratic hurdles that we had to climb over, this one is frustrating because we already know from experts in the industry that this tower can be saved,” Weber said.

According to Weber, saving the tower is now a fight against time.

“Time is of the essence,” she said. “They know if it sits long enough, it’s going to rot more and more.”

The most recent quote for repairs to the tower has the cost at $250,000.

The Historical Society says it’s worth it.

“When they’re gone, they’re gone,” Catarozoli said of historic structures. “So when you have the opportunity to do it, I think it’s important to put the energy into it to save them.”


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