Basement - South Room
Rededicated in 1997 under this new name in the large basement room, this exhibit was first created in 1993 as the "When Iron Was King" exhibit room. The move was necessary to accommodate an iron ore car (from the early 1900's) that was retrieved from the Iron Ridge Mine at Neda. It weighs 1850 lbs, could hold 2 tons of ore, and was pulled by a single mule. The car, filled with actual iron ore, has been placed on some original rail and is located near an underground tunnel door which has been decorated to simulate the actual mine entrance.
This fine exhibit now features both the iron mining and smelting history of Dodge County and also the iron mining history of Sauk County. Panels on the west wall show four Sauk County mines.
Through the combined use of photo graphics and artifacts, the late George Frederick (August 16, 1944 - April 29, 2013), local author and historian, has preserved the unique history of Dodge County, particularly Mayville and old Iron Ridge. Few people are aware of the fact that the first iron mines in Wisconsin were opened about five miles south of Mayville, near the village of Neda. The first blast furnace in Wisconsin was built in Mayville. For a period of eighty-three years, from 1845 to 1928, iron mining and smelting was the main industry of this area. At one time Mayville was even known as the "Pittsburgh of the West."
Individual sections portray the three local iron mines: Mayville "Open Pit" Mine, Mayville Shaft Mine, and the Iron Ridge Mine. Artifacts from these mine sites are on display, as well as some of the original mining company books, dating back to 1864 and also 1902.
Mayville's blast furnaces and coke plant, both operated by the
Northwestern Iron Co. (Mayville Iron Co.), are dramatically chronicled. Some actual
artifacts, including 100-lb. bars of pig iron (the product of the local furnaces) and a
company wheelbarrow, are on display. Also shown are some pieces of the equipment from the
coke plant and even the blueprints for the company's hospital.