Wisconsin Chief Works to Restore Historic Firehouse

The historic firehouse in Ephraim, Wis. has been used mainly as a storage facility since 1990; something the city's fire chief wants to soon see changed.

Niles Weborg has been the chief of the Ephraim Volunteer Fire Department for almost 25 years and has been a member for close to half of a century. For him, bringing life back the building first erected in 1934 would be a tribute to those who have risked their lives over the years.

One of those firefighters is Weborg's son, Bill, who served as the department's assistant chief for 25 years before he died of a heart attack while responding to a fire call on Dec. 26, 2004. Bill Weborg was 42 years old.

The elder Weborg, 66, plans to restore the old station as a museum as well as a memorial for his son.

"He took firefighting to heart as his grandfather (and I) did," he said. "There's a reason he's in the place he is today."

Weborg's father-in-law, William Sohns, was the chief of the department when he joined at the age of 19, shortly after he married his wife, Joan.

"When I married his daughter, I married the department along with it," Weborg said.

It's been close to a year since Weborg and other members of the city's Firehouse Restoration Committee launched the effort to restore the firehouse..

"It's going very well," he said. "We need to raise $140 thousand and we have about half of that already."

When the museum opens, Weborg envisions a set of overhead doors welcoming visitors throughout the day.

The museum will hold the city's first fire apparatus, a 1934 Ford pumper, along with a 1922 Ford Model T on loan by one of its resident's. Along with the historic vehicles, the museum is slated to hold artifacts from the department Weborg has collected during his time as a firefighter.

"I'm planning on putting all of the memorabilia in the museum," he said. "I've seen it done other places. Our town is built on history."

That history is something he wants to preserve and says has a lot to do with the area's tourism. According to Weborg, Ephraim is comprised of around 334 residents, but grows to a town of 2,000-plus in the summer months.

"'Ephraim is the pearl of the peninsula,' is what town President Loylld Olson once said. I solely believe this."

Weborg hopes his dream begins to materialize next fall, when he expects the museum's groundbreaking to begin.

Donations can be made to the Ephraim Historic Firehouse Restoration Fund, P.O. Box 165, Ephraim, WI 54211.