This is the latest stop in the series 101 Things To Do. Each week through December 2020, we will select one place or activity around the region to highlight.
Fans of Seymour Cray’s supercomputers, Mason Companies’ catalog footwear, or Leinenkugel’s craft beer will find plenty to see and enjoy at the Museum of Industry and Technology in Chippewa Falls, Wis.
“At the beginning of the 20th century, the Chippewa Valley was the industrial frontier of the country,” said Alitia Kerr, museum curator. “People came here from all over the world if they could make something.”
With the Chippewa River flowing through town and a dam built in the early 1900s, electricity came early to Chippewa Falls and created a city of power and innovation.
“Chippewa Falls was one of the first cities to have every house and building in the city with electric power,” Kerr explained. “We were the first city to have an electric rail car.”
The people who arrived in Chippewa Falls brought ideas and ambition. They started companies that became successful and ten of those companies are now more than 100 years old, with Leinenkugel’s Brewing Company, at 153, the oldest.
Several of those businesses are the featured exhibits in the museum. The first two rooms show early versions of the Cray supercomputers and give a good history of Seymour Cray and his company, which today still manufactures many of the fastest computers in the world.
In addition, visitors to the museum can see exhibits from Darley, a company that builds fire trucks, firefighting tools, and emergency equipment. Kell Containers, part of the Great Northern Corporation, makes corrugated boxes and shipping containers, and Hubbard Scientific makes and distributes educational products used by teachers and schools around the world.
Kerr is proud of the museum’s ability to showcase the innovations of people from Chippewa Falls, noting that “we celebrate the things we make in Chippewa Falls.”
With a low unemployment rate, students in Chippewa Falls don’t have to go far to find good employment.
“We are an industrial powerhouse,” Kerr said. “This is the Silicon Valley of the midwest right now. It is the Mecca of plastics technology. We have two companies that manufacture supercomputers, and in Eau Claire, software development is huge.”
Kerr said every community has something unique, and the Museum of Industry and Technology highlights what is special about Chippewa Falls.
“For us, what is unique is our environment that fosters creativity and success in business,” she said.
If you go...
Name: Chippewa Falls Museum of Industry and Technology
Address: 21 East Grand Ave. Chippewa Falls, Wis.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday through Saturday year-round
Cost: Adults $5, children $3