Miss Gladys Mollart
1895 – 1987
Gladys Mollart Tour Center
01 16 Miss Gladys Mollart, 809 South Seventh Street, is among 90 delegates who will represent Wisconsin at the Golden Anniversary White House Conference on Children and Youth. The delegates received official invitations this week from the President of the United States. On March 27 to April 2, delegates concerned with the interests of children and youth will meet in Washington to develop recommendations for citizen action programs to meet the needs of America's youth in the next decade. WDT
10 20 Miss Gladys Mollart, curator at the Octagon House here as well as that of the first American kindergarten on the grounds of the Octagon House, is one of three persons named for recognition for outstanding contributions to local history in the state of Wisconsin. "Miss Mollart," said William B. Hesseltine, president of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, "has long been a mainstay of the Watertown Historical Society and a valuable aide in the activities of the State Historical Society." He pointed out that she was a leader in the movement to preserve and open as an historic site the Octagon House at Watertown and in the preservation and exhibition of the building in which Mrs. Carl Schurz opened the first kindergarten in America. WDT
09 21 NEW TOUR CENTER ON OCTAGON HOUSE GROUNDS
DEDICATED TO MISS GLADYS MOLLART
Lee Block, president of the Watertown Historical Society, and chairman of its building committee, presided at a brief outdoor dedication ceremony of the tour center Sunday afternoon, and placed a plaque on the building, hereafter to be known as the “Gladys Mollart Tour Center”.
Block made the dedication with these words:
“It is my pleasure, on behalf of the Watertown Historical Society and its board of directors, to dedicate this building and to name it in honor of the single person who has been most responsible for the successful operation of this society, the Octagon House, the restored first kindergarten and the pioneer barn for over 31 years. By proclamation of the board of directors, this building will hereafter be known and we hereby place this plaque in commemoration of this fact, as the Gladys Mollart Tour Center.”
Presentation of the plaque, which was donated by Ed Hulbert, society board member and a member of the building committee, had been kept a surprise for Miss Mollart. Block introduced special guests who attended the dedication ceremony, Dr. James Morton Smith, director of Wisconsin State Historical Society, Ray Sivesind, state director of sites and markers, Jerold Dommer, architect for the new building, Mayor Kenneth Wilkes, city aldermen, Clarence Hartman, Chamber of Commerce and two descendants of the Richards family, Mrs. Rodman Moesta, great-great-granddaughter of John Richards and Mrs. Georgia Richards Reynolds, great-granddaughter. Mrs. Moesta, with her husband and two daughters, Maureen and Elizabeth, had flown in from Detroit for the ceremony. Mrs. Reynolds lives in Watertown.
Dr. Smith and Sivesind responded briefly to their introduction. Smith told the assembled persons that his goal at the Wisconsin Historical Society was to “strengthen the ties between the state society and the local societies. This is a tribute to what can be done at the grass roots level by a dedicated person and a dedicated historical society,” he said.
Sivesind, a longtime friend of the Watertown Historical Society, expressed pleasure and congratulations in this new achievement. Miss Mollart, in her response to the surprise dedication of the building in her name, said “we have always been grateful to the Richards family and are pleased to have two members of the family with us today.” She read a letter from Mrs. Harvey Richards from Florida. Mrs. Richards, widow of the late Harvey Richards, who was very instrumental in presentation of the property to the Historical Society, had sent red roses for the Octagon House on this special occasion.
The dedication on Sunday followed through, by a little over a year, comments made by John Clifford, editor and publisher of the Watertown Daily Times, in an editorial of tribute to Gladys Mollart in July, 1969, when he wrote “her interest in the Octagon House continues with even accelerated enthusiasm. Now she and other members of the Watertown Historical Society have in mind an administration building on the grounds. . . the support this endeavor is receiving also is heartwarming to Miss Mollart. Rest assured, there will be an administration building. She’ll see to that.”
Block paid tribute to many who had helped the Historical Society achieve its plans, reiterated the many advantages of the new building, and named his building committee, Richard Hoge, Miss Mollart, Mrs. S. J. Luchsinger, Mrs. Harold Peterson, E. F. Hulbert, Robert Bauch and Mrs. Donovan Mabie.
Following the dedication ceremony there was an open house for visitors. Mr. and Mrs. Mabie, custodians who live on the Octagon House premises, were given special commendation for their part in the moving this summer into the new tour building, and also had their new apartment in the tour center open for guests.
05 07 Watertown resident Gladys Mollart has been included in a collection of stories called “Wisconsin Women: A Gifted Heritage” published by the Wisconsin State Division of the American Association of University Women. The book profiles many outstanding Wisconsin women and spans three centuries. The historic preservation of the Octagon House and the first kindergarten in Watertown were largely the work of Miss Mollart. She was the curator of the Octagon House from 1945 to 1978 and still serves as society historian. She was a co-founder of the Watertown Historical Society.
06 18 Miss Gladys Mollart, one of Watertown’s most distinguished citizens, received a plaque commemorating her contributions to Watertown and the preservation of its history. The plaque was created from the original plate of the May 12 Watertown Daily Times editorial about Miss Mollart’s inclusion in the book “Wisconsin Women: A Gifted Heritage.” Presenting the gift was James Quirk.
by Evelyn Rose
Gladys Mollart, a life-long resident of Watertown, Wisconsin, has been described as a warm and caring person, a woman with vision and ideas, a storehouse of historical knowledge, a charming hostess, a natural leader, an organizer, a motivating and a driving force. Conflicts of description? No, she is all of those things and more. She was born in Watertown on January 11, 1895, daughter of Lobegatt and Minna Mollert, and other than her college years (she is a graduate of Vassar) and a few years in residence at her brother's home in New York during World War I, she has always lived here. Her brother, Edward H. Bronniman, was at the time serving on the Belgian Relief commission as assistant to Herbert Hoover.
Gladys Mollart's father apparently sensed his small daughter's talents for leadership and human relationships when she was quite young "He suggested I go into the mission field," Miss Mollart related. "It seemed to him I had leanings that would equip me for that type of work." However, she opted for service nearer home and Watertown has been fortunate because of her decision. She often speaks of her family to whom she was quite devoted, and chuckles at one of her first accomplishments. One of her stepbrothers taught her how to do the cake walk and se won many prizes with this expertise.
Several organizations in Watertown are indebted to Gladys Mollart for her years of dedicated service, all on a volunteer basis. Leading this list is the Watertown Historical Society for her 48 years of devoted service toward its goals and accomplishments.
The history of the Watertown Historical Society is part of the history of Gladys Mollart. The Society was founded in 1933. She was a charter member. The famous Octagon House, owned by the Richards family members since John Richards designed and built it in the mid 1850's, was deeded to the Historical Society in 1938 and opened to the public in 1939. Gladys Mollart played a major role in this transition. From 1945 to 1978 she served as the Society's volunteer curator. She resigned then but remains today as Society historian.
The Octagon House, owned and operated by the Watertown Historical Society, is on the National Register of Historical Sites, as is the First American Kindergarten, its claim as first authenticated by the Library of Congress. There is also a pioneer farm from Watertown's old Toll road on the grounds. Miss Mollart played an active part in these acquisitions. However, she is quick to credit others. "All that has been accomplished," she insists, "would not have been possible were it not for many wonderful people who helped." This is probably true, but most large projects need a leader.
In 1969, at a gathering
of Historical Society members in Miss Mollart's
honor, the late Byron Wackett, state assemblyman and
former Historical Society president, told the story of the First Kindergarten's
move to the Octagon House grounds from its site on N.
"Miss Mollart," Wackett stated, "had conceived the idea of moving the Kindergarten to the Octagon House grounds. I told her it was impossible to move this old building that distance. 'It will fall apart, Gladys', I insisted. But she was persistent. She claimed it would not fall apart, and that she had talked to Mrs. Herman at Lake Mills and been assured the building could be moved. To make a long story short, the building was mover, and she came up with the money to restore it. Today that building is visited by thousands each year. Gladys always was a driving force."
At this same gathering, held as tangible recognition of Miss Mollart's years of service as curator, and in appreciation of the service and leadership she would continue to give, others also addressed the 200 guests present.
John Clifford, publisher of the Watertown Daily Times, and the other current charter member of the Historical Society, lauded Miss Mollart for the role she played throughout the years in making the Octagon House a cherished historical treasure. "She played a behind the scenes role and provided inspiration to others," Clifford said. "Her interest in the Octagon House continues with even accelerated enthusiasm. Now she and other members of the Society have in mind an administration building. The support this endeavor is receiving is heartwarming to her. Rest assured there will be an administration building. She'll see to that. She has vision, ideas and zoom. It is wonderful to live in a community where there are people like Gladys Mollart, and a real pleasure to live in a town where people take the time to express thank you for a job well done."
The new administration building opened almost within the year and was dedicated in September, 1970. Lee Block, then Historical Society president, made the dedication speech. "It is my pleasure on behalf of the Watertown Historical Society and its board of directors to dedicate this building and name it in honor of the single person who has been most responsible for the successful operation of the Society, the restoration of the First Kindergarten and the pioneer barn. It is a pleasure to have worked with her. By proclamation this building will hereafter be known as the Gladys Mollart Tour Center."
Dr. James Morton Smith, then director of the Wisconsin State Historical Society, and Ray Sivesind, who was state director of Sites and Markers in 1970, both attended and spoke of Miss Mollart's help in strengthening the ties between the state and local societies.
Although deeply involved with the Historical Society, Miss Mollart found time for other important services. In 1938 she was chairman of the Home Service committee of the Watertown Area Red Cross chapter, and served on this committee for several years. This later became the Aid to Military Families and Veterans. There was a great need for these services. In 1948 alone over 500 cases were serviced. She also directed the activities of the Watertown Family Welfare for several years.
Miss Mollart's concern for child welfare resulted in her appointment as a delegate to a Washington, D. C. three day Youth conference in 1960. President Eisenhower addressed the conference, which developed recommendations for citizen action programs to meet the needs of America's youth in the decade of the sixties.
Miss Mollart is a charter and senior member of the Watertown branch of the AAUW. She helped organize the group and the first meeting was in her home. She is also a member of the Wisconsin Antiquarian Society and the Saturday Club, local affiliate of the Wisconsin Federation of Women's clubs. She served as president of these three organizations. As a Saturday Club member in 1954, she was appointed to head a committee to study club purposes, strengths, weaknesses and potentialities. She and her committee came up with a report and recommendations that revitalized the organization. The Saturday Club will celebrate its centennial in 1984 as one of the oldest clubs in the state.
Mrs. George Swart, curator of the Hoard Museum in Fort Atkinson, at a gathering of Historical Society members, stated that "seldom does a person have the privilege of working with a colleague as unselfish, as wholesome, and as inspiring as Gladys Mollart has been to all of us."
Watertown's city council, in 1978, adopted a resolution signed by Mayor Carl Kolata, which praised Miss Mollart for the important role she played in the community. She has been the recipient of several awards during recent years. The Jefferson County chapter of the Reserve Officers association of the United States awarded her its outstanding citizenship award for appreciable contributions to the community. The Watertown Jaycees in 1969 presented a plaque to Miss Mollart, also in appreciation of community service. Miss Mollart was one of 12 Jefferson county residents who developed information for a new Jefferson county historical brochure in 1972, with information on 100 points of interest in the county.
Another special project of Miss Mollart's was connected with historical site markers in Watertown. She enlisted the services of the Saturday Club with the result that five historical markers have been placed in Watertown.
Two books published by the Watertown Historical Society have been dedicated to Miss Mollart - "Margarethe Meyer Schurz, a Biography" and "Our Heritage of Homes", in 1967 and 1980.
Miss Mollart has visitors from far places as well as local and state. Dr. Alfred Kamphausen, foremost authority on outdoor museums in Germany and Europe, visited Wisconsin to examine the Old World Wisconsin project, and also came to Watertown for a visit with Miss Mollart, relating to restoration and maintenance of the Octagon House.
The Milwaukee Journal ran a series of articles called "Focus on Wisconsin" in 1979. In the February 18 issue the author referred to Miss Mollart as a "storehouse of knowledge of local history."
One hundred twenty years of the history of Watertown's First Congregational United Church of Christ was authored by Miss Mollart in 1965. The church was founded in 1845.
Will all these accomplishments and awards to her credit, Gladys Mollart seeks no credit or praise for herself - rather she refers to so many who have worked with her on various projects as a "tremendous asset" to the organization and then adds "beside, I've enjoyed every minute of it."
Watertown Daily Times, Sesquicentennial Edition, 08 03 1987
Text COPYRIGHTED by the Watertown Daily Times
When the city of Watertown celebrates its sesquicentennial this coming weekend, one of the foremost authorities on local history will be missing.
That individual is Miss Gladys Mollart who died June 6, just two months short of the start of the sesquicentennial celebration.
Miss Mollart participated in the organization of the centennial of the founding of Watertown back in the summer of 1938 and was a key mover in the celebration of 1954 which was the 100th anniversary of this community's official charter as a city by the Wisconsin Legislature.
But much more than that, she was Watertown's number one historian. She led the movement to form the Watertown Historical Society, secure ownership of the Octagon House and led the effort to purchase and move the First Kindergarten to the Octagon House Grounds.
Miss Mollart, a lifelong resident of the city, has been described by her friends and colleagues as a warm and caring friend, a woman with vision and ideas, a storehouse of historical knowledge, a charming hostess, a natural leader, an organizer, a motivating and a driving force.
She was born in Watertown on Jan. 11, 1895, the daughter of Lobegott and Minna Mollart. She was a graduate of Vassar College.
Miss Mollart was a dedicated individual to the city of Watertown and many organizations here are indebted to her for her years of service, all on a volunteer basis.
The history of the Watertown Historical Society is part of the history of Miss Mollart. The society was founded in 1933, of which she was a charter member.
The 57-room Octagon House, owned by the Richards family members since John Richards designed and built it in the mid-1850s, was deeded to the historical society in 1938, only five years after its founding. The building was opened to the public on July 16, 1939. The preservation of the Octagon House was Miss Mollart's prime interest.
Her second interest was in the old building which housed the First Kindergarten, located on the southwest intersection of Jones and North Second streets. When the building faced extinction to make way for a parking lot, she rallied her forces and arranged to have the structure moved to the Octagon House grounds.
The Octagon House and the First Kindergarten, owned and operated by the Watertown Historical Society, is on the National Register of Historic Sites. She served as the society's volunteer curator from 1945 to 1978.
In 1969, at a gathering of Historical society members in Miss Mollart's honor, the late Byron Wackett, state assembly-man and former historical society president, told the story of the First Kindergarten's move to the Octagon House grounds.
"Miss Mollart," Wackett said, "'had conceived the idea of moving the kindergarten to the Octagon House grounds. I told her it was impossible to move this old building that distance. It will fall apart, Gladys, I insisted. But she was persistent. She claimed it would not fall apart and that she had talked to Mrs. Hennm at Lake Mills and had been assured the building could be moved. To make a long story short, the building was moved, and she came up with the money to restore it. Today that building is visited by thousands each year. Gladys always was a driving force."
The new administration building that opened in September 1970 was named after Miss Mollart. Lee Block, then historical society president, made the dedication speech proclaiming the building as the Gladys Mollart Tour Center.
Besides being deeply involved with the historical society, Miss Mollart found time for other important services. In 1938 she was chairman of the home service committee of the Watertown Area Red Cross chapter, and served on the committee for several years. The group later became known as the Aid to Military Families and Veterans.
She also directed the activities of the Watertown Family Welfare for several years. In 1960, she was appointed as a delegate to a Washington, D.C. three day Youth Conference.
Miss Mollart was a charter and a senior member of the Watertown branch of the American Association of University Women. She helped organize the branch and conducted the first meeting in her home. She was also a member and president of the Wisconsin Antiquarian Society, the Saturday Club, and the local affiliate of the Wisconsin Federation of Women's Clubs.
In 1978, the Watertown City Council adopted a resolution signed by then Mayor Carl Kolata, which praised Miss Mollart for her important role in the community.
She also was honored by the Jefferson County chapter of the Reserve Officers Association of the United States for her outstanding citizenship and her contributions to the community. The Watertown Jaycees in 1969 presented her with a plaque in appreciation of community services.
Two books published by the Watertown Historical Society have been dedicated to Miss Mollart, "Margarethe Meyer Schurz, A Biography" and "Our Heritage of Homes," in 1967 and 1980. She is also included in a book, "Wisconsin Women: A Gifted Heritage."
1895 – 1987
06 08 1987
Historian Gladys Mollart dies Saturday at age 92
Gladys Mollart, a founder of the Watertown Historical Society and leader in the efforts to preserve Watertown's history, died Saturday afternoon at Marquardt Memorial Manor due to the infirmities of age.
Memorial services will be held Tuesday evening at 7 o'clock at First Congregational United Church of Christ with the Rev. Robert Tully officiating. Burial will be in Oak Hill Cemetery.
There will be no visitation. The Schmutzler Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
Mollart, 92, resided at 809 South Seventh Street until recent years when she made her home at Marquardt Memorial Manor.
Miss Mollart was a charter member of the Watertown Historical Society which was formed in 1933. She played a key role in the transition of the Octagon House from the ownership of the Richards family to the society.
She served as the historical society’s volunteer curator from 1945 until 1978 when she resigned from the position but continued as the society historian.
She also was a leader in getting the first kindergarten moved from its original site at the corner of Second and Jones streets to the Octagon House grounds and also the pioneer barn from the old toll road to the grounds.
She also led the successful effort to have the Octagon House and First Kindergarten listed on the National Register of Historic Sites.
Another goal of Miss Mollart's was construction of an administration building on the Octagon House grounds. That goal was realized in 1970 and was dedicated as "The Gladys Mollart Tour Center."
In addition to her vast work with the historical society, she was active in the Watertown Area Red Cross chapter, directed the activities of the Watertown Family Welfare group for several years, was a charter member of the Watertown branch of the American Association of University Women, was a member of the Wisconsin Antiquarian Society, and the Saturday Club, the local affiliate of the Wisconsin Federation of Music Clubs, and was a past president of those groups, and was a member of the Wisconsin Historical Society.
She also worked on the two highly successful fund drives for Watertown Memorial Hospital.
Miss Mollart was born in Watertown on Jan. 11, 1895, daughter of the late Lobegott and Mina Mollart. She was a member of the First Congregational United Church of Christ.
A graduate of Vassar College, she had been selected as one of Wisconsin's Outstanding Women.
Survivors include one niece, Mrs. Ray (Mary) Wiersig of Two Rivers; one nephew, E. Ray Broenniman of Santa Fe, N. M.; great-nieces; great-nephews; other relatives and friends.
She was preceded in death by one sister and four brothers.
The book John Richards, The Hill and The Mill
Queen of Richards’ Hill
It is with a deep sense of respect and appreciation that this book is dedicated to Gladys Mollart. Without her careful keeping and preservation of records, pictures, and documents, this book could never have been completed. Her efforts in behalf of the Watertown Historical Society and the community will not soon be forgotten.
Having been born in Watertown on January 11, 1895, Miss Mollart was the daughter of Lobegott and Minna Mollart. Except for her college years, after which she graduated from Vasser College, and a few years in New York during World War I, she has always lived in Watertown.
To speak and to know of the Watertown Historical Society is to speak and to know of Gladys Mollart - the two are inseparable. Gladys Mollart along with Hans Gaebler were the prime movers in the establishment of the historical society in 1933. The early minutes of the society reflect the earnest concern of Miss Mollart regarding the preservation of the Octagon House. She was the major and motivating force in acquiring the Richards’ property in 1938. With the acquisition came the need for the restoration and the eventual opening of the historic mansion as a public museum. This she accomplished as curator of the Richards’ property from 1945 until her retirement in 1978. Gladys manned her post untiringly. To add to the debt of gratitude the community owes to Gladys Mollart, we need but be reminded that all of her services were rendered gratis.
As we tour the grounds, we see other reminders of projects that Gladys executed: the moving and restoration of the building which housed the First Kindergarten in America; the moving and refurbishing of a pioneer barn; and the planning and building of an administration center which was named in her honor. Her long awaited dream of the day when the porches could be restored on the Richards’ home was realized in 1982. In spite of her advanced age, Gladys was privileged to be present at the historic meeting in which the “go-ahead” vote was cast. (Ironically, Gladys abstained from voting.)
In addition to her many accomplishments on The Hill, she had time for other civic projects. To list them would not be in the spirit of Gladys Mollart. She sought no credit or praise.
And now as Gladys spends the twilight years of a very fruitful career, one can only paraphrase the Biblical commendation: Well done, thou good and faithful public servant – Gladys Mollart !
History of Watertown, Wisconsin