Swiss Center History
In 1998, visionaries within the Swiss American Historical Society (SAHS) recognized the need for a central location to house records and artifacts that preserved as well as documented Swiss emigration and ethnic heritage.
The SAHS, founded in 1927, had as its core mission an obligation to tell the historical achievements of Swiss Americans.
Leading the effort to find a place for a Swiss national center was Dr. Donald G. Tritt, a widely known and highly respected leader in the Swiss American community and retired professor at Dennison University near Columbus, Ohio.
On Thursday, July 20, 2000, forty-four people gathered at the New Glarus Hotel for a luncheon meeting that marked the formal beginning of the Swiss Center of North America.
Members of the Parliament for Swiss Abroad, who were also meeting in New Glarus that day, joined the gathering. Christoph Stüssi, then minister of Finance for Switzerland and formerly Landammann (governor) of Canton Glarus, was present as were a number of Wisconsin state officials.
To help launch the fund-raising phase, Donald Tritt announced that he would donate $250,000 for the center as well as his extensive library of Swiss books, prints and related items.
Many people played active roles in the formation of the Swiss Center including Hans Lenzlinger, owner of the New Glarus Hotel and a representative of the Auslandschweizerrat (the Swiss Abroad); Gof Thomson, president of the Bank of New Glarus; Steve Wisdom and Barbara Kummerfeldt, owners of the Maple Leaf Chocolate House; Tony Zgraggen, at the time manager of the Chalet Landhaus hotel, and Ben Kahl, a manager with TDS Telecommunications Corp.
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Janeen Babler, a Bauernmalerei artist from nearby Monroe, and Maralyn Wellauer, an accomplished Swiss genealogist from Milwaukee, also heavily contributed.
From Madison, Dave Zweifel, a New Glarus native who was editor of The Capital Times, and Cate Zeuske helped promote the project.
From further a field, there was input from Eduard Jaun, the Swiss consul general at Chicago, and Claire-Lise Julmy, a consulate volunteer. Alexander Soland, a Swiss immigrant who was a fashion designer and lived in the area, offered much insight and was the first treasurer. Don Tritt continued to play a key role as secretary. Kent Anderson, New Glarus’ fire chief and president of the New Glarus Community Partners, frequently participated as recorder.