An abandoned barn. An artist’s vision. A matriarch hundreds of miles from Door County.
This was the unlikely inspiration for Hesly Center.
The Evolution of A Dairy Barn
This large Wisconsin dairy barn was once surrounded by hundreds of acres of farmland, owned by one family. With the onset of the depression in 1929, much of the land was sold and dairy farming became a very difficult business to sustain. Eventually, the barn was completely abandoned. In spite of years of neglect it remained standing thanks to its strong stone foundation. In 1989, businessman, artist and architect Steve Wadzinski purchased the barn, envisioning it as an art education venue and gallery. He began a long process of meticulous renovation. His vision was nearing completion when he died in a tragic accident in 2006.
The barn stayed on the market until August of 2013 when Gordon Parry, President of the Aristotle Group and Co-founder of Authentic Impact, discovered it during a family visit to the area. The work Steve Wadzinski completed made its potential beyond that of a dairy barn easy to imagine. Gordon immediately envisioned it as a meeting space for conducting leadership development programs. The more time he spent in Door County, the more convinced he became the barn and Door County would have the same restorative effect on others as it has had on him. Select leadership development programs conducted by Authentic Impact are now offered at Hesly Center and it is also open for available for rental for other business events.
Marcella Hesly Watson – Before Her Time
The inspiration behind Hesly Center was Marcella Hesly Watson . Marcella was the matriarch of her family, well remembered for her strong and enduring values, first developed when as a young girl she sold eggs to help save a family farm from foreclosure. A diligent and industrious woman, she ran a farming operation inherited from her father at a time when few women did, fully leading the business until she was well into her 90s . She was a brilliant businesswoman, and in many ways far ahead of her time. She practiced sustainable farming methods to maintain the quality of the land, while still running a profitable operation. It is her ability to honor the ‘old’ while embracing the ‘new’ that is demonstrated so clearly at Hesly Center.
Many of Marcella’s heirlooms, including the signs and tools from the Hesly farm may be discovered as you walk the grounds.