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DNR investigates Gresham novitiate project

The former Alexian Brothers Novitiate in Gresham is once again the center of controversy after a demolition project at the site in May. In 1975, a group of armed American Indians, calling themselves the Menominee Warrior Society, seized control of the com

After 25 years of relative obscurity, the former Alexian Brothers Novitiate   in Gresham has found itself once again at the center of controversy.


The state Department of Natural Resources is investigating potential asbestos   violations on the site following a demolition job in May, said Karl Roovers,   environmental enforcement specialist with the DNR’s Green Bay office. He said   the new owners of the property, Whitewater Gresham Estates LLC, which purchased   the land in December, demolished a portion of the main structure without giving   prior notice to the DNR.


Subsequent DNR sampling of materials on the site revealed asbestos, Roovers   said.


“A portion of the building was knocked down, and we believe it contained   asbestos in various forms,” he said. “It is serious because asbestos   wasn’t removed before demolishing the building.”


DNR officials wouldn’t say how serious because they’re still investigating   the project, a process that should end in a few weeks. Citations or penalties   for Whitewater won’t be known until after the DNR studies the results of the   investigation.


Jodi Arndt, an attorney with Liebmann, Conway Law Firm in Green Bay representing   Whitewater, said her clients are doing everything they can to solve the problem.


“We have no idea what kinds of penalties or fines they might be, but our   main goal is to clean it up and dispose of it,” she said. “I know   there were some development plans, but that’s changing due to the costs of cleanup.”


Controversial history


The Alexian Brothers acquired the 232 acres and buildings at the Gresham site   in 1950 as a gift, according to the history of the Congregation of Alexian Brothers.   The brotherhood ran a traditional novitiate at the site until 1968, when it   moved the program to Chicago.


The Alexian Brothers tried to sell the property, which is located a half mile   from the Menominee Indian Reservation, and they were nearing a deal with a group   of American Indians from Green Bay.


But on Jan. 1, 1975, an armed group of American Indians, calling themselves   the Menominee Warrior Society, seized the vacated property, took the caretaker   and his family hostage and said it would hold the facility until the Alexian   Brothers turned it over to the Warrior Society to be used as a hospital, according   to the Alexian Brothers’ history.


The standoff with the Wisconsin National Guard continued into a second month   before the Alexian Brothers struck a deal with the Warrior Society to sell the   land to the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin for $1, according to the Alexian   history.


Eventually, the tribe relinquished ownership, and the property transferred   to the hands of the Crossroads Academy of Milwaukee and the town of Richmond.


Chris Thompson can be reached at 608-260-9790 or by email.


One comment

  1. I am working on a feasibility study and would like to get more information if possible. Please email me at lisa.weinrich@mymail.nwtc.edu

    Thank you!

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