When it’s not covered in snow, Wisconsin is green in nearly every sense of the word. It’s carpeted with old-growth forests, lush river deltas and grassy plains.
It’s dotted with rich farmland and verdant pastures. And, of course, it’s blanketed with Green Bay Packers fans. But there are plenty of urban offerings as well.
At these Wisconsin venues, groups can walk through a bog to see orchids in bloom or take a hayride pulled by antique tractors, gather in a 1930 military armory or meet in a converted midcentury Cadillac dealership.
William “Red” Lewis of Green Bay is a car guy through and through. Lewis grew up admiring the different cars that came through the car wash where he worked. He sold auto parts and drove a wrecker before inventing and manufacturing the touchless automatic carwash, several of which he still owns and operates in northeast Wisconsin. So it’s not surprising Lewis is also an avid collector of cars.
“He loves cars and kept on buying cars,” said Kathryn Gardner, executive director of the Automobile Gallery in downtown Green Bay.
Following a health scare, Lewis started talking with his family about what to do with his collection. That led to the idea of creating a gallery both to display his cars and host events. He bought the long-vacant 1958 Denil Cadillac dealership building, renovated it, preserved the facade and opened the Automobile Gallery in 2016.
Today, the gallery displays about 55 cars during the winter and up to 70 during the summer using outdoor spaces. The collection includes three cars visitors can sit in: a 1981 DeLorean, a 1972 red convertible Chevelle and a 1919 Dort Speedster. The oldest car in the collection is a 1912 Maxwell.
The gleaming chrome and glittering glass serve as decor as guests pass through the showroom to the Lewis Gallery, a purpose-built event space that seats 160 for banquets. In the mezzanine-level executive boardroom, a glass wall slides open to overlook the showroom floor, which can also be set up for larger events. The Lewis Gallery connects to a fenced, landscaped outdoor area where planners can put live music, food trucks, car shows and even a pig roast.
The indoor space can accommodate about 200 guests and includes a full catering kitchen, and the gallery has welcomed about 650 people using its outdoor space, including the back event area and adjacent parking lot.