The entire home was reroofed with concrete tile
when its owners purchased the property more than 30 years ago. A
stonemason, they add, spent three years restoring the home’s exterior.
For many new homeowners, the renovation process
provides the opportunity to transform an existing structure into a
space that is entirely their own. But for one couple, restoring and
remodeling their historic stone home, which was built in 1855, meant
honoring its former owners and preserving its storied past.
The pair purchased the property from its third-generation owners in
1982, but spent almost one full year improving its livability before
moving in. “As we understand, there were 100 people or so,
approximately, who came to look at the house (when it was for sale),”
says the couple. “It was just so much work, and nobody was as naïve as
“… It was just filthy,” they continue, “… but we were young and thought,
‘Yeah, we can do this.’” Initial projects included removing plaster from
nearly every wall, installing a heating system, and reroofing the entire
home. “We’d come here every spare minute, and then go back down to
Milwaukee to work,” the couple adds.
File boxes sourced from the Plankinton Building in
downtown Milwaukee store spices and other odds and ends, while a vintage
1920s Stewart gas stove and custom-made copper sink further enhance the
character of the home. Beams made from trees harvested on the property
Once thought to house herbs and
smoked meats, the bedroom — much like the rest of the
home — required a complete transformation. “The walls
were just boulders, and we had to build them out and put
insulation behind the ceiling. It was so cold; it was
below freezing. You could see your breath,” says the
couple of the room’s former state.
More than three decades later, the pair says there
are still unfinished projects to complete, but the history and
stories they’ve unearthed along the way continue to inspire them. An
old trunk discovered early on in the bedroom, for example, housed a
slew of documents detailing transactions between the original
homeowner, who immigrated to the area from Prussia in the 1830s, and
local settlers. “All of the people who settled in this area were
indentured servants, and he paid their passage,” they explain.
“There was a trunk in the bedroom that had all the bookkeeping and
the records from the 1830s, when (the servants) came over. … They
were in prison (overseas) because of their religion, and this man
made it possible for them to come (to the U.S.).” The trunk now sits
at the end of the bed, and additional homages to the home’s original
owners, including a sign out front that still bears their name, are
peppered throughout its interior and exterior spaces.
The homeowners nicknamed this space the “holey
room.” “There were so many holes in the floor from the animals that
lived under (it),” they say. Reclaimed bricks sourced from The Brickyard
Inc. — many of which once covered the streets of downtown Milwaukee —
now serve as the room’s floor.
“We so honor the people who built this house,” the pair concludes,
adding that the original owner and his wife had 12 children. “When their
descendants come and visit us and tell us stories of their grandparents
and uncles and aunts living here, that’s just really neat. … We feel
like we are caretakers of this property because it will outlast us.”