Historic house meets historic family
Lilly Pad opens as tourist rooming house on Washington Avenue

By Colleen Jurkiewicz - News Graphic Correspondent

Nov. 19, 2015

Denise Boerner Lilly, holding the child third from right, is pictured with four generations of Boerners. There have been seven generations of the family in Cedarburg since 1850.
Photo by Mark Justesen

CEDARBURG - In a poetic mix of past and present, the descendants of one of Cedarburg’s founding families are embarking on a brand-new business venture in one of the main street’s most historic buildings.

The Lilly Pad, Boerners’ Guest House on Washington Avenue (formerly known as the Weber House) is just the latest endeavor for the Boerner clan, whose ancestor, Christoph Friedrich Boerner, was one of the first German immigrants to settle in Cedarburg in 1850. Christoph Friedrich’s great-great- granddaughter Denise Boerner Lilly, will head up the new project with the help of her mother, Marcy, brothers Jeff and Greg, sisters-in-law Lisa and Sandy, nephew Craig, daughters Shannon and Heather and many other family members.

The family bought the house this summer from Liz and Brook Brown of the Stagecoach Inn, who had owned the property for 25 years and used it as a tourist rooming house.

“I think it’s just time for the next person to have the opportunity,” said Liz Brown, who said that she felt like it was fate that brought about Boerner Lilly’s new ownership. “It was meant to be. A hundred percent - I couldn’t be happier. We’ve had other people look, but Denise is the right one.”

The Depot Street Room is one of several in the new Lilly Pad tourist rooming house in downtown Cedarburg.   
Photo by Colleen Jurkiewicz

The Lilly Pad officially opened in early November and will continue as a tourist rooming house in the same tradition as the Weber House.

Guests can choose from one of three suites - “The West Road Room,” “The Depot Street Room” and “The Sheboygan Road Room” - for between $150 and $160 per night on weekends and $135 on weekdays.

The house itself dates to before 1847, when it was owned by Ludwig Groth, another original settler of Cedarburg. Its most enduring inhabitants were the Weber family. In 1990, the Browns bought it from Adela Weber’s family, who was born there in the 1870s; the couple immediately immersed themselves in a six-month restoration project to bring the house back to its original 19th century appearance.

“It had aluminum siding when we bought it,” remembered Brown. “We found the original shutters in the basement - we were ecstatic about that because you can’t replicate that kind of thing. It makes the house look the way it should. We wanted to preserve the historic nature of the building and give it a use that would be commercial so that it could be saved.”

Boerner Lilly has added Wi-Fi and said that other changes will come in time. “I think as we move along there will be different avenues - there’s a beautiful yard to it, there would be the potential to do wedding packages there,” she said. “There will be changes, but not overnight.”

The home that houses the Lilly Pad is pictured during a Cedarburg Fourth of July parade in 1900.  
Photo courtesy of the Edward Rappold Collection

The Lilly Pad is just the latest chapter in the family’s long association with Cedarburg.

“There’s 165 years of Boerners here,” Boerner Lilly said. “The newest Boerner just was born in April - my great-nephew.”

And family business is in the blood. It was the profits from Christoph Friedrich Boerner’s original store in Charleston, S.C. that helped to settle Cedarburg in the middle of the 19th century.

“The money that he made down there he would send up here to (William) Schroeder and (Frederick) Hilgen so they could keep purchasing land and help people build homes,” said Boerner Lilly, who has done years of research into her family history. Cristoph Friedrich is also noted for financing the Cedarburg Mill in 1855, which was developed by Hilgen (Boerner’s own brother-in-law) and Schroeder. The trio all hailed from Oldenburg, Germany.

Christoph Friedrich’s five sons took over his business, operating Boerner Brothers dry goods store in the building that currently houses the Rivoli Theatre. The name “Boerner” can still be seen on the Center Street side of the building.

“We’ve always been strong with our roots. My dad raised us that way - he loved Cedarburg. He loved everything about it, and when we were younger he had actually talked to all of us kids and asked us if we’d all stay in the area, because he liked to be with his grandchildren and watch them grow up,” said Boerner Lilly. “I think we’ve instilled that in our children, so my brothers and I, our kids all live within the area too, or if they don’t live right in Cedarburg they work in the area. It’s something that just has a strong personal, spiritual feeling to us, to be a part of Cedarburg.

It’s a spiritual connection that Boerner Lilly expects will last long into the future, especially with the opening of the Lilly Pad. It’s a labor of love for the family, she said, all of whom maintain busy careers outside of the project. “Everybody’s putting their heart into it, and if you want to do something like this, it has to come from the heart,” she said.

The rooming house’s new name was the brainchild of Boerner Lilly’s 16-year-old granddaughter Alli, who also helped to design the business’ purple oval logo. In fact, the family members are all getting a chance to apply their particular strengths to this new project. Her sisters-in-law enjoy baking and gardening, and her brother Jeff is a former superintendent for the City of Cedarburg and a current foreman for the Town of Cedarburg.

“This is the whole plan: all the grandchildren will have a job, because we are not planning on leaving. We will be here forever. As long as God keeps us here, we’ll be here, and it’ll get passed down to the children and the grandchildren.”