Portage Daily Register from Portage, Wisconsin on August 23, 1992 · 79
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Portage Daily Register from Portage, Wisconsin · 79

Portage, Wisconsin
Issue Date:
Sunday, August 23, 1992
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Y U — It’s one of the I’ve worked on h I This example of the Thinking of taking a drive — or better than that a stroll — through Portage’s Society Hill Historic Disttict? You’ll get more out of it if you know a little bit about what you’re looking at The Portage Landmark Preservation Society hopes to turn out a descriptive booklet of the area but that will take some time In the meantime historic preservation consultant Carol Cartwright suggested a few easily recognizable characteristics that make identification of architectural styles simple Prominent homes in the district are primarily Italianate Second Empire and Queen Anne in style Others are Midwest vernacular featuring Gabled Ell and Side Gable forms Though vernacular lacks a decorative character that would categorize it as architectural style “we’re seeing a lot of interest in these vernacular forms” Cartwright said These smaller houses (in historic districts such as Society Hill) are good examples of their particular form” "The vernacular form is basically a simple house that’s identified in the way the roof is shaped and how it presents that shape” Cartwright said " Houses that present two-story gabled roofs to the street side and have an added projection often of only one story are Gabled Ell finest residential neighborhoods Carol Cartwright historic preservation specialist 'jfl $ 't ' if Eh M -QV -r" h ' m vHVtf & kffrta y: '' 11 w' ' £ f - W jjvp fv 3£ MjhnWjYiKiiu sip v A f mu is- J L Italianate style at 309 W Marion St -Identifying styCes on Society 1) pflrr- — — was built in 1877 structures Houses with a gable presented to the side of the house are Side Gables Period houses are more ornate in design “Generally Italianate houses are square with hipped roofs” Cartwright said “Often they have wide overhanging eaves supported by decorative brackets” The best examples are of brick construction she said “Second Empire has details similar to Italianate but the trademark if Second Empire is its mansard roof which is a curved roof that often acts as a second story” often complete with windows she explained “Queen Anne style is a highly decorative style many people refer to as Victorian” Cartwright said “Generally they are houses of frame construction They have a lot of details such as multiple gable roofs roofs with a lot of peaks” Queen Annes are frequently irregularly shaped large houses she said They seem to ramble “Most commonly they feature a comer tower” she added and a wrap-around veranda” By Carole Ecker PORTAGE — Virginia may have its Mount Vernon and Massachusetts its Strubridge Village but find another town of 8000 that has a higher percentage of early historical structures on the National Register of Historical Places Portage has more than 240 1 Arguably the most historic city in Wisconsin Portage has a rich past as an American Indian portage a crossroads in early trading and commerce the site of one of the state’s early forts and the location of a historic canal Already seven properties in and around Portage have been named to the Register — the canal the trail on which American Indians and traders portaged their canoes two historic homes the fort area and its surgeon’s quarters The Register is a national compilation of historically significant properties Inclusion chi the National Register automatically lists a property on the State Register Now a residential area of 234 buildings has been named to the National Register Society Hill Historic District which covers seven full city blocks and parts of eight others is a neighborhood of homes built between 1870 and 1910 “It’s one of the finest residential neighborhoods I’ve worked on” said Carol Cartwright Whitewater the historic preservation consultant who researched the district in preparation for nomination “It has some really beautiful houses and some important historical associations It’s a well-maintained neighborhood The people in the neighborhood obviously respect the houses (The district) stands out in my mind as a fine architecturally significant historical neighborhood" The district represents a century-old mix of high-style homes of former prominent businessmen and the simpler housing of skilled or white-collar workers Workers’ homes are modest residences in a form Cartwright calls Midwest vernacular — simply shaped gable-roofed houses which probably sprang up from subdivisions of the larger properties of the more prominent homes Cartwright said Large homes are commonly of Italianate Second Empire or Queen Anne architectural styles “These houses have a high degree of picturesque quality” Cartwright said Most of the large homes belonged to successful business families who migrated to Portage from New York and may have brought with them the popular architectural styles of the East according to Mary Rosin president of the Portage Landmark Preservation Society The houses are of a sophistication not often seen in such numbers in small towns “Perhaps at that time Portage was Story by Carole Ecker SliCC The 309 W Marion St home that features Society Hill Historic District a little more cosmopolitan (than other small Midwestern towns)” Rosin offered in explanation The Portage population in 1900 was 5459 “I think it was also indicative of the time Businessmen wanted to exude an aura of prosperity” Many of the period homes are of Portage Brick a light brick produced in Portage in the 19 th century similar to the popular Cream City brick Architectural detail is plentiful distinguishing the residences in their particular style Some homes may have had arose from questionable means “There were several grand houses built by railroad men of no means” Rosin said Rumors still circulate about how they were funded “We’re assuming (some rail ticket sellers) were actually (charging) ‘One fare for the railroad ate fare for me’” No records exist that show the cost of the homes built in less bureaucratic times “There was no city planning” j said Rosin whose family lives in their second home in the district ‘There weren’t any building permits The research we did only indicates the approximate year a house was built because of the jump in the tax rate for a plot of land” But household records of their first house at 319 W Franklin St indicate that four two-story pillars cost $68 she said and an octagonal marble slab above the front door was $8 installed As its name indicates Society Hill was the home of several emi DQJ°Qd 50 a CP aVDQto- ftp ST 9694 V it 51 M i! M 90 L? — j a jo HfiQ D On H4 III UP 107 t0 “777 1(4 I 0 IO SOS ibQfl ODPyQ iir DS PXVUP'QM oaaTSoa n T T T T1 Tl i c?4 I FWAHKLIW ST it 60 7 7 79 OOP 0‘ D OA Qt aiiAM'i miA “CP5 QDQ 0 rit U ll ll Oy m CARWOLt s D D dD i b c w MGSeCT T dDOD C 2 0 DD 0 rt a a G D & a a The above map outlines Society Hill Street which angles to the lower this inviting entrance is included in the nent residents Frederick Jackson Turner University of Wisconsin history professor and Pulitzer Prize winner is known to have lived there although controversy chums over which of several houses he occupied Ansel Clark a -prominent resident who was bom into slavery lived at 532 W Wisconsin St Pulitzer Prize winner Zona Gale lived with her husband William Breese at 804 MacFarlane Rd now the present Portage Public Library The home was donated to the city after Gale’s death Their Georgian Revival home was designed by noted Milwaukee architect Julius Heimerl A wing he later designed is compatible with the rest of the house except for Gale’s study which is in the English Tudor style “She must have wanted it that way” Cartwright said “because the rest of the house is simple colonial style Obviously this was Zona Gale’s stamp on that room” Society Hill Historic District extends from West Wisconsin Street to West Emmett Street and is bounded by MacFarlane Road on the north and the houses on both sides of Cass Street on the south Examples of some of the district’s houses will run in the Register in the next few weeks The Portage Landmark Preservation Society plans to produce a brochure that will serve as a self-guided walking tour of the area It will be available to residents and tourists at spots around the city a dd sP a F D" y o KM 5 O jfiCW GU C3 OS ‘“oo-P ai-sar ’n H a s 09 0(7 D 5d ft tot 00 97 96 99 47 46 49 44 03 lot T9 99 FD-Q0 0 a m 043 944 g a 611 a4 a 1 C3664 6I4®H t ' l P M ' ro Q OAOti sa- k— — 6 644 M TQOlw Q P DQdODo 7 941 rs v7 U sds 1 r Historic District in Portage West Wisconsin right hand comer is US Highway 16 i m: 2

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