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Fond du Lac historic preservation commission highlighting history

The Galloway House is just one stop on the Historic Housewives of Fond du Lac tour
Posted at 6:36 AM, Sep 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-13 07:36:17-04

FOND DU LAC — Fond du Lac, named by the French for the "farthest point of the lake," became a city in 1852.

Seventy years later, historians with the Fond du Lac Historic Preservation Commission are working to bring the city's past to life.

"I think there's been kind of a renaissance of business owners that finally, that are really trying to stay true to the original character of the building," Teresa Keenan, historic society president said.

The city offers guides for walking tours online, so people can step right into the history around them. Historic preservation committee chair Lisa Lefeber said she hopes this can give people a new way to learn.

"I found out more history after high school than I ever did in high school, because I was able to go into tangents that you couldn't go when you're trying to study for a test," Lefeber said.

Keenan said she enjoys incorporating her love of history with her job as a realtor.

"I obviously sell houses of all kinds, but historic homes are definitely my favorite," Keenan said. "I've really tried to help other people in the community get excited about some of these homes because the greatest way to recycle, you know. So, we can help people get excited about the existing homes that we have, that are rich in detail and character."

The city offers one tour of historic Main Street, which includes Third and One Sports Bar, where temperance activist Carrie Nation gave a rather tumultuous speech in 1902, which included a hatchet prop.

Lefeber refers to this as the "hatchet incident," but no one was hurt.

"She went away peacefully, but there was a little bit of a tussle between her and the people who were drinking alcohol," Lefeber said.

The move was still a controversial one, and gained a lot of attention for Nation.

"It was contentious because she made sure that it was," Lefeber said. "It was a very big movement for her, and the temperance movement itself. She wanted to get rid of all drinking in not just Wisconsin, but more nationwide. She was mostly Wisconsin, but she had actually made her name 'Carrie Nation' because she was carrying the nation into prohibition."

Nation is among many women highlighted by the historic preservation commission. They even have a whole tour for the "historic housewives of Fond du Lac."

"History is not made up of just one section of the population," Lefeber said. "And so women being represented and their history coming forward is really important that any kind of diversity that we can add to our history."

The tour features homes like Anna Kraut's residence on 15 South Park Avenue. Kraut is known for patenting her own dishwashing device in 1915.

Lisa Lefeber takes us inside Anna Kraut's home

Just down the street, visitors can also see the home of Maria Galloway at 27 South Park Avenue. Galloway owned 250 of 500 shares of her family bank—something almost unheard of for a woman in 1877.

Lisa Lefeber takes us inside Maria Galloway's house

The Galloway house sits just a block from Nancy Tallmadge's home on 225 Sheboygan Street. Tallmadge is known for owning 100 acres of land in 1876—another unusual act for a woman in her time. It isn't known how she came to own this land, largely because women's history is often neglected.

Lisa Lefeber takes us inside Nancy Tallmadge's house

"It's a lot harder to find information about the women that were in history," Lefeber said. "Most of the men have all of the history while the women are actually doing a lot of work too, but it's not being recorded."

Houses like this need upkeep, said Keenan. And as a realtor, she advises potential homeowners on the preservation of these buildings.

"Being a real estate agent, I do try to encourage that, you know, people understand kind of what they're getting into when they're buying historic home. They just have a different level of care," Keenan said.

But as a historic homeowner herself, she said thinks owning a piece of history is worth it.

"I'm not trying to talk anybody out of it," Keenan said. "It's just that we want to make sure that we're kind of matching up the right owners with those kinds of properties and are kind of understanding what goes into it."

The historic preservation commission works with homeowners to make improvements to their homes while preserving the building's historic significance.

"Once certain elements are gone," Keenan said. "They're kind of gone forever. People can do whatever they want, but I think there's value in maintaining that historic integrity as much as possible."

The historic housewives tour guide can be found here, and the historic downtown tour can be found here.