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New life for very old livery

One of Whitewater's first structures soon to be reassembled

Donna Lenz Wright/The Week

(Published April 10, 2007, 3:40 p.m.)

For more than 150 years one of Whitewater's first buildings, the Stone Stable, stood in its original spot in the middle of the first city block of Whitewater outlined by Church, Whitewater and Main streets. According to records it was built between 1837 and 1850.

"It could very possibly be the or one of the oldest buildings in the city," said Jerald Wendt, Stone Stable fundraising co-chair.

It was used intermittently over the generations first as a stable, then various other uses including storage and as a Bible school reenactment structure.

It was disassembled in 2003 to make room for the expansion of the First English Lutheran Church. As it was being disassembled, Whitewater citizens knew they didn't want the stable to disappear forever. They carefully removed and marked the pieces and have kept them in safe storage ever since.

"We knew we wanted to reassemble at that time," said Ginny Coburn, Stone Stable fundraising co-chair. "We were really careful and thoroughly documented everything with the great help of Gary Goyette, superintendent of buildings and grounds at Old World Wisconsin."

The project hovered in limbo until the city of Whitewater agreed to allow the stable to be reassembled on city property and to care for it once in place.

The chosen site is next to the original Whitewater train depot and present home of the Whitewater Historical Society Museum.

"We felt it needed to have a historical home and this is the perfect location," Coburn said.

The location is ideal as it's the center of several years of historic downtown rehabilitation efforts. Nearby neighbors in addition to the museum is the Cravath Lakefront Park, the original Whitewater Hotel currently being remodeled and the Whitewater police headquartersÑwhich offers important security perks, Coburn says.

"It's such a perfect spot for it," Wendt said. "It's part of the whole effect of the changes of Whitewater Street. It will be Whitewater's Old World Wisconsin because now we're going to have this little historical area."

"We thought it would really add to the whole flavor of civic center of town," she adds. "We all felt real good about that."

Wendt visualizes the stable on this site as a "good and appropriate use for the next 100 or 200 years at least," he said.

Historically accurate reconstruction

According to research by Carol Cartwright, historian, Nelson Combs immigrated to Whitewater from New York and was a wagon-maker, an essay Coburn wrote explains. He paid taxes and built houses on adjacent properties in 1845 and 1847.

"For individual homeowners to own horses was uncommon at the time, which suggests a business of some sort."

That naturally leads to the hypothesis that the Stone Stable may have played a role in the Whitewater wagon-making enterprise Winchester & Partridge Manufacturing Company, especially known for its Whitewater Wagon.

Ellen Penwell, curator at Old World Wisconsin and Whitewater resident, has taken on the task of locating an original Whitewater Wagon to be housed inside the stable.

Because the stable is made of cut limestone, the predominant bedrock of the Whitewater area, its reconstruction will be tricky. The mortar used then was quite different than that used today. It dried slower and made a waterproof seal using "a mixture of lime, sand, water and some sort of a protein-based material such as animal or human hair," Coburn wrote.

"The reconstruction will be done with something as close to the historic mortar mix as is feasible and compatible with modern methods and standards."

Although its appearance is simple and small, the architecture is still a very impressive Gothic style with an arch made of stone. It will take some effort, but masons have every intention of following the original construction 100 percent.

"It's a challenge, but we have the right person with Gary," Coburn said.

Stone Stable fund

"The fundraising is going very well," Coburn said. "We're getting near the $40,000 mark and we are really hoping to start (rebuilding) in May and have it done in time for the Whitewater Homecoming."

Near the Fourth of July, the city is planning a 100th anniversary of a city celebration that took place in 1907 celebrating its 70th anniversary. Whitewater was officially established in 1837.

"It was a big event when the city invited people back who had moved away," she said. "There were events and speeches and it was a big celebration. We will be recreating that this July."

With a goal of $75,000 to complete the project entirely, time is ticking down to raise another $35,000.

"It's a special building with lovely proportions and the arch is a very special thing," Coburn said. "It will certainly add to the downtown civic center."

For the upcoming homecoming event and future celebrations, the group plans to bring a local team of horses to the stable for carriage rides.

The nearly $40,000 already raised, in addition to the volunteer hours and work, was contributed by too many people to mention here, but in all it's been a true community effort.

The committee is actively seeking donations. People can join the Own a Stone Club for $25; Stone Masons Club for $100; Keystone Contributor Club for $500; and Cornerstone Contributor Club for $5,000, and donations in any nomination are welcomed. For more information, call Coburn at 473-0301. Contributions may be sent to: Stone Stable, P.O. Box 403, Whitewater, WI 53190.

The original painting of the Stone Stable on its future location was made by local artist Marilyn Fuerstenberg. It is 22-by-30-inches and will be auctioned in a silent auction with bids beginning at $500. Giclee prints are available at the Double Dip Deli, 180 W. Main St., Whitewater, in 12-by-18-inch and 9-by-12-inch sizes with a portion of the sales going to the Stone Stable fund.


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