The Historic Cooksville Trust’s chairman, Larry Reed, has been recognized by the Wisconsin Historical Society for his many years of historic preservation volunteer work in the Village of Cooksville, Rock County. The 2015 award was presented to Reed by Ellsworth Brown, Director of the Wisconsin Historical Society, after approval by the Board of Curators of the Society.
Reed was cited for his “Founding in 1999 of the Historic Cooksville Trust and for Longtime Dedication to the Preservation and Appreciation of Cooksville.” He has spent decades of work helping to preserve the historic Village of Cooksville where he has lived for over 40 years.
Ellsworth Brown, left, Director of the Wisconsin Historical Society, presents the Society’s State Historic Preservation Award certificate to Larry Reed, chair of the Historic Cooksville Trust, and longtime Cooksville preservationist and historian.
The charitable Historic Cooksville Trust with its ten-member Board of Directors has successfully initiated or assisted about a dozen local preservation projects in the Cooksville Historic District in the small Rock County community and has received donations totaling over $200,000 so far. The Historic District was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 and expanded in 1980.
The mission of the Trust is to help the Cooksville community preserve, conserve, celebrate and enjoy its unique and valuable historical, cultural and natural heritage by assisting with funding building rehabilitations and restorations as well as education and publication projects in the village.
The small village, which is known by many as “A Wee Bit of New England in Wisconsin” and as “The Town that Time Forgot” because a railroad never came to the community,, was founded 175 years ago by the Cook brothers.
Reed says that preservation in the village really began early, when Ralph Lorenzo Warner arrived in 1911. Warner restored his 1848 home, the “House Next Door” to which he invited visitors to experience his historic house and gardens and enjoy refreshments at lunches, dinners and teas. Local, state and national media applauded his innovative work and brought attention to his special preservation efforts.
According to Reed, “Warner’s project opened people’s hearts and minds to the benefits of preserving and enjoying 19th century Wisconsin life, using historic buildings, historic gardens, and his collection of antiques. Besides receiving wide attention for his accomplishments, he inspired others to do the same, such as his friend Edgar Hellum’s preservation work in Mineral Point in the 1930s where he and Bob Neal created the Pendarvis complex.”
Cooksville has about 35 historic nineteenth century buildings and sites, including the state’s oldest operating general store, two churches, a schoolhouse, a public square, and locally-made brick and frame houses. Settled in 1840, the village was platted in 1842 by the Cook brothers, and soon a second village named Waucoma was established next to it in 1846 by the Porter brothers on land first owned by the famous U.S. Senator Daniel Webster. Cooksville was once suggested as the site of an old world Wisconsin outdoor museum because it was a well-preserved, early “wee bit of New England in Wisconsin.”
The Historic Cooksville Trust, which Reed heads up, is a non-profit, non-membership organization designed to raise funds and assist various preservation and conservation projects in or near Cooksville in the Town of Porter. Tours of the historic district are available, and community events take place in the historic Schoolhouse, which now serves as the Cooksville Community Center.
The Trust has also established the Cooksville Archives to collect and preserve documents, photographs, artifacts and other materials related to the history of Cooksville, and it welcomes such donations. The Archives are available to the public.
The Cooksville Country Store has available a publication titled “Historic Cooksville: A Guide.”
For more information about the village of the Historic Cooksville Trust, Reed welcomes inquiries and can be contacted at (608) 873-5066.