|Stebbins House “Windermere” circa 1890|
The historic Stebbins House, a mile east of Cooksville, was demolished by the owner on November 27, 2013. The1850 limestone Federal-Greek Revival style farmhouse was an important part of the “Historic Resources of the Cooksville Area” listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.
The elegant and impressive farmhouse was significant both for its architectural value and for its role in the history of the Town of Porter with its association with Harrison Stebbins, a prominent early settler in the 1840s.
|Stebbins House, 1850-2013|
For a number of months, the Historic Cooksville Trust had been working with the owner who wanted to remove the house from his property. The Trust undertook an effort to find a new owner and a new location for the historic house. Several potential new owners and new locations were identified.
In early November 2013 a very interested person agreed to accept the house and move it to a new location. The new site required the house to be moved across either one of two bridges over the Badfish Creek enroute to its new location, and, unfortunately, it was determined by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation that neither of the bridges could support the weight of the heavy stone house. That meant a new prospective owner and a new site were needed.
Another plan was then quickly developed by the Historic Cooksville Trust to save the house by moving it to a different location, without any bridges to cross, under new ownership. But the owner decided he could not wait another week or two and was determined to demolish the house immediately, before winter, so that “the hole could be filled in and grass planted before winter.”
The plan—and hope— to relocate the house and preserve it for future generations as part of Wisconsin’s and the Town of Porter’s heritage was not to be realized. The house was demolished.
The lesson is—and it is a not a new one— that it takes patience, perseverance and persistence, as well as a sense of the importance of our heritage and a commitment to preserving it, when historic buildings are threatened with destruction.
Once gone, they are gone forever.
The Stebbins House: R.I.P. And, as some say, “Rest In Pieces.”
[For more information on historic preservation and the Historic Cooksville Trust, contact Larry Reed (608) 873-5066.)