Saturday, March 26, 2016

Announcement re: Cooksville Burr Oak Group

The next meeting of the Cooksville Burr Oak Group will be on Wednesday, March 30, at 6:30 at Mary Kohlman's house, 11347 N. State Rd 138 in Cooksville. We will review what we've discovered so far and possibly make a decision about a spring Arbor Day acknowledgement / celebration/ planting and look at the possibility of getting on the agenda for the Porter Town meeting. All interested are welcome.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Cooksville’s Artists and Artisans, PART SEVEN: MICHAEL J. SATERNUS (1936-1990), by Larry Reed

Michael Saternus in front of church door, 1976
Michael J. Saternus (1936-1990), Cooksville’s own preservation architect, led the historic preservation, restoration and rehabilitation efforts in the historic village for 20 years. His expertise, leadership, and architectural skills no doubt were the most important contributions to enhancing and preserving the community’s historic built environment in the 20th century. 

Mike’s many architectural projects in Cooksville’s Historic District during those years included the Congregational Church, Van Buren House, Longbourne House, Isaac Porter House, William Porter House, Newell House, Frank Seaver House, John Seaver House, Cooksville Schoolhouse, Cook House, and Smith House. His purchase in 1971 of the old Cooksville Congregational Church, which had been used as the Porter Town Hall for decades, saved it from potential demolition and succeeded in restoring that important landmark.

His sensitively designed new additions and exterior restorations (removing modern sidings and various inappropriate “remuddlings”) ensured that the village’s significant heritage from the mid-19th century would be restored and preserved for future generations to profit from.

Mike was a generous go-to man in Cooksville for free advice, assistance and encouragement on any and all rehabilitation and restoration projects, big or small.  It helped that he was also energetic, enthusiastic and a very skillful carpenter, as well as an architect.
Mike at the Van Buren House project, 1978
 A native of Chicago, Mike attended the Illinois Institute of Technology and then the University of Wisconsin-Madison (B.S in Art, 1966). He worked for several architectural firms in Madison and at the same time undertook his own preservation projects while he lived in his adopted village of Cooksville.

Mike also took a leadership role in the community and in the township. He served on the Board of the Cooksville Community Center from 1976 to 1990, as a Board member, President, Vice-President and Secretary. He also served as Chair of the Cooksville Historic District Committee of the Town of Porter from the beginning in1979 to 1990.

In addition to his focus on the Cooksville Historic District, Mike also lent his skills to a long list of preservation projects in other parts of Rock County including elsewhere in the Town of Porter and in Fulton, Evansville, Milton and Janesville. Other major preservation projects of his included one in Paoli and eight in historic Mineral Point.

Mike also served as the architect for many important preservation projects elsewhere in the state while working for the architectural firm of Potter, Lawson and Pawlowski of Madison. These included Villa Louis in Prairie du Chien, the Aldo Leopold Shack in Sauk County, the Grand Theatre in Wausau, the National Soldiers’ Home Historic District in Milwaukee, Sparta Free Library, Tomah Library, Christian Science Church, Madison, and a Study for the Mansion Hill Historic District, Madison.

The Governor of Wisconsin appointed Mike to the State Historic Preservation Review Board from 1985-1990 and to the State Historic Building Code Council (1982-1986). Mike received the 1990 award for “exceptional achievement in historic preservation” from the State Historical Society of Wisconsin” and a “Distinguished Service” award from the Wisconsin Society of Architects and American Institute of Architects for “leadership…and commitment to historic preservation,” also in 1990.

Van Buren House and Church in winter
Much of Mike’s energy was spent working on his local Cooksville projects—on his Cooksville Congregational Church (1879) and his home, the Van Buren House (1848,) as well as on his friends’ and neighbors’ restoration and rehabilitation undertakings. He often volunteered his time, spoke about the importance of historic preservation, always encouraged the saving of Wisconsin’s heritage for future generations—and he loved attending operas, traveling the country by car and train to see architectural sites, new and old, and tending to his collection of model railroad trains and layouts— and enjoying village life with his friends and partner Larry Reed, until his early death in 1990.  

Monday, March 14, 2016

MORE DAILY LIFE IN OLD COOKSVILLE: Roads, Sidewalks, Street Lights and Opium in Old Cooksville, by Larry Reed

Life in rural Cooksville in the 19th century had its own rhythms and requirements, pleasures and disappointments. Bits and pieces of that simple but rigorous life are recorded in the Cooksville Archives, mostly in weekly “newsy” gossip columns clipped from local newspapers, occasionally in diaries, sometimes in books. Now observations of some of those eventful (and not so eventful) 19th century occurrences can be shared in the 21st century.

“April 2, 1839, Rock County was divided into two road districts, by a line running east and west about the middle of the county… The slow mode of travel by ox teams was made still slower by the almost total absence of roads and bridges… Indian trails were common, but they were unfit to travel on with vehicles. They were paths about two feet wide—all that was required to accommodate the single-file manner of Indian traveling.” Two “Pathmasters” were chosen to be in charge of new roads. (History of Rock County, 1879.)

Cooksville Church on the main intersection, c.1910, with Tolles Road and Union Road (Hwy 59)