Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Cooksville’s Historic Houses: Celebrating 170 Years Old in 2019

Several houses in and near the historic Village of Cooksville are turning 170 years old in 2019, along with one church building that celebrates its 140th anniversary.

Cooksville, established in 1842, had a building boom in the 1840s, thanks to the early settlers who were eager to build and who had available oak trees and lumber from an early sawmill, stones from a nearby quarry, and locally-made bricks baked in two brickyards. And they had especially skillful craftsmen and women among the early settlers. The results were handsome, well-designed, sturdy, long-lasting buildings in the village and on the nearby farms. (One home, the earliest, the Cook House, is 177 years old this year.)

These mid- 19th-century village structures—the houses, churches, school, barns and a store—now stand proudly in the Cooksville Historic District and on nearby farmsteads.

Historic Cooksville and nearby

Although exact construction dates for many of these early “country” Greek Revival-designed  houses are difficult to determine—no building permits or other such official documents existed at the time—but records of land purchases and lumber and brick purchases as well as letters and diaries of property owners allow construction dates (or  at least “circa’ dates) to be assigned.

Celebrating their 170th and 140th building-dates this year are the following:

John Seaver House

John Seaver House (c.1849).   A busy local carpenter and relative of the owner, John Fisher, probably built this l½ story, wood-frame, Greek Revival house for John Seaver, a farmer, the father of William “Frank” Seaver who was building his brick home on a nearby corner in the village. The Seavers had come from Chautauqua County, New York. The Seaver House has been restored in the 1980s, with a new addition to the south in the 1990s.

Morgan House

Morgan House (c.1849).  This 1½ story, clapboard, Greek Revival house with brick nogging between the studs was built by Thomas Morgan, a Welshman and a carpenter, whose brother-in-laws, Benjamin and Isaac Hoxie, both talented carpenters, may have contributed to the building of the house. Morgan lived here until 1905. The house was restored in the 1930s and 1940s with a fireplace in the dining room and a south side porch added.

Duncan House

Lovejoy-Duncan House (1848-49).  The Duncan House, also known as the “House Next Door,” was built about 1848 of local Cooksville vermilion brick in a simple Classic Revival style, reflecting both Federal and Greek Revival elements. The first occupant was Daniel Lovejoy, the village’s first merchant, who sold it to Henry Duncan from Vermont and the only local citizen who listed his occupation as “Private Gentleman.”  Duncan had four children at home and added the clapboard wing. Ralph Lorenzo Warner, a school teacher from Racine, bought the house in 1911 and spent the rest of his life furnishing the house with antiques,  creating gardens, serving meals to visitors, and attracting national attention to the house he had named the ”House Next Door.”

Smith House

Smith-Galt House (1848-49.)  The Smith House is a small wood-frame house with simple Greek Revival style detailing built by David N. Smith about 1848 next to the Cook House.  The house is also known as the Galt House and the “Byhring Brothers House” for Oscar and Carl Byhring, who lived there from about 1918 to 1959.  For 20 years, George and Eunice Mattakat used the house as an adjunct to their Red Door Antique Shop located next door in the Cook House. 

Richardson Grout House

Richardson Grout House (c.1849-50). This vernacular rural cottage east of Cooksville is an important example of grout construction, an early form of concrete material, and is the only grout house in Porter Township. It has a frame porch across the front and a frame saltbox to the rear. A central chimney separates the two main rooms. Scottish-born Alexander Richardson purchased the farm when the house was brand new. The land was deeded from Jonathon Roby to Richardson in December, 1849.

Cooksville Congregational Church, photo c.1910

Cooksville Congregational Church (1879). Built 140 years ago this year, it was the first church constructed in the village. The Congregationalists vowed that the church would be available to “all other Christian denominations and Christian ministers to hold meetings in, and the basement to be rent free for the regular meetings of the Good Templars and the Grange.”

The Church was constructed on the south edge of Cooksville on the corner of “Union Road,” and was designed by local resident, Benjamin Hoxie, “Architect and Builder.”  The little brown church quickly became the center of village life for religious gatherings and other community events. Later it served as the focus of government as the Porter Town Hall in the 1940s and 1950s. 

The Church is designed in a simple combination of Gothic Revival and Romanesque styles and features four tall minarets and a bell tower on the front fa├žade, a round-arched entry with a large fanlight above the doors, and six round-arched windows on the sides and one above the altar. Benjamin Hoxie made the pews; McCully and Miles of Chicago created the windows; Frank Baker of Evansville provided the furnace that could burn either wood or coal.

The building served as a church from 1879 until 1939, although it was not used regularly from about 1910 on, because the early Congregational New England settlers had died or relocated further west. In March 1939, a memorial service was held for the church’s faithful caretaker and “last active supporter,” Susan Porter, who died that year.

It was then determined that ownership of the church property had passed to the Wisconsin Congregational Conference, which then sold it to the Town of Porter on September 15, 1939. The town altered the building (steeples and bell tower were removed, windows were replaced, pews disposed of, and a large opening for the town truck was cut into the basement wall), and the church became the Porter Town Hall.
The Church as Porter Town Hall, photo c.1950s

During World War II, young men gathered in the church-town hall to say farewell to friends before going off to war.  Local resident Eddie Julseth brewed strong coffee for the occasion, and the new recruits joked about how they’d now be able to stay wide awake through the entire war.  Later, a painted wooden sign was erected in front of the Town Hall to commemorate those men from the Town of Porter that were lost in America’s wars.

In the mid- 1960s, the Town Hall moved to the vacant Wilder School nearer to the center of the township, and the old church stood vacant until it was sold under a sealed bid process in March 1971.  The winning bidder was Michael J. Saternus, an architect whose active interest in the historic buildings of Cooksville had begun in the late 1960s and would continue until his death in 1990.

Michael Saternus at work on his Church, c.1976
Saternus designed the church’s restoration. He re-constructed the missing bell tower, minarets, and front porch, and an old bell replaced the missing original. The church was once again painted light brown with darker brown trim.  An original stained-glass window was discovered “hidden” between the walls above the altar, having been plastered over on the inside and covered over by clapboards on the exterior. (The other window panes had been replaced with clear glass.) 

Church interior with the Stoughton Chamber Singers

After Saternus’ death in 1990, his partner, Larry Reed, continued the restoration and rehabilitation project, completing the interior of the church in 1996. The interior was re-plastered, gray paint was removed from the woodwork, and old pews (dated 1875) were installed. The church once again became the scene of weddings, a baptism, a funeral, musical performances, and many curious visitors.
Cooksville Congregational Church
Other historic Cooksville buildings, from 1842, 1845 and 1848, have already celebrated their 170th anniversaries. Others will soon celebrate their early construction dates from the 1850s and later.

 [The Cooksville Archives and Collections contain information about the village’s heritage— its buildings, its people and its everyday life.]

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Cooksville resident, Mary Kohlman asked me to publish the DOT's response to her letter regarding traffic safety issues in Cooksville.  First, here is Mary's initial letter.

We are a small unincorporated town in Rock county. This is where we live, walk, visit with and care for our neighbors.
Recently, on October 1 we had a community meeting to address traffic safety concerns for the two state highways that run through our community. We had Rock county sheriff presence as well. Several years ago, I personally reached out to the DOT with my concerns on the frequent collisions at the intersection of 138 and 59 and was pleased with your concern and timely response. I do believe it has helped by adding the two signs warning motorists of a hazard at that intersection.
Our current concerns are primarily speed enforcement along the roadways and intersection hazards.
We would like to propose several solutions to help with  of the problem of speed. One would be adding the Yellow Intersection signs coming in on Hwy 59 heading  West and East with the reduced speed of 35 MPH , and on Hwy 138 at the intersection of Webster St. and 138, with reduced speed to 25 MPH.
Also, we have several private driveways on Hwy 59 that cannot see approaching  traffic from the East. We believe signage to warn motorists of this hazard would be prudent.
We are also concerned about motorists passing in town on both of these roads, particularly  on 138 which is all Passing zone heading North except for a few yards from the intersection of 59. There are multiple driveways and 3 businesses on this stretch of road. Is it possible to make this a no passing zone from the Badfish Creek bridge to the intersection of 59 and 138?
Thank you for your help with these concerns. I look forward to hearing from you. I will relay your response to my community. You may contact me at marye.kohlman@yahoo.com
Sincerely, Mary Kohlman

And the response...

From: Mayer, Ryan - DOT <Ryan.Mayer@dot.wi.gov>
To: Mary E. Kohlman <marye.kohlman@yahoo.com>
Sent: ‎Monday‎, ‎February‎ ‎11‎, ‎2019‎ ‎05‎:‎34‎:‎17‎ ‎PM‎ ‎CST
Subject: RE: Cooksville Traffic concerns

Hi Mary,
Thank you for your patience.  I apologize for the delayed 
response.  I have discussed your concerns and suggestions 
with our signing and marking section.  Our response is as follows:

Yellow Intersection Warning Signs with reduced Speed Plaques
We reserve the use of intersection warning signs for 
locations where there is not sufficient sight distance 
to see/react to a vehicle at an intersection.  In this
 case, in both the 35 MPH zone on Highway 138 and 
the 45 MPH zone on Highway 59 there is sufficient 
time/sight distance to see the upcoming intersections 
due to the relatively flat and straight design of these
 roads through Cooksville.  Even when approaching from
 the east on STH 59, a driver can see the Highway 138
 intersection from approximately 700 ft, which is more 
than adequate in a 45 MPH zone.  We try to avoid the use 
of these signs in locations where there is sufficient sight 
distance in order to preserve their warning effect in locations
 where sight truly is deficient.

Hidden Driveway Signs
Hidden driveway signs are not an approved sign for state 
roads in Wisconsin.  Are there trees or bushes that restrict
 their view?  I f so, we could work on having them
 trimmed if they are in the right-of-way.  If the hill on 
Highway 59 is the issue, we do have a warning sign that 
says “Hill Blocks View” but it has requirements for an 
amount of driveway traffic that exceeds the amount a 
typical residence would ever generate.

Passing/No Passing Zones
Passing zones are marked and signed on state highways
 to indicate where a driver can safely complete a passing 
maneuver at a given speed limit under normal light and 
weather conditions.  This stretch of Hwy 138 is straight
 and flat and provides a good opportunity to safely pass 
another vehicle.  We do not paint no-passing zones to 
eliminate all possible conflicts and do not automatically 
paint no-passing zones through intersections or driveways.  
It is very important for vehicles on the side road or driveway
 to yield the right of way to all vehicles on the mainline.    
With all that being said, there is one thing I can think of 
that we would allow and may be of interest/help to you all.  
Considering the fact that the Rock County Sheriff’s office 
likely doesn’t have the ability/personnel to patrol Cooksville 
on a regular basis, have you thought about installing
 dynamic speed display signs.  You probably have 
seen them around (some in Stoughton).  In my 
experience the communities who have them seem to 
think they do a nice job in helping reduce speeds.  
We allow them to be placed at the beginning of reduced 
speed zones entering communities.  We would require 
a local unit of government be the one requesting them 
and that they be installed and maintained by the local unit 
of government.  I have attached our policy on these if you 
are interested in learning more.

Please let me know if you have any questions or comments 
on this, and once again, I apologize for the delay in responding.

 Thank you,
Ryan A. Mayer, P.E.
Traffic Safety Engineer
WisDOT SW Region - Madison Office
(608) 246-3810

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

2019 Cooksville Community Events Schedule

Be sure to check the Cooksville Country Store for fliers or updates, and ‘Like’ the Cooksville Community Center on Facebook for notifications of upcoming events. Many activities are free and all are open to the public.

Saturday, April 27: Community Center Clean-Up Day
10:00am–1:00 pm, Schoolhouse

Sunday, April 28: Arbor Day Celebration on the Commons
2:00–4:00 pm, Commons, reception at Schoolhouse

Saturday-Sunday, June 1-2: Sustainability Skill Share weekend
Schoolhouse, various locations
A weekend of hands-on workshops, lectures, demonstrations, and
entertainment organized by Cooksville’s Low Tech Institute. The
event will include an open old-time music jam, and a free screening
of the film Albatross will be held at the Schoolhouse at 8:30 pm on
Saturday, June 1 (please check website for updates). Registration
and fees required for participation in workshops; other events open
to the public. Please visit https://lowtechinstitute.org/workshops/
sustainability-skill-share for details.

Tuesday, June 4: Visit from Snappers Brass Era Car Club
~ 1:00 pm, Around Commons
Car enthusiasts are welcome to visit the club and see some unusual
antique cars during their tour through Cooksville. Hosted by the
Cooksville Country Store.

Wednesday, June 5: Stoughton Chamber Singers Concert directed by John Beutel
7:30–10:00 pm, Cooksville Lutheran ChurchDue to renovations at the Congregational Church, this year’s concert
will be held in the Cooksville Lutheran Church. Handicap accessible.
Reception to follow.

Saturday, June 22: Cooksville Bell Choir Concert: Global Colors 
7:00 pm, Cooksville Farmhouse Inn
The 10-member Cooksville Bell Choir will present world music
selections arranged for hand bells and drums at the English Barn,
behind the Farmhouse Inn. Ample parking behind the Barn.

Thursday, July 4: Independence Day Picnic 
12:30–2:30 pm, Commons
Potluck community meal under the oaks. Share your favorite picnic
fare and outdoor games. Rain location is the schoolhouse.

Saturday, July 13: History Past . . . And Future? Stories about Cooksville, and the Meaning of History 7:00–8:30 pm, Schoolhouse
Come hear a fascinating presentation by Larry Reed, Cooksville
historian, and Ellsworth Brown, retired Director of the Wisconsin
Historical Society. They will draw from their impressive expertise
in local history, and tell how we become part of the stories of the
place where we live.

Sunday, July 28: HOT DOG!! 
4:00–6:30 pm, Commons
Nothing beats grilling out on a hot summer evening in late July!
Bring your best barbecue recipes, a healthy appetite, and your
dogs to the Cooksville Commons for a suppertime cook-off and
dog show! Rain location is the schoolhouse. Contest details will be
announced this summer.

Saturday, August 10: Christmas in Summer 
1:30–2:30 pm, Schoolhouse
Experience a one-room schoolhouse holiday pageant as it was
remembered by local residents who grew up attending small rural
schools and enjoyed performing for their classmates and families.
Always fun and full of surprises! This year’s theme is Bells, Whistles,
and Pumpkin Pie.

Tuesday, August 20: QPR: Question, Persuade, and Refer workshop
7:00 pm, Schoolhouse
Have you ever encountered a suicidal or severely depressed
family member, co-worker, or neighbor? Jean Papalia is the QPR
Coordinator of Safe Communities Madison-Dane County and will
provide a presentation on effective approaches for reaching out to
and helping discouraged people through difficult times. Booklet

Monday, September 16: CCC Annual Meeting & Ice Cream Social 
6:30–8:30 pm, Schoolhouse
All Community Center members are invited to hear about the state
of the organization from its Board of Directors and participate in
Board elections. The community is welcome for ice cream before
the meeting. New to the Community Center? Join us with a $25.00
lifetime membership.

The Cooksville Community Center is the former one-room schoolhouse on the corner of State Rd. 59 and Church St. Although it is not heated, the schoolhouse has air conditioning, a kitchen with hot and cold water, and bathrooms (cold water only). The Community Center is available for rentals and is a popular spot for family reunions, weddings and picnics. The CCC is not handicap-accessible.

To our members: Thank you for your support! Not a member? Consider joining the Cooksville Community Center with a one-time membership fee of $25.00. You will receive news, information and first announcements of special events at the schoolhouse, and your dollars will support the on-going preservation of this historic building.

Event Locations:
Schoolhouse and Commons located on the Northeast corner of Hwy 59 and Church St.

Cooksville Lutheran Church, 11927 W. Church St.(handicap-accessible)

Cooksville Farmhouse Inn, 11203 State Hwy. 138.

Cooksville Country Store, 11313 N. State Hwy. 138.

The Cooksville Community Center is looking for a programming coordinator. Please contact Emily Beebe 608.712.2976 or etbeebe13@gmail.com for more information.

If you have an updated email address, phone number, or mailing address, please contact Emma Mallon at 608.490.3856 or elumallon@gmail.com.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Easter Egg Hunt

Easter Egg Hunt

April 21

Easter Morning
11:30 a.m.

Cooksville Commons
Gather by the Schoolhouse.

Hundreds of Eggs
Coffee and goodies for parents and observers.

Bring a bag or basket to collect eggs.  (We will also have many baskets available for kids without baskets.)

"I'm going to Cooksville this year!"