My visit to a Civil War-era stone house

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My visit to a Civil War-era stone house

Post by tbieter » Fri Nov 18, 2016 4:43 pm ... e5956.html
I grew up in Mankato, Minnesota. When , in the above article, I saw mention of "the little stone house on North Sixth Street", I became interested. The house where I lived was at 1127 North SiXth Street.

MANKATO — The little stone house on the hill survived by neglect.

In the recent years of its 159-year-old life, the Civil War-era home at 129 N. Sixth St. has survived a fire and a demolition order. Thought to be the oldest stone house in Mankato, it was unoccupied for years and condemned by the city in 2011.

Caleb Wunderlich, who learned masonry from North Mankato preservationist Tom Hagen, is now about mid-way through restoring the home. Wunderlich purchased it at a county tax forfeiture auction in April 2015 for $6,800 and received a $50,000 forgivable loan from the city for restoration.

Built in 1857 by Joseph Schaus, the 1,107-square-foot home stood sentry while the city of Mankato sprung up, while the riverboats steamed in and while the scaffolding used to hang 38 Dakota Indians was erected.

"It was ghastly," Hagen said of the house's condition before restoration. They spent about six months clearing out "truckloads" of debris.

Wunderlich has completed the structural stabilization of the house and has rebuilt two walls almost entirely with reused materials. So much is reused that some wall framing inside even came from kneelers in the former St. Peter and Paul's Catholic Church.The church that I attended.

Last week, city officials and members of the Heritage Preservation Commission toured the home for the first time as a group since Wunderlich took over.

Katherine Hughes, a historian who has researched the house's history, said she was pleased with the restoration work and stressed how difficult life was for Schaus.

"Living here would just be a real treat," she said.

Schaus, who likely built the house so far from the river because he worked at the nearby Catholic church, labored in his free time under threat of Indian attack and without running water, hot showers or even cement, Wunderlich said. Across sixth street from the house was the Jesuit priests residence. At the other end of the block was the elementary school that I attended.

The house is held together by dirt and has 22-inch-thick walls. The lack of cement made rebuilding the collapsed northern wall easier, Wunderlich said. Such reuse of construction materials would be unlikely with today's cheaper and faster construction methods, he said.

"This wall collapsed and if it collapses again, they'd be able to reuse every stone here and rebuild it," he said. "It's like a big jigsaw puzzle."

Wunderlich also acquired historically matching windows with 1870s glass from the East Coast.

On the back side of the house, Wunderlich took down a plywood addition and reused the plywood in the kitchen. He also had to rebuild a wall on the back of the house because an addition in the 1990s destabilized it.

With insulation expected to be in place soon, Wunderlich said he hopes to spend the winter on inside work, including flooring and plasterboard. Next year, he plans to work on the roof, brick laying and storm windows.

The house has three layers of flooring. Maple was layered on pine, which was placed on ash planks likely made on the first saw mill in Mankato. Wunderlich will install stone flooring and radiant heat.

The downstairs, where one stone wall is visible inside, will have a kitchen and half bath, while the upstairs will have a full bath and two bedrooms.

The upstairs is roomier than it looks from the street. And it certainly won't be as crowded as the 1950s when it was home to 18 members of the Allen family, including 14 children who packed into bunk beds and cots upstairs "like sardines in a can," Wunderlich said. David Allen was in my elementary class. I visited the house once. When I entered I was smacked by the smell of urine from cloth diapers. The
allen family, who occupied the first two rows at mass in church each sunday, always had one or two children in diapers. David joined the army after graduation. Several years later he told me that the srmy was the first time that he always got enough to eat. My experiences with the Allen family adversley affected my view of the Church's doctrine on artificial birth control.

Wunderlich has a few years left on the restoration and said he hopes to acquire a rental license to ensure a family takes care of the home.

"I hope it becomes a house again," Wunderlich said. "I'd like to have some say that this house is preserved and cherished. This is a charming little house. It's intimate and it's alive."

Wunderlich said restoration isn't "genius work," but rather a process of continual improvement.

"A trained eye could see that my stone work gets better the higher it goes," he said. "Practice makes the master."

Hagen praised his young apprentice for taking on the daunting project. The last owner of the home, Richard Dickie, wound up homeless after a 2007 fire made the house uninhabitable and his contractor abandoned the repair project. Another of Hagen's students considered taking it on but declined after learning that the city wouldn't issue a rental license because of density limits, Hagen said.

Becky Wessman, a Mankato attorney, brought a lawsuit over the rental density issue, which essentially kept the house from demolition because it was tied up in litigation, Hagen said. A state appeals court in 2011 upheld a district court's ruling that sided with the city.

"What (Wunderlich) has essentially done is given up two years of his life to save this house for the city," Hagen said.

+8 PHOTOS: Remodeling the little stone house
PHOTOS: Remodeling the little stone house
Oct 16, 2016
Caleb Wunderlich bought the stone house on Sixth Street, considered the oldest home in Mankato, and is working on its renovation.
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Re: My visit to a Civil War-era stone house

Post by vegetariantaxidermy » Fri Nov 18, 2016 5:38 pm

What a beautiful place. So full of trees and history (and no ugly fences). It's a shame google earth hasn't reached that street.

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Re: My visit to a Civil War-era stone house

Post by tbieter » Sat Nov 11, 2017 10:58 pm

The 8 photos of the house are fascinating.

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Re: My visit to a Civil War-era stone house

Post by EchoesOfTheHorizon » Sun Nov 12, 2017 9:40 am

I recently found the location of the revolutionary era fort for my town, the Fort for Holliday's Cove, wasn't where we all presumed it was. I started down trying to trace buildings around from 1771 to the present, any evidence of outlines, by looking at old journals and old photos from the early twentieth century, and going to where they were taken, and overlay the once farm town photos with the giant hulking steel mill built over it (and partially torn down, it is massive, largest at the time built in the world). I finally found a homestead, The Griffith's blockhouse, behind a old football field.... it was torn down, but the driveway and road was still in use, just in a industrial setting. Had a complete lineup. It was a stone house fort, ordered by Patrick Henry to be a government weapon storehouse.

I also found a long lost wineyard, built up the backside of the hill, had played in the rocks as a kid, but as a adult climbed through thickets with thorns, a sweaty mess. Dated to prior to a great plague that wiped out most of the wine here.

The road leads to the river on a side most civilians can't access, we use the river side of town on the other side. Once I looked up not the captain or scouts who built the fort, but the colonel out of Fort Pitt, who had charge of the area did I realize the stupid fort was under the mill.... and this lead me to identify two other forts here, with paintings from the 19th century for the rough location of one. Then I found out from looking in a graveyard we had a mysterious artillery fort on the Ohio river for seemingly no reason in 1806 at another location in town, around the same time (but unlikely for) when Aaron Burr was setting up his rebel army.

Once I got the Revolutionary era fort placed, I finally got a better idea of how pittsburgh designed the Ohio river forts, like the Roman Limes..... the hills here are very steep, almost a cliff along the river, so they built a fort every place a opening where a creek flows (always a creek flows) opens it up. It started making a lot of sense to me after that. I'm meeting with the lawyer who writes the history books to show him the evidence soon.

I've also been doing a lot of research into Lord Dunmore's War, it was started here as well. We had two nasty genocides start here, but Lord Dunmore's War was the war that lead to the British colonies succeeding, once the people realized the crown of England was actively warring against the population (years prior to the Declaration of Independence). I'm looking st a company in Indiana (look on YouTube for Townsends and Son) who makes movie quality recreations of uniforms and products from that era..... pretty much anything that you've seen on TV from that era, or in a movie, they have made. I've been pushing for a statue of Samuel Brady and Chief Logan. My town museum only has one room of it's museum dedicated to this era.

I've also identified a spot larger than meadowcroft village nearby, just outside the limits of my town (meadowcroft village is the next creek system down, but up creek 7 or so miles). This location is much, much bigger. I'm trying to get a professor interested in it. I also have a Kurdish archeologist interested in a new-platonic monastery in Turkey I believe I found, but he can't do anything about it with Erdogan's War in the region going on. I'm pretty certain given it's history, Kurdish fighters are in it, and don't want it imploded, given no other site survives from antiquity.

I always wanted to be a archeologist as a kid. Kinda regret not doing it. I find a lot of lost stuff. My area didn't do much during the civil war, my town was north of the capitol of Wheeling, Virginia, and can't find evidence of anything happening here then. Our fort was in decay by the war of 1812, but we did have a small cannon ball foundry used to bomb Fort Ontario from here.

We have a few cabins from colonial times around, only one stand alone, rest built inside more modern houses.

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