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History Uncovered

1-5 West Main Street, Evansville, Wisconsin


1-5 W. Main St, before rehabilitation.
These three buildings on West Main Street in the Evansville National Register Historic District illustrate the stylistic progression of Wisconsin’s 19th Century commercial buildings. On the corner, 1 West Main was constructed first, circa 1852, before Evansville was even platted. The building has a pediment and a denticulated cornice, features that denote the Greek Revival style. Later, 3 West Main was built in the Italianate style, which was extremely fashionable in the last half of the 1800s. It is shown here in the tall narrow windows and prominent cornice. The Queen Anne style, which emerged at the end of the 19th Century, appears next door at 5 West Main. The tower-like oriel window is representative of the style.


After rehabilitation, the buildings'
Greek Revival, Italianate and Queen Anne
styles are now more apparent.

But by the end of the Twentieth Century, coverings of stucco and aluminum siding had obscured the buildings’ features. The storefronts had also been boarded up with tiny windows replacing the old display windows. Owner Jeff Farnsworth, hoping to enhance this prominent downtown corner, began the restoration of these buildings in Spring of 2002. With the help of woodworker, Jim Cunningham, they removed stucco from the Greek Revival building, exposing original clapboard siding, which they repaired and painted. Newer windows were replaced with six-over-six-light windows that matched the original configuration as found on examples stored in the building. When they removed the aluminum from 5 W. Main, they were surprised to discover an intact brick wall and ornate bracketed cornice. The oriel window had faired less well. The decorative recessed panels and garland ornaments, which Mr. Farnsworth had seen in historic photographs, were missing. These Mr. Cunningham recreated based on those photos. But the most noticeable change to passersby is the storefront. Gone is the barn board, replaced with large glazed display windows topped by transoms. Again Mr. Cunningham based the storefronts designs on historic photos, and he clearly had an eye for historic detail.

Uncovering the history of a building may only require removing a layer or two to reveal what’s underneath. But more often than not, as Mr. Farnsworth found, it requires a little research and reconstruction as well. His efforts have indeed enhanced this downtown corner.


The 5 W. Main Street building's oriel window, brick and cornice covered with aluminum siding at the project's start.

The 5 W. Main Street building
after restoration.

 

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