Feature Story on the House of Seven Gables
This feature by Tim Damos appeared in the "News Republic" (Baraboo) on Tuesday, August 3, 2010
House of Seven Gables celebrates 150 years
Ralph and Pamela Krainik were just beginning their new life as a married couple in 1966 when they first laid eyes on a house at 215 Sixth Street.
Ralph was working as an attorney at a law office above the Baraboo National Bank and Pamela was commuting to the UW-Madison School of Nursing, where she was in her senior year.
They were renting a home in the country at the time, but admired the 6th Street home, known as the House of Seven Gables, from a distance.
One night Ralph kidded Pamela that the home was for sale, just to see her reaction.
"Three or four nights later, I saw a picture of the home in the Realtor's office," Ralph said.
The couple soon became the fifth owners of the home - which is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and turns 150 years old this year - and have devoted countless hours to restoring and preserving the local treasure.
"Our furniture filled half of one room," Pam said, recalling the day they moved in. "When we bought it, we actually had people ask us if we were going to tear it down and build something else, or put up apartments."
Instead, they have spent the last 44 years refinishing floors, graining wood, restoring the exterior to its original state and color, and finding countless other ways to make the home look as it did in 1860.
The Krainiks recently restored the home's staircase, which Ralph believes was likely remodeled years ago following water damage from an attic fire.
The story of the House of Seven Gables, named after the classic novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne, begins with a snippet in the The Baraboo Republic on Aug. 9, 1860.
"According to our ideas of beauty and we think that the public will coincide with us, the new building now being erected by T. Thomas of the Sauk County Bank upon the beautiful knoll about two blocks north east of the Court House will be the most elegant residence in the vicinity," the newspaper stated.
Terrell Thomas, a teller who later became the bank's president, purchased the six-lot site in 1857. Construction began in August 1860 and, according to the newspaper account, was to have wrapped up three months later.
Later owners of the Gothic Revival style home included Thomas' wife, Sarah, Rev. John T. Durward and Judge Henry J. Bohn and his wife Clara, who purchased the home in 1921.
Carol Hutterstrum, 88, the daughter of Henry and Clara, still lives in Baraboo and was born in the home's study in 1922. She lived there until heading off to college and came back to be married at the home.
"It was a very active around there," Carol said. "My mother was a piano teacher so people were in and out of the house all the time."
In fact, Clara Bohn sold one of her three pianos to the Krainiks for $50 when the young couple purchased the home in 1966.
Sauk County Historical Society President Paul Wolter said a soon-to-be-released book by authors M. Caren Connolly, Louis Wasserman and the Wisconsin Historical Society will feature the Baraboo home.
The book, "Wisconsin's Own," will feature 20 of the state's most remarkable historic homes of various architectural styles.
The House of the Seven Gables is not the oldest existing home in Baraboo, but it is certainly one of the best preserved homes of its age, Wolter said.
"It's not only important to Baraboo," Wolter said. "It's important to the entire state because it's one of the best examples of the Gothic Revival style."
Wolter said few homes of that era have survived intact because historic preservation didn't become popular until the late 1960s as the nation neared its Bicentennial.
"People were reflecting on 200 years of American history and anything old started to be cool again," Wolter said. "It's more serendipity than anything that (the House of Seven Gables) has made it this far."