Wisconsin's Own: Twenty Remarkable Homes

By M. Caren Connolly and Louis Wasserman, with photographs by Zane Williams

Hardcover: $45.00

ISBN: 978-0-87020-452-4

320 pages, 380 color and b/w photos and illus., 11 x 10"


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"Wisconsin's Own" tells the story of the considerable contribution Wisconsin's historic homes have made to American residential architecture. It also answers questions you've likely asked when you've seen a notable historic home: Who built this house? What brought them here? Why did they select that particular style? How is it that this historic home still stands today, despite development pressures?

The houses profiled in "Wisconsin's Own" are a mix of public ones you may have visited and private homes you've been hoping for an invitation to explore. These homes are representative of the varied architectural styles in Wisconsin, from an Italianate along the Mississippi and an interpretation of a 16th century northern Italian villa overlooking Lake Michigan to an Adirondack-style camp in the North Woods and a 14 bedroom Georgian Revival mansion on Lake Geneva. The Prairie School is represented, with examples by Frank Lloyd Wright and his mentor Louis Sullivan.

Richly illustrated with the photography of Zane Williams complemented by historical images and watercolors and line drawings by the authors, "Wisconsin's Own" offers an intimate tour of residential treasures that have endured the test of time.

"The men and women who built these houses were powerful people of great accomplishment, people accustomed to thinking ahead, examining trends, and embracing new methods and technology. They were educated and well traveled, exposed to a world of ideas. As such, they were intellectual and creative peers of the architects who gave form to their dreams." - from the Foreword, by Ellsworth H. Brown, The Ruth and Hartley Barker Director, Wisconsin Historical Society

"Wisconsin's Own" is generously funded by the Jeffris Family Foundation of Janesville, committed to funding projects that preserve Wisconsin's cultural history through the preservation of regionally and nationally important buildings and decorative arts projects.

Also Available: The Wisconsin Public Television documentary, Remarkable Homes of Wisconsin, based on "Wisconsin's Own: Twenty Remarkable Homes."

To receive a review copy or press release, to schedule an author event, or for more information contact the WHS Press Marketing Department: whspress@wisconsinhistory.org.

M. Caren Connolly and Louis Wasserman have collaborated in their Milwaukee architectural practice for more than twenty years. "Wisconsin's Own" is their fourth joint book on residential architecture. Their three previous books - "Updating Classic America: Bungalows," "Updating Classic America: Ranches," and "Cottage" were published by The Taunton Press.

Zane Williams has been a professional location photographer for four decades, with wide-ranging assignments both abroad and in his home state. His recent book projects include "Wisconsin," "Doubletake: A Rephotographic Survey of Madison, Wisconsin," and "Madison."

And check out Zane Williams's website at:

Interview with M. Caren Connolly and Louis Wasserman

Wisconsin Historical Society Press: What are the origins of this project?

The Jeffris Family Foundation supported the research and production of this book. It is the Foundation's mission to support the architectural treasures of Wisconsin, particularly in small towns. Foundation President Tom Jeffris wanted us to create a book that would be of interest to citizens of Wisconsin and all folks interested in architectural history. He wanted us to help put Wisconsin on the map — architecturally speaking.

WHS Press: Why, in a nutshell, have the homes included in "Wisconsin's Own" survived when other historic homes have been demolished?

Good design is flexible and recognizable. Many people understand that good architecture matters, and has a strong cultural influence. Some of these people have the means to invest and share their vision, intelligence, expertise, time, and money to saving older buildings.

WHS Press: Frank Lloyd Wright is represented by Wingspread — why not one of the other Frank Lloyd Wright houses?

It is surprising how little is written about Wingspread, considering there are over 200 books written about Frank Lloyd Wright and his work. Wingspread was designed about the same time as Fallingwater and they represent two of his largest residential commissions.

WHS Press: Why was the cut off date for included homes 1939?

Technically, a house can be considered historic after 50 years. But we were interested in stopping at a point in history before World War II. So many changes in residential design occurred after World War II that that era deserves its own examination.

WHS Press: Is there a house you wanted to include but didn't?

Yes, there were hundreds! We would have been happy to write about any of the 72 finalists. But we think we chose the twenty that most tightly fit the criteria that we developed. That criteria was that the house tell an interesting story in which the main characters were the architecture, the site, the architect or builder, the homeowner, and the current events of the day.

2010 Council for Wisconsin Writers
Honorable Mention in the Kingery/Derleth Book-Length Nonfiction

2010 ForeWord Reviews' Book of the Year Award
Gold in the Home & Garden Category

2010 Midwest Independent Publishers Association Midwest Book Awards
Winner in the Total Book Design Category

2010 USA National Best Book Awards
Finalist in the Home: General Category

2010 Wisconsin Library Association Literary Awards
Recipient of the Outstanding Achievement for a 2010 Publication

2011 American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) Awards
Award of Merit

2011 Chicago Book Clinic and Media Show
Honorable Mention in the General Trade, Illustrated Category

2011 National Indie Excellence Awards
Winner in the Architecture Category

2011 Next Generation Indie Book Awards
Grand Prize Winner for Best Design
Winner in the Best Overall Design Category
Winner in the Coffee Table Book/Photography Category

2011 PubWest Book Design Awards
Silver in the Historical/Biographical Category

Eric Hoffer Book Award
2012 Winner in the Academic Press Category

Author Interviews
Jim Peck interviewed authors Caren Connolly and Louis Wasserman. This interview originally aired on the Milwaukee Public Television program "I Remember" on Monday, October 25, 2010.

Larry Meiller had an interview with authors M. Caren Connolly and Louis Wasserman. This interview originally aired on Wisconsin Public Radio's Ideas Network on Tuesday, November 2, 2010 at 11:00am.

Dan Harmon interviewed authors M. Caren Connolly and Louis Wasserman on "Lake Effect" (Milwaukee Public Radio, WUWM). This interview orginally aired on Thursday, September 16, 2010 at 10:45am.

Richard Moe, President of the National Trust for Historic Preservation

"In a very real sense, history is just stories about people. This marvelous book uses stories about people — where they came from, what they believed in, what they dreamed of, and especially what kind of homes they built — to present a compelling history of a special part of America. From a quirky octagon of the 1850s to an Art Moderne marvel of the 1930s, the houses on these pages remind us of the richness of Wisconsin’s heritage — and the importance of keeping it intact and alive."

Mary Van de Kamp Nohl, "Milwaukee Magazine"
"'Wisconsin's Own: Twenty Remarkable Homes' is so visually and intellectually stunning that you can forget the iPad or Kindle. You'll want to hold this exhaustively researched book in your hands. It's easy to lose hours savoring the photos, detailed historic images and informative text. Many people think the state's architectural legacy begins and ends with Frank Lloyd Wright. Milwaukee architects-cum-authors M. Caren Connolly and Louis Wasserman prove them wrong. They studied 1,500 residences to produce this private tour of the state's 20 most architecturally and historically significant homes. The pedigrees of these homes — built between 1854 and 1939 — derive from the industrial magnates and celebrities who once owned them. A must-see for lovers of historic homes."

"Library Journal"
"The domiciles are artfully yet simply represented with 380 color and black-and-white images. The book is highly readable from cover to cover but will also offer new information and inspiration to readers who wish to browse. Sidebars provide concise answers to questions about architectural styles and architects. Beautiful images of the homes, their rooms, and architectural details can be found on every page."

Jim Higgins, "Milwaukee Journal Sentinel"
"A richly detailed, generously illustrated study of historic, opulent Wisconsin homes. This is not a pretty coffee-table book. With its clear, intelligent essays and color photography, it is the hardbound equivalent of a friendly and knowing docent walk through these mansions."

Katie Ginther, "Wisconsin People and Ideas" magazine
"Within the eclectic mix of personal stories of homeowners and the catalogue of historical preservation efforts are breathtaking shots that invite readers to explore the homes almost as if they were visitors, passing from room to room. Exterior and interior photographs taken from unique perspectives coupled with detailed and colorful renderings of elevations, floor plans from the authors, and historical images give the reader a thorough understanding of the home from the original owner's vision to its current incarnation today. Throughout the book, standard guides to key architectural styles serve as points of comparison to the owners' take on historic styles, highlighting how individual taste and culture shape residential architecture."

Kara Mason, ForeWord Reviews book feature October 2010

Architects M. Caren Connolly and Louis Wasserman, authors of Updating Classic America: Bungalows and several other illustrated books, teamed up with the Wisconsin Historical Society to choose twenty homes that represent the rich and varied history of Wisconsin architecture from 1854 to 1939. Each of these indeed remarkable homes is presented in detail with stunning color illustrations, which include Zane Williams’s new photography of each impeccably preserved site, historical photographs of the homes from the time of their first residents, maps, and exquisite full--color elevations and plans handdrawn by Connolly and Wasserman. The drawings are so impressive-serving both as nuggets of information and tiny works of art--that one is grateful for and delighted by the appendix that describes the authors’ drawing process in full detail.

The images alone that grace "Wisconsin’s Own" are enough to keep this book placed prominently on the coffee table, but the illuminating, well-researched, and pleasantly narrative text will keep readers from simply flipping through it like a picture book. The book begins with the story of the Octagon House, designed and built in 1854 by John Richards as a promise to his East Coast–bred wife that he would build her the “finest and most modern house in the Wisconsin Territory.” The authors bring to life the couple’s move to the Midwest, the process of building the house, and the unique advantages of the octagonal floor plan, which was popularized for a short time during that period befo re largely dying out. Due to the careful specifics of the home’s interior, Mrs. Richards could bake twenty- four loaves of bread at once in the large Dutch oven. The innovative use of air flow throughout the house and at the top of the cupola (located in the center of the octagon plan) allowed for an advanced central heating and cooling system to respond to the disparate Wisconsin weather year-round. The level of detail provided about the house itself and the rich history of its building are captivating.

Each of the twenty homes featured in the book receives the same treatment, with some stories more tragic than others, and some architect-client relationships more controversial than others. And since the homes span nearly one hundred years of architectural history, many different styles, architectural icons (including Frank Lloyd Wright), and individual stories emerge. The innovation, beauty, hardship, missteps, and accomplishment inherent to these stories lend the book a great appeal to general readers, history and architecture buffs, and fans of Wisconsin lore. The quality of the production and the excellence of the artwork also elevate the book to the category of book-as-art object: a beautiful addition to any curious reader’s library.

Valerie Nye, "Library Journal" September 15, 2010"

Connolly and Wasserman (principals at the Milwaukee architecture firm Louis Wasserman & Associates) have cowritten three books on residential architecture (e.g., Cottage: America's Favorite Home Inside and Out). In preparation for this new volume, they worked with the Wisconsin Historical Society to select 20 beautiful and historically significant homes built in Wisconsin between 1854 and 1939. The homes range from prairie style to Queen Anne to art moderne and represent a diversity of geographical locations throughout the state. The domiciles are artfully yet simply represented with 380 color and black-and- white images. The book is highly readable from cover to cover but will also offer new information and inspiration to readers who wish to browse. Sidebars provide concise answers to questions about architectural styles and architects. Beautiful images of the homes, their rooms, and architectural details can be found on every page. VERDICT Primarily of regional interest, this nonetheless is highly accessible and recommended for art and architecture students from high school through college. The authors have a distinctive manner of adding lively historical context to each home's history, so architecture enthusiasts will also find something new here.

This review by Jim Higgins appeared in the "Milwaukee Journal Sentinel" on Saturday, September 11, 2010

Authors offer glimpses of some of area's most opulent homes

If someone on your gift list loves stately homes, architecture and Wisconsin history, your shopping is nearly done.

"Wisconsin's Own: Twenty Remarkable Homes" (Wisconsin Historical Society Press, $45), from author-illustrators M. Caren Connolly and Louis Wasserman and photographer Zane Williams, is a richly detailed, generously illustrated study of historic, opulent Wisconsin homes.

This is not a pretty coffee-table book. With its clear, intelligent essays and color photography, it is the hardbound equivalent of a friendly and knowing docent walk through these manses.

Wasserman, an architect, and Connolly, a landscape architect, will talk about "Wisconsin's Own" on Thursday at one of the homes, the Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum, 2220 N. Terrace Ave. They remind us that Villa Terrace (1923) "is an elegant interpretation of a 16th-century northern Italian villa," which Chicago-based architect David Adler designed for industrialist Lloyd R. Smith, of the A.O. Smith family.

The book's Villa Terrace chapter gives the back story of both client and architect, with insights on how those stories combined to produce the gorgeous house. They even tell readers what an Edith Wharton book in Adler's library had to do with the building seen today. Interior and exterior photos, some historical, plus architectural illustrations, combine for an unhurried view of the home.

Eight of the 20 homes are in the Milwaukee area, with several others within easy driving distance in Watertown, Kohler and Madison. Some have been repurposed as museums, such as Ten Chimneys in Genesee Depot and the Captain Frederick Pabst Mansion in Milwaukee, while others are private and rarely open to the public.

The homes the authors selected were constructed from 1854 to 1939 and embody a range of architectural styles, including Queen Anne, Art Modern, Arts & Crafts, Flemish Renaissance Revival, octagon and North Woods.

This feature by Chris Martell appeared in the "Wisconsin State Journal" on Sunday, September 12, 2010

Still standing: Book details the remarkable journey of 20 old Wisconsin homes

Every now and then, we see an old house that makes us stop, stare and wonder. Who built that grand home, and what happened there over the decades? Why is it still standing, when so many other magnificent homes were torn down to make way for development?

In a new book, "Wisconsin's Own: Twenty Remarkable Homes," published by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press, some of those stories are told.

The book's authors, Milwaukee architects M. Caren Connolly and Louis Wasserman, along with WHS staffers, researched 1,500 significant Wisconsin houses for possible inclusion in the book.

They wanted to feature homes from different periods and architectural styles from all over the state. And, they looked for interesting tales. The residences they chose were built between 1854 and 1939.

Many of the stories are about survival.

The Pabst Mansion in Milwaukee, for one, was "minutes away from the wrecking ball," Connolly said, but is now a house museum and one of the city's major attractions.

A mansion in the North Woods that had been abandoned, vandalized and strewn with deer carcasses by hunters is now, after 14 years of restoration, an elegant private home.

The cupola and porch on the 1884-85 Allyn Mansion, on Delavan's East Walworth Avenue, were torn off during its years as a nursing home and furniture store. Now surrounded by businesses, it was painstakingly restored by its current owners over the course of 20 years. Its cupola adorns the cover of the book.

The lengthiest restoration effort involves the House of Seven Gables, a Gothic Revival "cottage" built in Baraboo in 1860, which began when the owners moved in as newlyweds more than 40 years ago.

"They taught themselves how to do everything for the house, like wood graining, and they're still at it," Connolly said. "It becomes a lifestyle for a lot of people." Frank Lloyd Wright, of course, can't be overlooked in a book about Wisconsin architecture. Wright said that Wingspread, built from 1936 to 1939 in Wind Point for the Johnson family, was his greatest residential design.

And a house that Wright's mentor Louis Sullivan designed, the 1909 Bradley House, is the sole Madison residence included in the book. It's now home to the Sigma Phi fraternity.

This feature by Duke Behnke appeared in the "Post-Crescent" (Appleton/Fox Cities) on Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Book gives insight to stately Neenah home

A newly published book by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press profiles the Havilah Babcock house as one of the state's 20 most architecturally and historically significant homes.

The Babcock home, 537 E. Wisconsin Ave., is the only property in northeastern Wisconsin to make the cut for "Wisconsin's Own: Twenty Remarkable Homes."

Others named in the 320-page book include the Frederick Pabst mansion in Milwaukee, Villa Louis in Prairie du Chien, Ten Chimneys in Genesee Depot near Waukesha and Frank Lloyd Wright's Wingspread in Wind Point near Racine.

"It's pretty august company that we're in," said Peter Adams, who lives in the Babcock home with his wife, Patricia Mulvey.

Authors M. Caren Connolly and Louis Wasserman and the Wisconsin Historical Society considered 1,500 homes before selecting the 20 that made the book.

Melanie Roth, marketing coordinator for Wisconsin Historical Society Press, said the houses were built between 1854 and 1939 and "are a mix of public museums you may have visited and private homes you've been hoping for an invitation to explore."

Eight of the homes are owner-occupied, but only the Babcock home is occupied by direct descendants of the builder. Adams is the great-grandson of Babcock, who gained his wealth as one of the founders of Kimberly-Clark Corp.

Connolly and Wasserman were unaware of the Babcock home until they began their research for the book. Now, they are among the home's biggest fans.

"It blew us away," Wasserman said. "It is a fantastic house."

The three-story, 5,646-square-foot Queen Anne mansion dates to 1883. It was designed by famed Oshkosh architect William Waters and decorated by Babcock himself.

The first floor has a reception hall, sitting room, parlor, library and dining room and draws its inspiration from the stately homes of England with walls covered in brocade, tapestry, imitation leather and bas- relief neoclassical garlands.

The reception hall features stenciled English oak leaves and stained-glass windows depicting a peacock and a pheasant, giving the area a masculine feel.

"He was a very personable person," Wasserman said of Babcock. "He put a lot of himself into this house."

Four generations of the Babcock-Adams family have lived in the house since Babcock died in 1905, and the beauty and authenticity have been immaculately preserved. The home has original Eastlake furniture in the rooms and clothes from the original occupants neatly folded in drawers.

"The house, while not a public museum, is remarkable as a period piece," the book says. "Guests do not have to use their imaginations to experience how the original Babcock family lived."

The Adams Family Trust currently owns the house. Wasserman and Connolly credit the Adams family for the care they have given the 127-year-old residence.

They note that the hand-painted ceilings throughout the first floor are still luminous, that the woodwork gleams and that the portieres at the doorways are intact.

"It is an incredible testimony to family homes," Connolly said.

"Wisconsin's Own" contains a sidebar about Hearthstone in Appleton, another Queen Anne home designed by Waters and built in 1882 for paper mill investor Henry Rogers.

Hearthstone was the first private residence in the United States to be lighted by hydroelectric power.

The authors categorized the Babcock home and Hearthstone under their "Rags to Riches" section of the book. Others in the section are the Pabst mansion, the Henry A. Salzer house in La Crosse and the Walter and Mabel Fromm house in Hamburg near Wausau.

The book says each of the men's fortunes enabled him to build a home that is a physical biography of his wealth.

"They knew these buildings would become more than family homes: they would tell an important chapter in the story of Wisconsin," the book says.

"Wisconsin's Own" was funded by the Jeffris Family Foundation of Janesville.

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."