Two presentations: 1) Historic District Signage 2) Introducing “Great Unveiling”
I’d read in a Beloit history that at one time Beloit was known for having the single largest concentration of cobblestone homes or structures than in any other single community within the broader stateline region. I recall reading that at one time there numbered over thirty such structures in Beloit alone. They’re increasingly rare.
At last count… we’re down to three. (let me know if I’ve missed any)
- The Rasey House – 517 Prospect St.
- The Lathrop-Munn House – 524 Bluff St.
- The Turner-Barber House – 326 St. Lawrence Ave.
There are some fine examples outside Beloit within the region but it’s unfortunate that we’ve lost this visible, tangible link to our own past. It’s the removal of these links that denude a community of it’s unique identity. It’s one more factor that diminishes residents identification with a “community” and not just some generic, strip-malled, cul-de-sac’d place. (subur-cough-bia)
The last one to go was the cobblestone, two story out building behind what had been Finnegans RV that moved to make way for Walgreens on Broad Street. That structure had not been maintained and severely and insensitively “remuddled” to the point that it is debatable whether it could have been saved for adaptive reuse. At any rate, that one now also is gone.
The Cobblestone House at 316 St. Lawrence, Beloit WI
According to records I have at hand, the original cobblestone portion of the house was build in the early 1850′s by Hiram Turner, a mason. (I’ve heard there was a small number of masons in the region at the time who were responsible for building these structures. If you know more on this please let me know and I’ll be happy to share here. firstname.lastname@example.org)
The later two-story cream brick wing was added on the east side of the house in 1871. Additionally it is noted for having had a single story limestone south wing on the south side of the original cobblestone home which had been removed. This removal seems to have been fairly recent is it can be seen in the 1981 picture below. For it’s time it would have been considered an exceptionally fine home for it’s residents.
The current condition
Fast forward to today. Like so many homes, while loved by so many families over the last one-hundred and sixty years (imagine the life, lives and stories contained within this single home) accumulated differed maintenance has taken its toll. That said, in spite of what it may look like to the casual observer or those who have little appreciation for such things, it’s in remarkably good shape and repairable. (Consider what the new homes built on the horizon will look like in fifty years much less one-hundred and fifty.)
The house is eminently salvageable for contemporary living without truly compromising the authenticity of the home if there is awareness and will. There are entire communities and contemporary lifestyles being lived in homes this age and older across both coasts and in the south. The Midwest too often seems not to recognize or value this. Beloit is an old and proud community with a rich and significant history. Beloit needs and deserves to retain and celebrate it’s authentic historic built environment.
Through caring and pro-active actions by numerous individuals, primarily at the city and principally the Beloit Community Development Authority presented their COA (certificate of appropriateness) to the Landmarks Commission outlining the nature and extent of the proposed renovation last night. You can view the COA and plans here.
At base the plan is to convert this property from a sub-standard multi-family rental unit to a single-family, owner occupied residence. Efforts will be made to maintain as much of the original and historical architectural integrity of the home as is feasible and practical.
The Beloit Community Development Authority
I’ve had the opportunity to tour several of the homes the CDA has redeveloped in recent years principally those within or near one of Beloit’s three historic districts. I must say I’ve been very impressed. These are not, neither are they intended or expected to be “historic restoration” projects. They have been exceptional in the quality of work performed and sensitivity to the original and authentic character of the homes and by extension the neighborhoods. They’ve done what so many other communities have done within their communities and targeted a particularly distressed home on a street or neighborhood and redeveloped it. They have ulterior motives.
Typically, as I’ve observed the level of redevelopment far exceeds anything being done by neighboring property owners. The intent is not break-even. It is raising the bar, resetting the standard and providing the much needed spark that can often lead to other property owners following suit. Neighborhood renewal as we know does not happen over night and I don’t expect it here either. I have though personally witnessed neighborhood renewal happen time and again in other communities. I’ve witness it. It’s hard to see though, like paint drying.
At some point another property owner, encouraged does something a little more than they might have otherwise. Then another, etc. It can and does work, with time and encouragement.
A WIN for Beloit
Me, I’m thrilled to see our city step in and take on this project that I have little expectation that anyone else would. It would be a shame to lose, in time yet another truly historic Beloit home. I believe it’ll be good for the rest of the street, the broader neighborhood and the rest of us as community members.
Sunday, January 11th, 2009 11:21 am GMT +6 by RickM
Filed under Church Street, City of Beloit, College Park Historic District, Historic Preservation, Landmarks Commission, Neighborhood Discussion, Personal Notes
Yeah, it’s old news. We’ve all seen the ‘vintage’ street lamps that have been going up as streets in the older neighborhoods get new sewer, utilities and general reconstruction. You’ve surely seen them on Harrison, Bluff, Wisconsin and elsewhere. What I wasn’t aware of though was that Church street was likewise upgraded though sans the vintage lamp posts. I understand that Church street was among the first to receive the infrastructure upgrade and reconstruction. This was done though under prior administration.
Drew Pennington our Community Planner and representative on the Landmarks Commission just informed me that the City website relative to Historic Preservation has just been updated. Can’t tell you how fantastic this is. Frankly it needed a lot of help. Drew’s really made it much more user friendly and there’s much more information now available that simply was not there or much to difficult to find. Check it out here.
You’ll see that you can access Agendas, Minutes, Staff reports, application for the COA, information on the three historic districts etc. Still outstanding is being able to link directly to the preservation ordinance so that homeowners living within the historic districts can read what it states. This is a known issue. Some legacy technical constraints currently make this impossible to do cleanly. Until this can be done you can get to it here.
Beloit Municipal Code > Chapter 32 HISTORIC PRESERVATION (You’ll need to click through to Chapter 32)
Additionally, I’m sure a printed copy can be made available upon request. Also, I’ll get some copies and have these available to pass out at our meetings.
All the same… Nicely done on the site improvements so far! They’re appreciated!
It’s unfortunate that Kent Maxted’s term on the commission has expired. As chair of the Beloit Landmark’s Commisson he’s done a fine job and I’ve personally enjoyed working with him. I think and hope he’ll stick around as we could certainly use his help. I’d like to continue to work together.
We now though have a newly appointed chair for this august assemblage, Marge Fizzell. I’d imagine most of you already know Marge. Her taking on the chairmanship is exciting news. She clearly has the level of concern for the historic districts, the intellect, ideas and enthusiasm to help make positive things happen for the neighborhoods. And, I appreciate that she lives within one of the three historic districts herself along with Bob her husband, both Beloit College alums.
So anyway, I’d expect to see more good things happening as time goes with the Landmarks Commission.
Thanks Marge for taking this on.
btw… the BLC meets on the 3rd. Tuesday of the month, 7:00, city council chambers. The public is welcome.
The Beloit Landmarks Commission is currently petitioning for restoration of the number of commissioners serving on the commission to be returned to eleven as it once was from the current nine. Only recently due to some outreach recruitment efforts have we been able to gain two more applications to fill the remaining vacancies on our current nine member roster. I believe though there are more folks caring enough to participate on this revived commission. We could use your help.