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Lake Geneva Chiropractic

National grant to help evaluate historic building



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July 28, 2010 | 08:30 AM
Delavan — The National Trust for Historic Preservation has awarded the city a $4,450 grant for a conditions assessment of the Israel Stowell Temperance House.

The award was announced July 15.

City Administrator Joe Salitros said the city matched the grant dollar for dollar to pay LJM Architects of Sheboygan $8,900 to do the assessment.

Salitros said engineers and architects from LJM will go through the building, examining the wiring, ventilation, roofing and foundation to determine what it would take to bring the building back to useable form.

Built in 1840, the Israel Stowell Temperance House, 67 E. Walworth Ave., is believed to be the oldest surviving building in the city and, according to the Wisconsin Historical Society, the only known temperance house remaining in the state.

For a while, it looked like the historic building would become a thing of the past. A raze order hung over the old building, which everyone admits is in decrepit condition. However, a group of citizens came together to form a special subcommittee of the Delavan Historical Society.

The owner of the old temperance house, Edward Chesko, who lives next door, began the process of donating the building to the society in hopes that it might be restored.

Salitros said the historical society is expected to take ownership this week.

Delavan was founded as a temperance colony in 1840. According to research done by Chesko, shortly thereafter, founders Samuel and Henry Phoenix contracted with Israel Stowell to build the 34-by-27-foot, two-story building. It served as a hotel, meeting place and social hub for the local temperance movement whch opposed the sale and consumption of alcohol.

Temperance followers also opposed slavery in the years that led up to the Civil War.

Israel Sowell's was one of a series of temperance house inns that had sprung up across the northern United States. Only those who didn't indulge in alcoholic beverages were welcome to the hotel. No spirits were served at the temperance houses.

Sowell's house was a stopping point on the stagecoach route to Chicago. It also became the site of town hall meetings and a social meeting place that was an alternative to taverns.

The building changed hands over the years, even serving for a time as a tavern. It ended its useful life as a book store. The building was added to several times to accommodate its changing uses.

The Delavan Historical Society hopes the building can become a place where people can learn about Delavan's history.

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