Jan/Feb
2016

Stewartville's Own Little Known Historic District

Written by Debi Neville
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Did you know Stewartville has an historic “Silk Stocking Road?” Neither do many Stewartville residents, according to Pat Johnson, librarian and history buff.

“You mention that term and many look surprised, but it was called that in the early 1900s. It’s an area along Lake Street, just off Main Street,” she says. “People named it that because if you could afford silk stockings, you could afford to live there. It was a very desirable area.” At the turn of the century, the new homes were built by doctors, lawyers and prominent citizens of Stewartville. 

309 NORTH MAIN STREET 

The stately home of William Davis stands as a testament to the era and area. Located at the corner of Lake Street and Main (U.S. Highway 63), the large home was occupied by individual families until 2004 when it became a gift shop. If you drive by today, you will see the sign: Stewartville Heritage House owned by Van and Lori Beach, who say they purchased the home “to share with the community.”

Lovingly preserved, the carved woodwork, hardwood floors, stained glass window and even the wallpaper speaks to a time of elegance. As a guesthouse and lovely location for meetings, retreats and celebratory occasions, it holds its age exceptionally well. Rooms are furnished with period pieces. Paying homage to past residents, guest rooms are named for past owners.

The home was built by William Davis, beginning in 1897, and first occupied in 1901. Davis was a Wisconsin resident who used it as a second home and office for his Stewartville crockery and general store. In 1910, his store was destroyed by fire, so he left Stewartville. An interesting twist: Van Beach’s great-grandfather, John, built a barn with many materials coming from the Davis store. 

Several families subsequently called the Victorian “home.” When the country fell on hard times during the 30s, the Mayou family owners took in boarders to pay the mortgage. It was rumored that a secret still in the attic conveyed alcohol to its renters via a dumb waiter that went from attic to basement.

Laurie Wildeman, the guesthouse hostess, says many heirs of previous occupants have visited. “They are so happy that they can go ‘home’ again.” 

Whoever visits the Victorian appreciates its heritage and beauty, which is just the way Lori and Van want it for years to come.

601 6TH STREET SOUTHWEST

The red farm house in Stewartville was built by one of the first five settlers in the area, Truman Wooldridge. It was constructed in 1853 with materials brought by ox and wagon from mills near Winona. After his death 15 years later, the farm and home passed on to  his son, Eugene S. Wooldridge. After serving in the Civil War, Eugene returned to the farm and became an important figure in the growing village. When the railroad came through the area in 1891, Wooldridge platted portions of his land, ready for development. He promoted new businesses in the area and donated a total of 14 lots to the village to help Stewartville grow. The home now sits on 16 acres of the original farm.

Through its more than 100 years, the farmhouse has always been occupied by families. Twenty-seven years ago, Ron and Shirley Carlson purchased the property. They fell in love with the history and the buildings. 

“The house needed extensive work when we bought it,” Shirley says. Following information regarding the original layout and design by architect husband Ron, “We have restored all but one closet in the home; it’s been a labor of love.”  

The work has yielded a beautiful residence, which has been on home tours several times in the past. People are very interested and love to see the restoration. The Carlsons’ quarter century of work protects the integrity of a century-old home and will keep it safe for future generations. 

Debi Neville is a Rochester freelance writer who finds it difficult to abbreviate the history of these interesting properties.

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