Historic Ferdinand home wanted as gathering place


FERDINAND — The future of Ferdinand’s historic Wollenmann Home is up for grabs.

Monkey Hollow Bistro — an offshoot of the Monkey Hollow Winery located in St. Meinrad — ceased operation inside the Main Street building in mid-January after calling it home for three years. The St. Meinrad winery is still open, though, and Monkey Hollow co-founder Dan Hedinger said he plans to begin selling food at that location this summer.

Hedinger said the bistro closed for several reasons — it was difficult to find employees, the kitchen was too small for its operations and business wasn’t going as well as Hedinger would have liked.

The Wollenmann Home

He said he didn’t want to close the bistro, but added he couldn’t keep it up when it wasn’t turning a profit.

The Ferdinand Historical Society owns the Wollenmann Home and property, and members said Tuesday they hope another community-oriented business will call it home. Some ideas mentioned included a bed and breakfast, a gift shop, another restaurant, or another long-term venture.

And while they aren’t counting any potential tenants out yet, Historical Society members Diane Hoppenjans and her husband and the society’s vice president, Alvin Hoppenjans, said the house transformed into a hub for conversation and interaction when Monkey Hollow occupied it. They’d like to keep it a gathering place.

“I’d just like to see the building be alive again,” said Ann Weyer, president of the Historical Society. “As in, there’s people here (and) there’s something going on.”

Alvin added: “I think, kind of generally speaking, we’d like to have something that is open to the public.”

In the meantime, Weyer said the group wants to avoid hosting short-term events like parties in the expansive space the home offers.

The Swiss chalet was built in 1903 and has been through quite a bit in the 115 years since. Before the bistro set up shop inside its walls, the home survived 11 children growing up in its halls and was time and again expanded, repaired and renovated.

Verna Lee Wollenmann of Ferdinand and her sister, Gloria Irene (Wollenmann) Shreve of Santa Claus, were granddaughters of Dr. Alois Wollenmann and grew up in the house and retained ownership until 2010, when they sold it to a group of seven Ferdinand residents. That group purchased the home to save it from potential demolition and later transferred ownership to the Ferdinand Historical Society.

The home was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2013. After the Monkey Hollow Bistro moved into the space in 2014, a backyard pergola was constructed at the home for music concerts, and parking lot lighting was also added.

“We don’t want it to be a private residence where nobody else can come here,” Alvin said. “We want it to be ... kind of like a town square.”

The group does not have a timeline for finding a new tenant for the home, but Weyer and Alvin said the sooner the better.

Those interested in leasing the space can contact Alvin and Diane at 812-367-2908.

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