Historic home’s renovation underway

Rachel Mummey/The Herald
Bob Zink of Ferdinand, foreground, taped off an area around the Dr. Alois Wollenmann House in Ferdinand on Tuesday morning as he and Brian Beckman of Jasper prepared to remove the second-story balcony, which contains lead paint. The two men work for Tri-Cap, which was subcontracted to perform the lead abatement on the house. The house was built in 1903 and is being restored by the Ferdinand Historical Society.

Herald Staff Writer

FERDINAND — After years of sporting a rotting facade, the historic Dr. Alois Wollenmann House in Ferdinand is undergoing a major renovation.

Restoration work on the exterior of the Swiss-chalet house began earlier this month through a $400,000 federal historic preservation grant awarded last year. The house, built in 1903 at 1150 Main St. and now owned by the Ferdinand Historical Society, is also undergoing interior changes.

“We’re very excited,” said Alvin Hoppenjans, a society member overseeing the work for the group. “We’re finally seeing things get done rather than just seeing everything on paper. It’s not that it just might happen, it is happening.”

Crews are removing lead paint from the exterior trim and the rotted cedar siding is being taken off.
Pat Seger, the Bretzville contractor hired for the project, said he hopes to have the grant-funded work, which includes rewiring the house and fixing a basement wall, completed by Christmas as long as weather cooperates.

“It’s progressing pretty well,” he said. “It just takes a lot of time when you’re working with a historic building like this.”

Gerald Schaefer of Ferdinand-based Universal Design Associates, the firm that engineered and designed the renovation work, said the building’s designation on the National Register of Historic Places means that the exterior must be kept as original as possible.

The original siding will be replaced with identical new cedar shingles, each of which will be hand-nailed on the building.

“The existing shingles are just beyond repairing,” Seger said. “They’re crumbling when you take them off.”

Replacement wood for the decorative stripe of off-white trim that ran around the house will have to be custom-made to match the originals. The railings from the front porch and balcony, which were rebuilt years ago, also will replaced and the design will be changed to match the original plans.

“We were able to piece together the original design from looking at old photos and a partial set of old blueprints the Wollenmann family had,” Schaefer said. “It took a lot of people many hours, but we got it as close as we can.”

The gables, rafters and decorative angle brackets at the top of the house will be saved and restored.

“It’s just a really neat house,” Seger said. “We want to keep everything we can, but some stuff will have to be new.”

Meanwhile, the historical society has been working on the interior of the house since January, using volunteers and donations from area residents and businesses.

“This is my pet project for the summer, along with a number of other people,” Hoppenjans said. “We’ve been very fortunate and have had a lot of support.”

The second floor, which Hoppenjans said needed mostly minor upgrades like fresh paint, is nearly finished. Most of the more major work is underway on the ground floor. A wall has been taken out, some rooms are stripped down to the studs and the lower-level bathroom is being upgraded to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“The intent is that it’s going to be a retail shop, and that will help sustain (the house’s) upkeep,” Hoppenjans said.

Landscaping will be done later and the society plans to keep the grounds open to the public.
“We’ve got a great parks system here in Ferdinand, but we want this to be open for people to walk around,” Hoppenjans said. “We want a green space in the middle of town.”

Contact Alexandra Sondeen at asondeen@dcherald.com.

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