Walworth County landmarks still standing the test of time
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The Elkhorn Municipal Building (shown) and the Holton-Elkhorn Bandshell have been placed on the State Register of Historic Places and is expected to be named to the national register late this year. Photo submitted.
WALWORTH COUNTY--They’ve been vital pieces of their communities’ fabric for decades. Three more places in Walworth County soon will take coveted spots on the National Register of Historic Places.
(Read all of this week's stories from Walworth County Sunday HERE. )
That designation will be bestowed upon the Whitewater Passenger Depot and two places in Elkhorn, the municipal building and Holton-Elkhorn Bandshell. All three received spots on the State Register of Historic Places in August and should get word about their national status by the end of the year.
These designations provide limited protection from encroachment by federal- or state-assisted or licensed projects or state facilities development efforts. They may be eligible for matching grants for restoration, research, stabilization or acquisition, and certain tax incentives are available to depreciable properties listed on the registers.
Carol Cartwright is a professional historic resources consultant who presented the depot’s case to the Wisconsin Historical Society and is a member of the local society, so she knows everything there is to know about a treasured landmark that was built from October 1890 to April 1891 as a stop along the Chicago-Milwaukee-St. Paul Railroad, later to be called the Milwaukee Road.
“Whitewater was a fairly well-known industrial community with a couple of factories in town at that time, and being in the northwestern corner of Walworth County near Rock and Jefferson counties, it was sort of in the middle during the rise of the dairy industry in the 1870s and 1880s,” she said. “But this was actually the second depot built in Whitewater, the first being in 1852, which was a frame building and later demolished.”
Cartwright said members of the community eventually banded together to make sure the depot remained a fixture.
“It served as a passenger depot for about 60 years … the last train came through in 1952,” Cartwright said. “It still provided freight service, but the railroad closed a lot of depots because of growing popularity of cars and creation of the Interstate system. In the 1960s, it was used as a feed store and was rented by a local business. But in 1973, the community rallied to save the building at a time when the railroad wasn’t sure what it wanted to do with it. The next year, the historical society opened a museum in the depot. In the 1980s, it was declared a local landmark, and therefore, it was protected.”
The depot will join an impressive list of other Whitewater area places on the national list: Hyer Hall (1984) and The Log Cabin (1985) on University of Wisconsin-Whitewater campus; Heart Prairie Lutheran Church (1974), located south of the city on Town Line Road; the Main Street Historic District (1989); Effigy Mound Park (1991); Betty Hocking Schoonover farmstead on Warner Road (1998); the Whitewater Hotel (2010); and the Whitewater Post Office (2000).
Earlier this year, the Whitewater Historical Society received a grant, and in July, it started a renovation project of the depot that includes updating the bathroom to be handicapped accessible and moving the outside stairwell to the basement inside.
“Not every community still has a depot, and even with the renovations, we’ve maintained the historical integrity of most of the building, unlike many other places,” Cartwright said. “We’re also rehabbing the old windows and doors. But the thing we asked ourselves was, if the depot manager from the 1890s came back, would he still see the original work?”
The building’s architecture was a major selling point.