Mystery Place: Delavan home stands the test of time
The former home of George Passage is located at 112 Main St. in Delavan. In “Delavan's Historic Residential Architecture,” author Frank Landi describes the house as being in the Italianate style. It was one of the first brick houses built in Delavan. The brick came from the Delavan Brick Co. If you drive or walk past this house, notice the balustrade observation deck on the roof.
Passage was born Feb. 5, 1817, in Schenectady County, New York. He came to Delavan in June 1842, where he was in the dry good and general merchandise business, according to Albert Beckwith's “History of Walworth County.” At one time he built a brick store along with Aaron Hardin Taggart, stocking it with general goods. He also was mentioned as a partner with James Aram, Leonard E. Downie and Col. Jacob T. Foster in the local lumber company.
According to the 1882 “History of Walworth County,” Passage was interested in bringing the railroad to Delavan.
He invested about $8,000 in this venture — no small sum in those days.
He then invested money in two livery stables in the Pennsylvania oil region. Both burned and he had a loss of about $7,000. He then returned to Delavan.
Passage and his first wife, Altie Davinson, had six children: Eva, Georgiana, Emma J., Rove V., Frank and Ella. The latter married Page Buckley and was the only one to remain in Delavan.
Altie died in December 1866. George remarried in November 1867 to Ann Vanderpool. They had only one son, William.
Passage served as an associate town supervisor in 1844 and 1846 and served several times on the village board of trustees. He owned 18 acres of land within the village, plus 25 village lots.
His son, William, was born Aug. 26, 1868, in Delavan. After he finished school, he worked for his father for two years. Then he worked at the Walworth County Democrat newspaper before moving to Iowa to work for a newspaper there. After a year, he came back to Delavan and spent four years at the Wisconsin School for the Deaf in the printing department.
Next, William moved to Marshfield and worked at their paper for about a year and a half before moving back to Delavan. Around 1897, he became a reporter for the Delavan Republican.
In 1903, William bought half interest in the Delavan Enterprise and two years later became sole owner and editor. He served as a city alderman.
George died on May 29, 1888. Beckwith stated that at his death, Passage had been in business the longest time of anyone in the county. His home now is a bed and breakfast.
Ginny Hall, a Delavan historian, is author of the “Walking around ...” and “Meandering ... ” books, which highlight the history of Walworth County communities.