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Historians delve into farmhouse's history, style

Building's architecture makes it significant

July 21, 2009

The Elmbrook Historical Society now knows a little more about a circa-1865 farmhouse that has been the center of attention at a north-side shopping center for several weeks.

The farmhouse sits in the middle of Stonewood Village, a shopping center on Capitol Drive west of Calhoun Road. It has become a talking point in a debate over historical preservation in the city, and the Brookfield Plan Commission last week recommended approval of a plan from developer 4S that preserves the farmhouse.

The Common Council was set to vote on the issue Tuesday, after NOW's deadline.

Land owned by Hatch family

After some research through state and local records, the historical society determined the home most likely was built by Ferdinand Wahl between 1865 and 1870.

"To pinpoint exactly the date that this house was built is very difficult because of the lack of records," said Marion Bruhn, curator with the Elmbrook Historical Society.

The home was built on land once owned by Hiram and Edmund Hatch, the sons of Nathan Hatch, a Revolutionary War soldier buried in Brookfield's Oak Hill Cemetery. By 1859, the Hatches owned 160 acres in the Capitol Drive area, according to plat maps.

Hiram Hatch later became the first superintendent of the Brookfield school system.

Two houses and a schoolhouse were built on the land, including one home in the same location as the present-day Stonewood Village house. Wahl bought some of the Hatches' land in 1861 and likely tore down the former Hatch homestead and built a new home later that decade, Bruhn said.

Style of home significant

The house is built in the Italianate style, popular between 1830 and 1890. Bruhn said the Stonewood Village home is only one of three or so examples of this style in the city.

The home was built with Cream City bricks, which were manufactured in Milwaukee starting in the 1830s.

"This particular house is probably the best example of Cream City brick around," Bruhn said.

The building is significant not because of any name associated with it, but rather because of the condition of the house, she said.

The state historical society is interested in the home. Members are preparing a statement of eligibility and considering possibly seeking status on the National Register of Historic Places.

Officials with developer 4S said they would like to find a tenant to occupy the building.

- Alan Hamari

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