‘A wonderful piece of Port history’

Saved from the wrecking ball more than 50 years ago by tenacious women, the Eghart House provides a look at life long ago, marks 150 years with Saturday celebration

THE EGHART HOUSE at 302 W. Grand Ave. in Port Washington is 150 years old, a fact being celebrated during a special open house from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 10. Ready to provide tours of the house, a restored Victorian home used today as a museum, while dressed in historically appropriate garb were Eghart House President Kara Eulgen (left) and Secretary Gina Taucher. Photo by Sam Arendt
By 
KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Ozaukee Press staff

Taking a step into the Eghart House in Port Washington is like taking a step back into history.

And that, organizers of the restored Victorian home say, is the point.

“It reminds us of where we came from, what life was like in Port Washington long ago,” Gina Taucher, who has volunteered at the Eghart House for 48 years, said. “This house is beautiful. It’s a true representation of what life would have been like in the 1880s, 1890s.

“It’s really a wonderful piece of Port Washington history. We’re preserving something important to Port Washington history and our connection with the past.”

The Eghart House at 302 W. Grand Ave. was built 150 years ago, and to celebrate organizers are hosting a special open house from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 10.

Refreshments will be served, and violinist Nicole Kamas will perform.

There won’t be an admission fee that day, and everyone who visits will be entered into a drawing for prizes.

The house was built on two lots in 1872 by Louis Teed for his brother Byron and Byron’s wife Clara.

At the time, Taucher said, the street in front of the home was Canal Street and there was a mill race in the road that went from Sauk Creek to the lakefront and powered a flour mill along the way.

In 1881, Leopold and Anna Eghart, who had six children, bought the house for $1,000.

Mr. Eghart was a judge for Ozaukee County, and his wife was a stay-at-home mother who grew vegetables and fruit trees and sold some of the produce to supplement the family’s income, Taucher said.

Anna Eghart died at age 55 in 1896, while her husband died at age 77 in 1901.

But members of the family continued to live in the house until 1969, when the Egharts’ daughter Elsa died.

Nine years earlier, the City of Port Washington had purchased the house and property from Elsa with the proviso she could live in the home until she died, Taucher said.

The city had planned to raze the house and build a parking lot for the neighboring Niederkorn Library, Taucher said, but aldermen came up against members of the Port Washington Womans Club, who thought a better plan would be to keep the house as either an art center or restoration.

“They bullied the city,” Taucher said.

Among the key players in ensuring the house was preserved were Anna and Viola Ubbink, Marge Poole, Jeanette Barr and Edith Moeser, who came up with a plan to preserve the house and restore it, Taucher said.

Among the early supporters was William Niederkorn, the founder of Simplicity Manufacturing in Port.

The house was furnished with donations from the Eghart family and families throughout the area.

“People were very generous,” Taucher said. “We have a very high quality collection of Victorian artifacts — furniture, textiles and household goods.

“They were picky,” Taucher added, noting the organizers worked with the Wisconsin Historical Society to ensure the items they accepted were historically correct.

While some pieces in the house are older than the late Victorian era, she noted that this is typical of the time.

“Those are pieces that people would have had in their home, things they might have inherited,” Taucher said.

The Eghart House was restored and furnished as a museum in 1970, and it opened for tours in November 1971.

Since then, countless people have gone through the house, including numerous school groups.

“Often people will come through and say, ‘I remember this. Grandma had one like that,’” Taucher said.

She said she likes to point out the historic features of the home, including the eyebrow windows — high windows that were opened to provide cross-ventilation — referring to them as “Victorian air conditioning,” and the carpet beater as a Victorian vacuum cleaner.

Volunteer Judy Jones said Victorian homes like the Eghart House are often overlooked today because they tend to be small and simple — but they have details that set them apart from the crowd.

She pointed out the door with its paneled pilasters that give the appearance of a supporting column, deep transom window and the lintel sidelights that allow natural light to floor the inside, as well as the working shutters that would be closed not only at night but also on hot summer days to keep the hot sun out and on the cold winter days to keep the heat in.

There is reproduction wallpaper inside the house, and Jones pointed out that the paper in the middle room contains all the colors that decorate the surrounding spaces.

The windows have bed molding that look like mantels but were designed to cover gaps in the siding and walls.

Even the hardware in the house is beautifully designed, Jones said, pointing out a beautifully decorative hinge on the interior of a door.

“It might be ornate, but it was always functional,” Jones said. “Nothing was wasted.”

The Eghart House is closed after Labor Day, but groups of five or more people may schedule a tour throughout the year by calling Taucher at (262) 284-2875.

For more information about the Eghart House, visit www.egharthouse.org.

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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