City Eyes Historic Designation for Downtown Buildings, Parks

Kuszynski, Jennifer.The Sheboygan Press. February 11, 2007, page A1.

Dayra Botzau calls the cream-colored, century-old Victorian home at 710 Michigan Ave. "the perfect house to bring back to life."

Slowly, surely, Botzau, 36, is working on fixing up the interior of the house to honor her late common-law husband, Edwin Rivera, a man who enjoyed restoring and woodworking and who was studying carpentry at the time of his death.

Rivera, 32, drowned in a watercraft accident off North Point in Lake Michigan in July 2005. Botzau, who jumped from the watercraft into the lake to try to save Rivera, was rescued.

The mother of three children, Botzau purchased the home in December 2005 as a place to raise her family after Rivera's death, knowing it needed "a lot of TLC."

"I was thinking mostly of him when I saw the house and I thought, 'God, Eddie would love this home and it would be a project for him,'" Botzau said. "And it'll just keep me busy."

The two-story Michigan Avenue home, built around 1895, is one of eight properties that the City of Sheboygan's Historic Preservation Commission is considering for historic designation.

A public hearing is scheduled at 6:30 p.m., Tuesday in the Rocca Room at Mead Public Library to gather comments on the proposed historic designation status of the buildings.

"Sheboygan is one of the last cities in the entire state to do anything for landmarking historic buildings," said Scott Lewandoske, chairman of the historic preservation commission. "Sheboygan Falls and Plymouth are way ahead of Sheboygan."

Besides Botzau's home, Sheridan and Fountain parks, City Hall, the century-old downtown fire station, two schoolhouses and The Sheboygan Press building are under consideration for historic designation.

"In the last few years, the City of Sheboygan has a study done with the help of the state historical society, going through the entire city and surveying which sites and buildings are eligible to be landmarked," Lewandoske said, adding each site chosen will receive a plaque.

The eight properties were determined by a four-phase survey between 2002 and 2006.

Jennifer Lehrke headed up the project, performing historical research and overseeing and authoring the survey.

The survey examined all properties in the city, in an area bordered by Eisner Avenue on the north, Washington Avenue on the south, Taylor Drive on the west and Lake Michigan on the east.

The results of the survey, compiled into a 300-page book, detail the approximately 1,600 properties that would be eligible for historic designation within the City of Sheboygan. A copy of the historical survey is available at Mead Public Library in Sheboygan and the Sheboygan County Historical Research Center in Sheboygan Falls.

"It was a lot of work," Lehrke said. "We had a crew of employees, interns and staff assisting on the research and the paperwork."

Lewandoske said he hopes the eight properties up for consideration are only the beginning.

"We'll probably do more than eight next time," he said, adding the commission plans to add new sites every year.

Lee Montemayor, vice chairman of the Historic Preservation Commission, said there are a number of benefits associated with giving properties a historic designation.

"One thing is to the preserve the history you have within your community," Montemayor said. "You also can qualify for state grants and other things by having areas of the city designated as historic districts."

Montemayor said he hopes the designation will save pieces of Sheboygan's history.

"We have lost a lot of old homes that have been demolished or abandoned," Montemayor said. "They're gone now, you'll never get them back."

Following the public hearing, the commission will make a recommendation to the Sheboygan Common Council, which will ultimately decide if the eight locations will receive designation as historic sites, Montemayor said.

Botzau, a staff sergeant in the U.S. Air Force National Guard with the 128th Air Refueling Wing in Milwaukee, is excited about her home being considered for the honor. She's put a lot of time into improving the house and has high hopes of making the place worthy of becoming a city landmark.

"I think if I could make it happen, it would definitely be a beautiful home," she said.