Part of County's Past Hits the Road, Pinecrest Prepares for Historic Meeme House to Move into Village

Bergmann, Todd S. The Valders Journal, August 27, 2015, page 12.

The Manitowoc County Historical Society is reaching deep into the past and the rural countryside again to do what it does best, bring history alive at Pinecrest Historical Village.

This time, the organization is bringing a bit of the Town of Meeme in southeastern Manitowoc County to the village near Manitowoc. The society's leaders and contractors broke ground on Aug. 20 for the new site of the historic Meeme House. Foundation work for the relocated building will begin soon.

The building, with its history as a stage coach inn, meeting hall, ballroom and tavern, will become a hub for social life in the historical village.

The main building, and its adjacent livery stable and poll house, will eventually stand behind the octagon barn and dance hall at Pinecrest, which has showcased old buildings from Manitowoc County since its opening in 1970.

The historical society will build a new road so visitors can walk to the building as well as an outdoor arena and baseball field, executive director Amy Meyer said.

Charlie Bauer, a local history buff sometimes known as the mayor of Pinecrest, said he learned about the house, built around 1855, would be available and discussed the situation with Meyer.

The historical society bought the house, the poll house, livery stable, and five acres of land for $66,000. Once the buildings are at Pinecrest, the historical society will sell the land, Meyer said.

Bauer called the Meeme House a fascinating building.

"I like the fact that there was an auditorium upstairs," he said. "I like the fact that they added a stage area for puppet shows."

The building has trap doors in the floor and ceiling that allowed puppets to come up from under the floor and down from the ceiling, Bauer said.

"It is just a fascinating building," he said. "The building was used for town meetings."

People from a local cheese factory and area farmers once met in the building to set the price for cheese, Bauer added.

"The building's got a lot of local history," he said.

The structure's original purpose was as a stage coach inn, said architect Jennifer Lehrke, who is working on the restoration.

Meeme House is similar to the 1843 Dousman Inn in Brookfield, the 1846 Hawks Inn in Delafield, the 1850 Wade House in Greenbush, and the 1850-51 Okauchee House in Okauchee.

An architectural challenge in moving and restoring the house is the many layers of material in the walls left from multiple remodeling projects, Lehrke said.

"Part of the struggle is trying to figure out what is original and what isn't," she said. "What could we safely remove... in trying to recreate what was there?"

The historical society is trying to recreate the Meeme House as it existed around 1900, rather than its earliest days.

Instead of a mid-18th century stage coach inn, the Meeme House will be an early 20th century inn with a second floor ballroom and stage, Lehrke said.

When restoration is complete, Meyer and Pinecrest will have an auditorium with a stage and seating for 100 people. The Niles Church at the village, currently used for group events, only has room for about 80.

Another challenge in moving the building to Pinecrest is the power lines along the way, Lehrke said.

Raising the lines between Meeme and Pinecrest would be too expensive, she said. Instead, Eis Structure Movers of Two Rivers will transport the house in two layers, the first floor and the second floor, attic, and roof.

Also, she said Eis will do some rebuilding of the second floor.

At Pinecrest, Hamann Construction will dig a foundation for the house in the next couple weeks, Meyer said. The building will have a concrete foundation and a full basement.

The building currently has a fieldstone foundation and a small crawl space. Fieldstone veneer will make the building look authentic, Meyer said.

In addition to digging a foundation for the original Meeme House, Steve Hamann, president of Hamann Construction, said his company will dig foundations for a replica of an addition to the house and a new wrap-around porch.

The contractor will do more than just the foundation work, Hamann said.

"We'll be putting an addition on," he said. "We will be redoing the roof and the exterior."

Meyer said the historical society is close to collecting $300,000 for foundation and moving work, but needs $1 million for the entire project, which includes $50,000 set aside for long-term care.

Fund-raising efforts include sales of T-shirts, board member John Bilka said.

Also, Meyer said the historical society plans a capital campaign for Meeme House, once the move is complete.