Major restoration work this season at Taylor House

Sheboygan County Historical Museum

The Taylor House on the grounds of the Sheboygan County Historical Museum will have major exterior restoration work done this season.

The Taylor House, built in the early 1850s by Judge David Taylor, a prominent citizen in the early years of Sheboygan and Sheboygan County, has had many changes made to it over the decades. Taylor was a circuit court judge and invested in the community in harbor development, railroads and many other community projects. He went on to the Wisconsin State Senate and the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

The Taylor House was land-marked locally and added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 1976.

Because it is on the National Registry of Historic Places, there are specific guidelines required in the restoration work. Scott Matula of LJM Architects Inc. has developed the restoration plans, which were reviewed by the Preservation Division of the Wisconsin Historical Society.

The current scope of the restoration work is intended to extend over four years.

The east doors were reopened in 2004 and the east business entrance was rebuilt according to the historic photographs available. The business entrance was fancy but not as formal as the front entrance to the house facing the street. Due to a number of delays in 2005, the work for 2005 and 2006 will be completed this year.

The house became county property around 1900 and was later used for a jail from 1915 to 1936, when the County Court House was completed.

The house was used by the caretaker of Taylor Park for many years and other renters and was leased to the Sheboygan County Historical Society in 1949.

The Historical Society removed the jail equipment, including the bars from the windows and opened it as the county museum in 1954. Some of the exterior architectural details were removed or "updated" at that time and everything received a fresh coat of paint. A major landscaping plan was completed around the outside of the building. The museum was originally on the first floor with the second floor being rented out for many years. In the early 1970s, the museum expanded to the entire building. The Taylor House served as the main museum building until the new museum was opened in 1997.

The scope of the work includes cleaning and tuck pointing the brick, the removal of the 1950s front porch and building a replica of the 1850s formal front porch, repair of wood architectural features, removal of the fire escape and bricking in the door, repainting the wood trim to its original "creamy" color to compliment the cream city brick, regrade around the foundation for better water drainage away from the foundation and install new sidewalks to connect the entrances around the building and to make the first floor ADA accessible to guests.

The major item cut from the scope of work this year because funds are not available is the rebuilding of the five chimneys, which would cost an additional $13,730. Originally the Taylor House had 10 fireplaces served by the five somewhat majestic chimneys.

The majority of the exterior restoration work will be done by the Mike Koenig Construction Co. Museum staff and volunteers will be involved with a significant part of the site preparation and lower level work on the windows, storm windows and garage. The volunteer work is already under way and contract work is expected to start soon.

The total value of work this season is set at $135,000. The county has committed to providing 50 percent of the finances needed and the Historical Society is committed to cover the other 50 percent through donations, volunteer work and in-kind contributions of services and materials.
Donors to this restoration project include the Clicquennoi Family Foundation, Kohler Foundation, Rotary Foundation, Historical Society Endowment Trust, Carpenters Union 731 and many volunteers.

For more information, call museum director Bob Harker at 458-1103. If you would like to make a donation, send a check to the Sheboygan County Historical Society, 3110 Erie Ave., Sheboygan, 53081, ATTN: Taylor House Restoration Fund. All donations are tax deductible.

The museum is open from April 1 through Oct. 31 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Tours of the outdoor buildings are at 11 a.m., 1 and 3 p.m. Admission is $3 for adults, $1 for children ages 7 to 12 and free for ages 6 and under. Members and their guests are free. The museum is closed on Sundays and Mondays.

“Major restoration work this season at Taylor House.” The Sheboygan Press. May 18, 2006, page T14.