Council assesses historic value of Lenroot House – Superior Telegram

SUPERIOR — The home built by Superior’s only man who could have been President of the United States may soon be recognized on the Municipal Register of Historic Places as the Lenroot House.

It’s a story that was unknown to Brent and Ashley Fennessey when they purchased their home at 810 E. Third St. in 2013.

It was the character of the house that attracted them.

“He just has a ton of character inside,” councilman Brent Fennessey said. “He’s got a ton of character on the outside – a character you don’t see very often anymore.”

As the house fell into disrepair, they could imagine the house’s potential.

The house was built with a round tower and a polygonal dormer that merges with the main gable of the house. With wide cantilevered eaves, the house was clad in a variety of shingles, which evolved from the Queen Anne style. The rare style is best represented by the Lenroot House at 810 E. Third St., according to the 2019 Intensive Architecture and History Survey Report by the Wisconsin Historical Society.

After the couple bought the house, Fennessey said local librarian, author and historian Teddie Meronek contacted him after writing an article about the Lenroots that she thought he would find interesting.

He launched Fennessey on a project to find out more about the house’s history.

“It was a fun process because it’s like we find this little nugget of information and there’s nothing there for a few years and then we find another little piece,” Fennessey said. “Surprisingly, there wasn’t much that we were able to gather. We still haven’t been able to find an original image of it.

Built in the kitten corner of Fairlawn Mansion, he said they even searched for photographs of the museum that housed Martin and Grace Pattison, but had no luck finding a glimpse of their back home -plan.

“We found a photo of the (Lenroot) family standing next to the house, but it’s a close-up photo and there’s not a lot of architecture that’s shown in that photo,” Fennessey said. .

Irvine Lenroot, who built the house in the early 1890s, lived there with his wife, Clara (Clough) Lenroot and two daughters. He got his start in Wisconsin politics as an ally of Governor Robert La Follette while serving in the state assembly from 1901 to 1907.

In 1909, Lenroot took office in Washington, D.C., serving in the United States House of Representatives as a Republican from Wisconsin’s 11th congressional district. He served four successive terms until resigning in 1918 after being elected to the United States Senate to fill a position left vacant by the death of United States Senator Paul Husting, who was killed in a hunting accident.

“He was the only U.S. senator to come out of Superior,” Fennessey said.

But it was the 1920 Republican National Convention in Chicago that created one of the most interesting events in American political history, according to a 1977 article in “The Wisconsin Magazine of History.” After U.S. Senator Warren G. Harding of Ohio was nominated for president, delegates ignored advice from party leaders who believed the more progressive Lenroot would balance the ticket with the more conservative Harding. Instead, delegates elected Massachusetts Governor Calvin Coolidge as Harding’s running mate by a 4-1 margin.

Coolidge became the country’s 30th president when Harding died in 1923.

Besides Lenroot, the house has long been owned by community leaders, Fennessey said. In 1913, the house was sold to Edward McMahon, owner of McMahon Co., followed by a sale in 1938 to an Evening Telegram managing director, Sidney Buchanan, Fennessey said.

In 1950 it was sold to Emerick Pohling, a district engineer for Ramapo Ajax, who made brake shoes, he said. After sitting vacant for two years in the early 1950s, the house was sold to Richard Sell, a salesman for Howard & Sell, an Oldsmobile dealership, before being sold to Robert Cole, also a salesman at Howard & Sell, who owned it for over 50 years before the Fennessey family bought the house.

Fennessey said he decided to seek a spot on the Municipal Register of Historic Places to recognize and display his home’s history. He also hopes for statewide recognition in the future.

According to a survey of historic properties in Superior conducted by the Wisconsin Historical Society in 2019, the house may be eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Upper City Council will consider listing the property on the City Register following a public hearing at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 17, in Room 201 of the Government Center.

“Superior has a super rich history,” Fennessey said. “I think it’s important that we highlight that whenever we can.”

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