Having raised more than half of the $145,000 needed through special appeals to members and allocation of savings, the Wauwatosa Historical Society is now seeking the public’s help in funding the new roof on the Kneeland-Walker House at 7406 Hillcrest Drive.
The stately 120-year-old home is the city’s premier example of Victorian architecture and has served as WHS headquarters since 1987. The property has received local, county, state and national historical designations.
The Kneeland-Walker House and its surrounding 1.5 acres are special to the community in other ways, too.
The 19th century school house on the second floor of the coach house has welcomed over 8,000 students during the past 15 years.
The Victorian gardens have been featured on the national HGTV show "Great American Gardens". Thousands of people of all ages visit the grounds and the house every year to enjoy Firefly Art Fair, Mystery Nights and Very Merry Christmas House.
An estimated 14,000 historical materials, including photos, documents and artifacts, are entrusted to the society’s care. The Judith A. Simonsen Research Library on the second floor of the house is used by more than 100 visitors annually to conduct personal research. WHS staff and volunteers reply to an equal number of historical information requests received via U.S. mail and e-mail.
Public access to the second-floor library and society research services have been on hold since February after frequent and severe leaks prompted relocation of thousands of historical files to other areas of the house. Fortunately, none of the materials sustained any permanent water damage.
After studying similar historical restoration projects, reviewing finances and interviewing contractors, the WHS Board of Directors contracted with F. J. A. Christiansen Roofing Co. to replace the 60 year-old-roof on both the main building and coach house.
"The Kneeland-Walker House is a model for preservation in our community, so historical accuracy of the replacement roof is very important," explains WHS President Jeff Roznowski.
Cedar shingles and copper Yankee gutters will retain the original look of the 1890s structure, while ice and water shields and a cedar breather for air circulation will help prolong the new roof’s life.
"This is the historical society’s single, largest financial undertaking since buying the property 23 years ago," notes Roznowski. "The board is committed to maintaining the pristine condition of the property with top-quality materials."
Tax-deductible financial donations to the "Raise the Roof" campaign can be made online at
www.wauwatosahistoricalsociety.org or send checks made payable to Wauwatosa Historical Society, 7406 Hillcrest Drive, Wauwatosa, WI 53213. Call 414-774-8672 or send e-mail to [email protected] for more information.
The society is also seeking financial support for the roof project from corporate partners and through grants.
"Maintaining this magnificent structure makes a local difference and will benefit community residents for many generations. Thank you, in advance, for helping preserve Wauwatosa’s own historic ‘grand dame’ Kneeland-Walker Victorian house," said Roznowski.