TB Scott Mansion Destruction in Merrill a Stark Warning
OnFocus – The TB Scott Mansion has stood on “Holy Cross Hill” in Merrill for more than a century, but will soon be a memory (though a recent effort to digitally preserve the house is in progress). Currently in the process of being demolished, the mansion is being torn down as part of a property sale involving Ascension. The hospital and all surrounding property is being sold, and the mansion is included in that sale.
Built in the 1880’s, the mansion was the former home of the Scott’s, a prominent lumber family that helped settle the community. It has been empty for 20 years.
When learning of the demolition, Merrill residents were upset. The city did not have the funds to move the building and the historical preservation committee had not taken steps to make the house a landmark. Being privately owned, the land owner could do whatever they wanted with the house.
Marshfield and Historic Preservation
Marshfield residents involved in historic preservation were saddened to hear of the events in Merrill, and are using the TB Scott Mansion story as an example of why public involvement and interest in local history is critical.
“What people can do to prevent this from happening is related directly to understanding the value of the historic building or site,” said Kim Krueger, Coordinator of the North Wood County Historical Society (NWCHS) (Upham Mansion/House).”I think one of the best ways for a site to be preserved is for the community to understand and be interested in its history and significance.”
There are a number of considerations/criteria for a building/site to meet in order to be on the historic register, including historical significance or significance architectural value, for example (read more here), however a listing is not necessarily a guarantee of safety.
“A building or site that has the designation has reasons for being deemed worthy of perseveration. The more the community understands its own history – where it came from, the people and industries/business that helped develop the community’s identity – that helped it BE, the more it can appreciate a specific site or building and its significance,” explained Krueger.
She added that even though a building may be registered on the State and/or National Register, that does not guarantee the building cannot be torn down.
“There have been numerous buildings on the National Register that been demolished, many because they were not or could not be maintained or sustained,” she said. “Could this happen to the Gov. Upham House? I would hope not. I would hope that if, for some reason, the North Wood County Historical Society were not able to maintain/sustain the Upham House, the building would go to a private owner who understood and truly valued the history connected with not only the house, but the community as well.”
Kris Coleman, an active member of Marshfield’s Historic Preservation Committee, the local Historic Preservation Association, and a NWCHS Board Member, works with other members to keep history alive in Central Wisconsin.
“What I encourage on all of these is the appreciation of historic structures, and education about the upkeep and maintenance of these buildings,” she said, adding that there are many things that individuals can do to protect historic buildings from demolition.
First and foremost, simply get involved. There are many organizations to join, donate to, socialize with, and simply enjoy at any level of membership,” she said.
“Secondly, spread the word about the importance of these structures and the ability to apply for historic tax credits for both personal homes and businesses, which helps make this much more affordable,” she added. “Lastly, I encourage anyone to visit a local museum, historic home or park and truly appreciate what your community and area already have to offer.”
For those looking to become more hands-on in historic preservation, there is another option.
“If you are a truly brave soul, you can even buy a fixer upper of your own and actually save a piece of history for yourself,” said Coleman. “It takes time, a lot of work, study, money of course, and sometimes knowing when you have to admit defeat and break down and hire a professional, but the outcome is remarkable!”
Coleman and her husband love to restore historic homes and restore them to their former glory.
“That is what my husband and I love to do and it fills our life with purpose -as well as dust – if you live in the mess like we do,” she said. “If we hadn’t bought this house, it would have probably ended up just like the one in Merrill, as it was in terrible shape with snow in the kitchen and mold in the basement.”
Coleman described removing truckloads of rubbish, working hard in the yard, demolishing and rebuilding the uninsurable garage, and adding paint, wire, bleach, wood, glass, roofing, etc. to transform her home.
“It finally is looking like a house to be proud of,” she said. “It must be almost time to move and start all over again! If more people showed interest in these beautifully built pieces of history, there would be no reason to demolish them.”
To get involved in local history, visit www.uphammansion.com or ci.marshfield.wi.us.
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