By Jennifer Eisenbart

Editor

As the growth of historical societies in the area has shown, many are interested in finding out just what life was like in past centuries.

Now, a Walworth County iconic spot is getting ready to reopen, with a change in style and reach further back into its history.

Webster House Museum, located at 9 E. Rockwell St. in Elkhorn, will reopen its doors to the public starting May 20. Hours will be Friday from 1 to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission is $5, $4 if visitors live in Walworth County and free to members of the Walworth County Historical Society.

The historic site has been closed since 2019, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the time off, those involved with the museum decided to give the site a cleanup and makeover.

While the house previously stored a lot in terms of historical items and memorabilia, much of what was in the home – extra rocking chairs, other duplicate items in the home and most of the Civil War material – has been moved to the Walworth County Historical Society’s new home at 9 S. Board St., Elkhorn.

Now, the home is set up to be toured, and visitors can see what life was like in years past. In the home, place settings adorn the table, the music room has been organized, the upstairs bedrooms set up as if people lived in them and the downstairs summer kitchen put in full order.

“We wanted to recreate what it was like for the Websters to live here,” said Jim Boardman, the president of the historical society. “We had a lot of stuff they had taken in through the years that was not part of that era.

“Now you can walk through Webster House, and it looks like someone is living here,” he added

The Webster family lived in the home from 1857 through the 1920s, seeing its occupants through the Civil War and perhaps serving as a stop on the Underground Railroad. But the building has existed since the 1800s.

It was moved from downtown Elkhorn in the 1850s, rolled on logs from what is now Veterans Park to its current address.

In addition to the home, the annex to Webster House has its own collections. A sizeable replica of Westgate Manor – a large home in Fontana that is now gone – is there, as is the expansive collection of taxidermied animals collected by Howard Cook before he was forced to donate them.

The home also features an old-fashioned spinning wheel, a large number of Native American artifacts and related items. There used to be more, but as Boardman explained, the additional space at the new historical society has home in handy.

“We probably took about 50% of what was in (Webster House, and moved it),” he explained.

The historical society is still in search of docents for Webster House and the annex. If interested, call 262-723-7848.

 

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