By WARREN BLUHM
Green Bay Press-Gazette
TOWN OF CHASE, Wis. (AP) — A stone sentinel standing several hundred feet off Oconto County S will one day form the centerpiece of a town park and historic agricultural museum, if a committee of dedicated volunteers has anything to say about it.
The 106-year-old barn is the last building standing on the land farmed by Daniel Krause, a prominent early citizen of the town of Chase who lived there from 1870 to 1920.
It’s also one of just two remaining barns in Wisconsin constructed with fieldstone, according to Christopher Jaworski, president of the Pulaski Historical Society. The society was instrumental in obtaining National Register of Historic Places status for the barn in 1999.
“We are losing a lot of these old barns, which are symbolic icons of our state,” said Jaworski, who is also working with the Stone Barn Committee.
Fundraising has begun toward a restoration project, according to Kristin Kolkowski, who has spearheaded the effort. The Jeffris Family Foundation of Janesville, which works with historic projects around the state, has awarded a challenge grant to the town of Chase.
“Our goal is to raise $430,000,” Kolkowski said. “If we can raise $287,000 — about two-thirds — by June 30, 2012, then the Jeffris Foundation will give us the remaining $143,000.”
The barn changed hands 11 times between 1920, when Krause retired, and 1954, Jaworski said. Brothers Casey and Stanley Frysh used the structure to raise heifers for 48 years. They nursed the barn through one major repair after a tornado tore off a piece of the roof in 1994.
The renovation crew discovered some wear in the north wall that could have resulted in a collapse within a few years. They stabilized and shored up the wall and fixed a few other cracks in the barn’s stone walls.
Mary DuChatelle, who purchased the property from the Frysh brothers in 2002, and Harold Peterson were the last two private owners of the barn. The town of Chase bought the land from Peterson in May 2007, setting in motion the effort to restore the structure for future generations.
A portion of the town’s Web site is devoted to a detailed history of the barn, from the Krause family’s arrival in the area in 1870 through a fall 2009 archaeological dig of the area where the family home was located.
The old barn has two main areas, including a large open space that Kolkowski envisions as a gathering place for weddings and receptions, dances, car shows and other events.
The stable area will be a “rustic agriculture museum” to feature old farm equipment and displays illustrating rural life in the late 19th century and early 20th century, she said. The Web site includes photos from the National Dairy Shrine at the Hoard Historical Museum in Fort Atkinson to show the possibilities.
Future plans for the park include a stone walking path, a fieldstone bridge over a nearby creek and perhaps even an old-time general store.
In addition to private donations, development of the park — including the barn purchase — is being funded through the town’s Park Fund, which is generated through park fees and impact fees from new home construction in Chase.
“The town of Chase has no intention of ever putting any of these park expenses on the property tax roll,” Kolkowski said. “If there’s not enough money in the Park Fund for some of these features, we’ll wait until there is.”