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Germantown grants historic status to Pilgrim Road house

Jacob Schlaefer Homestead built in 1856

Feb. 18, 2014

Germantown — A residential property with roots exceeding Wisconsin's statehood has been given a special designation by Germantown officials.

The Village Board on Monday voted unanimously in favor of rezoning a 3.9-acre property at N11685 Pilgrim Road to a historic designation. The home sitting on the property was built in 1856, according to Germantown assessment records.

By rezoning the property from a traditional single-family residential designation to one of historic value, a larger number of steps need to be taken if any alterations are made to the home.

Germantown has long had a section on its books outlining the types of properties eligible for historic designation. Language states the zoning "limits the type and amount of future improvements to designated structures or lands without meeting certain guidelines intended to protect and preserve historical character."

Kipley and Magdelene Wagner, owners of the property, sought the historic designation for the home, which has been known as the Jacob Schlaefer Homestead — the original owner of the property.

Lengthy process

As outlined in village code, the Wagners had to go through an extensive application process that began in November. A number of documents were supplied, and the Plan Commission reviewed the rezoning application last month with a favorable recommendation. Village staff also were polled and there were no objections.

Prior to taking final action Monday, a public hearing was held on the rezoning request. No one spoke for or against the application.

Village President Dean Wolter said he appreciated and enjoyed the assorted historical documents that were unearthed during the application process.

"When you look at the records, it shows how people had a strong desire to be in this area and how people succeeded," Wolter said, pointing to the village's rich history in agriculture and close proximity to Milwaukee.

In terms of the house itself, Wolter said the home is a perfect candidate for the designation because of its condition.

"The house has been wonderfully cared for," Wolter said. "It's in pristine shape."

Property purchased in 1841

According to documents provided by the Wagners, Jacob Schlaefer and his wife, Catherine, purchased the Pilgrim Road property in 1841 at the General Land Office in Milwaukee, not long after emigrating into the U.S. from Bavaria.

For a period of time, Jacob Schlaefer co-operated a Menomonee Falls-based steam saw mill and bedstead factory known as E.L. Neh's, Schlaefer & Co. Schlaefer eventually turned his attention toward farming.

The Schlaefers lived in a log cabin for about 15 years before building the home that remains on the property to this day. The two-story farmhouse has a number of distinguishing features, including a gable roof and a covered porch.

Catherine and Jacob died in 1885 and 1896, respectively. They and many other members of their family are buried at Emanuel Church Cemetery in Menomonee Falls. The property remained in the family into the 1900s.

Trustee Art Zabel said he gained a new-found appreciation for the community after reading through the contents of the report, which culled data from a number of historical sources.

"I find it interesting," Zabel said. "There is a lot of information out there from the documents that are still available."

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