1206 Lakefield Road, Grafton, WI 53204 262.377.8777
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(October through April)
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District #6 School (Lakefield School) History
In October of 1854, the Town of Grafton purchased a ½ acre of land at the NW corner of Lakefield and Port Washington roads from George and Catherine Blank for $1.25. A one-room school house was built shortly thereafter, and in 1907 the building that still stands today was built on the same stone foundation. The school housed desks for 35 students until the last class graduated 1951. Very few photographs exist from the near century the school was in operation, but the imprints of those 35 desks can be seen in the maple floors to this day.
Upon the closing of the school, the building remained vacant until it became an antique shop in 1971. It was at this time that the addition was built on to the back of the building, along with the garage. An antique shop until the late seventies, the building was later occupied as a full-time residence.
In 2011, Al Haas and Harald Tomesch converted the historical building into The Chiselled Grape Winery, taking great care to preserve the building’s charming details. We hope as you relax in our tasting room or on our patio, that you are taken back to simpler days – when the clock seemed to move slower and there was
always time for one more glass of wine.
History (the longer version)
In August of 1854, George and Catherine Blank purchased 80 acres of land at the NW corner of Lakefield Road and Port Washington Road in the unincorporated village of Lakefield, from Ruben and Veronica Keen for the sum of $1250. In October of that year they sold ½ acre at the corner to the District Board of School District #6 in the Town of Grafton for $1.25.
The Blank family built a farmhouse, barn and other outbuildings on the land surrounding the schoolhouse lot. Mrs. Blank the last of the Blanks to live in the farmhouse told me before she left to go into a nursing home in 1986, that the Blanks continued to farm the land until the death of her husband. In 1932 they planted the “new orchard” on part of the present schoolhouse property.
There are very few records of the original schoolhouse that was built on the property around 1855. We can guess that it was built on the presently existing stone foundation, and that it was a wood clapboard structure. I have found no descriptions of that schoolhouse except the notations of the purchase of the property in the Abstract of Title.
In 1907, the current building was built on the old stone foundation. It was built of three courses of “Cream City Brick” by the local residents. It was a multi-class, single room schoolhouse, with desks for 35 students. You can see the footprint of some of the desks in the narrow board maple flooring of the main classroom. It also had slate blackboards, and hardwood joinery work. My wife used to swear that she could hear the laughter of the school children when the house was quiet.
Attached are two photos of the two dirt roads that fronted the schoolhouse property during that period. The roof of the schoolhouse is visible in the backgrounds. Most of the travel was in horse drawn wagons and carriages, but one of the photos shows a group of young people in an automobile in front of the old Blank farmhouse. There is also a photo of the old Lakefield Creamery to the south across Lakefield Road, and a photo of an early graduating class which was taught by Elmer Viesselmann, not only the teacher, but a member of the School Board who purchased the property.
The well was dug in 1932. Until that time, there was no water on the property and an outhouse was the only sanitary facility. At some point after the well was dug, a septic tank was poured in place and inside bathrooms were installed. Roof ventilators, needed because of the large number of people in the building, were installed for both the classroom and basement. These ventilators were closed, but still in place, when I bought the building in 1980.
In 1946 there was a minor fire in the schoolhouse (probably caused by the coal fired furnace in the basement). At that time a major renovation was made which included doubling up the few fire damaged structural members, building the mirror image cloak rooms and bathrooms for boy and girls, and removing the 3 west facing classroom windows (too much heat from the afternoon sun), and moving them to double up the existing 3 east facing classroom windows.
By that time Port Washington Road was a busy State highway. It was the main highway north along Lake Michigan from Milwaukee. It was a three-lane highway with one lane north, one lane south and one middle lane used for passing if no one was trying to pass in the other direction. These three lane highways, common in the 1940s and 1950s, were very dangerous. To protect students who had to cross Port Washington Road to get to school, a tunnel was dug and lined under the highway for student pedestrian traffic. It was still there until the recent County renovation of the intersection. In 1951, the last class was graduated and the building was decommissioned as a schoolhouse.
Under the terms of the original sale, the schoolhouse property reverted to the Blank family. But, they had no use for such a building so they created a 225’ by 400’ lot for the building and, in August 1960, sold the property to Louis Wesela. He planned to tear down the building and build a gas station on the site to provide automotive services to drivers on the busy State highway. During the period when the building was empty, vandals got in, spilled some ink from the inkwells, and took the bell. When I-43 was planned, and there was to be no exit at Lakefield Road, Wesela abandoned his plans.
In 1971, Kav and Evelyn Brown purchased the property from Louis Wesela for use as an antique shop. At that time Kav was the cartoon editor at the Milwaukee Journal. Evelyn had MS, and Kav reasoned that he could retire and build a good business at the schoolhouse while providing a comfortable place for Evelyn to spend her time. He hired an architectural firm to design the facility. An addition was built with a large sitting room, a shop for antique repair and a garage with a loading dock. Four doorways were made in the original schoolhouse structure for a side entrance, a garage entrance, and entrances to the addition on the first and basement floors. At that time it was discovered that the basement walls are 26” thick and the brick walls are 18” thick with a double layer of brick, then an insulating air space with brick crossties, followed by another layer of brick, studs, lathe, and base and finish plaster.
Evelyn died a few years later. Kav continued to run the shop for a while and then his daughter became the first full-time resident at the schoolhouse. In the late 1970s Kav made contact with his childhood sweetheart in Kentucky. She had never married. Kav sold the schoolhouse, moved to Kentucky and married her.
I had recently moved to Milwaukee from Lexington, Kentucky where I taught at the University of Kentucky. I used the schoolhouse first as my home and later as a home office for my business, The Old School for Training and Development, Inc. In 1988, I met Jane, and when we married in 1989, we rented the schoolhouse out while we lived in Pittsburgh, PA. In 1995, we moved to Wisconsin to live in the schoolhouse. In 2003, I got a job as director of the Hudson River Maritime Museum, and we moved to New York. Now retired, with no plans to move back to Wisconsin, we have been hoping to sell the schoolhouse to people interested in preserving this wonderful structure.