Walker house to receive historical plaque
When she was looking for a new house about three years ago, Carole Mottaz told Randy Cudd she wanted a historic home between Third and Sixth streets and Elm and Division streets.
She also wanted the home to be one story, or to have the capacity to be one story.
Mottaz ended up buying a bric, two-story farmhouse at 403 Division St. with her husband Larry Page. She said the "feel" of the house made it perfect.
"This house really does speak to me," Mottaz said. "I love this house. I feel like it's a privilege to own it."
Mottaz has been working with the River Falls Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) to have a plaque created for her home, sharing its history with those who walk by.
Mottaz said she was planning on putting up a plaque herself, when an HPC member recommended she see if the HPC could offer any financial assistance for the plaque.
The HPC is paying half the cost of the plaque and Mottaz is covering the other half. The final wording was approved at the last HPC meeting, and the plaque ordered.
She said the plaque will go up on Division Street.
The Walker family purchased the 120-acre farm in 1871; it encompassed land that is now home to much of Hoffman Park, Greenwood Cemetery and the Mound.
According to River Falls HPC meeting minutes, Thomas and Eliza Walker built the brick house in 1880, which now sits on East Division Street, after a windstorm destroyed their wooden farmhouse. The original Walkers moved in the late 1800s.
Much time passed, and many changes were made to the farm and home before Mottaz and Page moved in three years ago.
The Mound was quarried starting in 1872, and continued to be quarried for many years. Sandstone from the quarry can be found in the basements and foundations of many older homes and buildings in River Falls, including South Hall, and the brick house that is now Mottaz's home.
The Walker family also farmed the rest of their land with oats and Timothy hay for the horses that worked in the quarry, Mottaz said.
Eliza also raised dairy cows for many years. Their son, William, planted cabbages, potatoes and cucumbers.
The land on top of the Mound was purchased in 1894 for the water tower.
The Walker family owned the house on Division Street until 2004, when it was sold to a couple who planned to turn it into a bed and breakfast, Mottaz said.
In 1954, Mottaz said, the house was converted into a rental unit.
In 2004, a lot of work was put into the house. Mottaz said the previous owners tried diligently to preserve everything they could in the home, though some things were so old they needed to be replaced. For this, Mottaz is grateful.
"I feel like they've really saved a gem in the community," Mottaz said. "Because it's such a visible house and that's why I wanted to have the plaque out there, because people are very interested in the house.
"I've done a lot of work to it," she said, "But I've done the fun stuff."
Mottaz installed hickory hardwood floors, remodeled the kitchen countertops, gutted the master bathroom, changed an old laundry room into a bathroom, and added on a new laundry room. She also had a little "summer house" built behind the main house.
"That's our summer living room" Mottaz said. "So we spend a lot of time out there."
Mottaz enjoys having this connection to local history. She has tried to add touches around the home to pay tribute to the house's history. For example, she said, she added lace curtains in a large picture window on the front of the house.
She said when she added the new laundry room, she found square nails in some of the woodwork, and she kept those nails.
In her study, Mottaz said, is one of the original doors, the only door that is original to the house.
Two upstairs bedrooms also have original pine flooring.
Mottaz said she often ends up having conversations about the house and local history with people walking by. Mottaz also gets a lot of questions about her summer house, which is on the Fourth Street side of the property.
Today's Walker farm
According to www.walkerfarm1897.com, today's Walker Farm, located at 1120 County Road M, is about 215 acres and is owned and operated by Hans-Paul and Steffanie Walker. They grow soybeans, corn, wheat and hay and raise beef, pigs, sheep and meat chickens.