History fills masterfully restored 1865 Italianate home in Mazomanie
by Samantha Haas
on Monday, November 13th, 2017 at 11:37am.
Each house has a story to tell, but 21 State St., Mazomanie has many. So sit back, relax, and enjoy.
Built in 1865 along the Black Earth Creek, this Victorian Italianate home is filled with history and character, from its original ornamental plaster on the ceiling of the front parlor to its walnut curved staircase in the foyer.
Photographs of the property and its former inhabitants throughout the 19th and 20th centuries are framed throughout the residence as a nod to the past.
That includes Dave and Karisa Friske, who last purchased the home in 1996 and spent over a decade magnificently restoring it room by room in what is now a functioning bed and breakfast. They have also turned the adjacent carriage house built in 1909 into their living quarters. Their meticulous restoration efforts were recognized by the Mazomanie Historical Society with a Certificate of Commendation for Historical Preservation in 2000, and the couple was also featured on the "If Walls Could Talk" television show.
"We love old houses," Karisa Friske said.
During the restoration of the main residence they found many clues to the past, including signatures etched into the fruit cellar door and the glass by the front door. Another room that had been locked for nearly 30 years "was like a time capsule" when they opened it. And while looking through the attic, they also stumbled upon a Harper's Bazaar magazine from 1888, an electrician's calling card, ice skates, a hand-carved cane, and an original painted bracket that helped them with the exterior woodwork. That space has now been converted into a library and reading nook with a skylight.
When they bought the property it was hidden behind a row of 40-foot tall cedar trees, the brick had been painted a creamy yellow, and a back addition where the kitchen with potbelly stove and servant's staircase were located had been removed. Referencing photos taken almost every 10 years since it was built, the Friskes undertook the painstaking -- and fascinating -- process of restoring it to its original grandeur.
At the Wisconsin Historical Society they found the original glass plate negatives, including one taken in 1873 by a Norwegian traveling photographer, to aid them in accurately replicating the entire upper and lower wraparound porch down to each bracket and baluster. Through their research and renovation they would dream about the homeowners and their interests.
For over 50 years it belonged to a doctor and his family (from 1899-1954), so many locals in the small town knew it as the Kester House. Someone even stopped by to tell the Friskes she had her wisdom teeth pulled on the front porch. And in one of the first floor rooms there used to be a door cut in the wall, which they think was the entrance to Doc Kester's office from outside for patients. From photographs they also saw Kester's attempts to "modernize" the house, like adding over 200 spindles to the lower porch and a tin roof.
The home was actually built more than 30 years prior by William Thompson, a barrel cooper from Milwaukee. He invested in the village's flouring mill (which has since been turned into a restaurant called The Old Feed Mill) and was described as "an active business man and a good citizen; generous, open hearted, and took great interest in all public improvements," according to "Dane County Towns - Mazomanie" by Henry Howarth and Henry Z. Moulton.
In 2003, the Friskes put on a $200,000 addition to accommodate more guests. That included two bedrooms and bathrooms on the main floor and a four-person sauna, laundry room, and two other full bathrooms in the lower level.
Now the main residence is a total of 4,174 square feet featuring five bedrooms and seven bathrooms, situated on a mix of nearly 9 wooded and open acres. A few years ago they even constructed a 1,000 square foot pergola that can seat 200 people, which has created a beautiful wedding venue surrounded by gardens.
When the Friskes moved in, they received a letter from the previous owner that asked them to "please take care of this house" because of all the happy family memories they made while living there. So have the Friskes, who raised their three children and welcomed countless guests there over the last 20 years. Now it's someone else's turn to enjoy this marvelous space.
"Fifty years from now hopefully we've retained that legacy for the house to make it a home," Dave Friske said.