The Longborne House grounds will be the new home of the institute. The property is approximately three-quarters of an acre, but it is long and thin, measuring only 67 feet wide and about 470 feet long. The long axis is oriented from north to south.
This land was first mentioned in the 1830s and platted in 1847 according to a history of the Longborne property provided to us by Larry Reed (town historian and head of the local historical society). This report notes that much of the lot had been an abandoned tobacco field prior to the 1970s. It was devoid of trees or shrubs except locust trees on the east property line. Larches from the Wisconsin Dells were planted on the southern end of the property.
The last residents were avid gardeners and their infrastructure and plantings are still apparent, even though the interceding three years allowed for brambles and thorny weed trees to encroach on the grounds. Raised beds are decaying to the south of the garage. Soak hoses and a water manifold are still sitting in the beds. The wood used for the sides of the beds has disintegrated, leaving just the rebar stakes in place today. About half way through the grounds can be found a water spigot and functioning power box. Just to the south is the septic drainage field. Beyond the drainage field is more arable land before the property hits Church Street; its southern boundary.
The northern boundary of the property is Wisconsin Highway 59. The north portion of the property contains the house (built in 1855) and the garage. The latter had begun as a kitchen attached to the back of the house, which was detached in the 1920s to be converted into a garage. It was moved again to its current location and expanded in the 1970s. The odd construction of the interior reflects this use and reuse. A barn had been present on the east side of the property until about 1948, when its remains were torn down. As I am an archaeologist by training, I will be trying to track down the footprint of this old building. In future years, we plan to build a workshop and permanent building to house the institute and this barn may prove to be the prototype; that is, the exterior may be built to recreate this now-missing barn.
We’ll be updating the blog with our landscape modifications and the rationale behind what we’re up to.