History of the Yawkey House

History of the Yawkey House Museum

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This is the home of Cyrus and Alice Yawkey, built in 1900-1901 in the Classical Revival style.  Designed by the Milwaukee architects Henry Van Ryn and Gerrit de Gelleke, it features large ionic columns and a pedimented portico.  When it was built the cost was $35,000 - said to be the most expensive house in Wausau.  Only six years later, the Yawkeys hired George W. Maher to remodel.  The first floor was completely remodeled, a two story addition was added to the back, and a sun porch was added on the east side of the house.  In 1974, the house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.  A three million dollar restoration was finished in 2008.

Originally from Michigan, the Yawkeys moved to northern Wisconsin in 1889 when Cyrus joined with his uncle and a business partner to form the Yawkey and Lee Lumber Company.  Alice Yawkey named the town that was founded by the venture, Hazelhurst, because of the abundance of hazel trees in the area.  Ten years later in 1899, the Yawkeys moved to Wausau where Cyrus was the uncontested leader of the Wausau Group.  The Wausau Group was composed of wealthy lumbermen who polled their resources in hopes of improving Wausau's economy as the logging industry was dying in the area.  They founded several businesses, utilitiy companies and the first paper mill in the area (Wausau Paper Mills in Brokaw).

Cyrus Yawkey died in 1943, and Alice continued living in the house until her death in 1953.  Their only child, Leigh Yawkey Woodson, and their grandchildren presented the house to the Marathon County Historical Society in 1954.

Yawkey House Restoration

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The Marathon County Historical Society's capital fund drive began in 2005 after receiving a $1 million challenge grant from the Jeffris Foundation for the complete restoration of the Yawkey House Museum.  After a few short months, the challenge grant was not only met, it was exceeded.  The additional funds were to be used towards an endowment for the Yawkey House Museum and much needed repairs and renovations at the Woodson History Center.  

Armed with an extensive conditions report, and both the 1900/01 original blueprints and the 1907/08 remodeling plans, we were ready to begin the restoration project.  In the fall of 2006, Hase Building and Design was selected as the contractor for the project.  

The work began on the second floor where the original bedrooms had been remodeled into an exhibit hall and theater by the Historical Society.  In a short time, the Historical Society's modifications were removed and the original features of the house were starting to appear.  The placement of the original walls could be determined by marks on the floor, notches in wood indicated the location of the original plumbing, original paint colors and stencil patterns were unveiled, and much more.   

With this information along with the blueprints from the archives, the architects, contractors, interior designers and landscape deisgners worked together to recreate the Yawkey House Museum as it was in 1907/08.  The restoration project, including the house, carriage house and formal gardens, continued for nearly two years and was completed in May 2008.  

We would like to thank all of those who were involved with the restoration of the Yawkey House Museum.  Due to the hard work and dedication of everyone involved, from the begining of the conditions study to the end, we were able to complete the restoration on budget.

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