1856 Second Empire – Whitewater, WI

Added to OHD on 1/11/18   -   Last OHD Update: 4/12/20   -   28 Comments
SOLD / Archived Post
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131 N Fremont St, Whitewater, WI 53190

Map: Street

  • $255,000
  • 6 Bed
  • 3.5 Bath
  • 4536 Sq Ft
  • 0.71 Ac.
Own a Whitewater Landmark home! The Starin Mansion, a cream brick Italianate home built in 1856, features 6 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, two kitchens, two living rooms, two parlors, two dining rooms, 2 marble fireplaces and 4500 SF of living space. Additional amenities include a 2 car attached garage, carriage house, 4th floor ballroom, 2nd Empire mansard roof, workshop and a secret room in the basement. Located near downtown in a well established neighborhood this home has so many stories to tell. Currently used as a transitional group home.
Contact Information
Linda Platner, Dave Mansur Real Estate
(262) 215-7756
Links, Photos & Additional Info

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28 Comments on 1856 Second Empire – Whitewater, WI

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  1. Michael Mackin says: 2555 comments

    I love the second empire exterior. It does seem to sit on the lot a little odd. I get the impression that we are seeing the side of the house from the street. It looks as if the original property may have been much larger and gradually sold off, leaving the street view we see now. Just a guess though!

    • Southwestlovesmomma says: 114 comments

      I looked at an aerial view and this one house is set back twice as deep as its neighbors so I think you are right.

  2. A Davis says: 38 comments

    I need more pictures. Ballroom? Secret basement room? I feel there are more details we could see with pictures.

    I do love the brick and arched doorways.

  3. Patrick says: 30 comments

    I went to college in this town. Most of the beautiful mansions have been converted to student housing. This one seems to have been saved by the ruin of students. I attended many parties in the old mansions on Main St which were divided up into small trashy off campus rooms. The town is small, but well worth your consideration. The location is about half way between Madison and Milwaukee.

  4. TGrantTGrant says: 858 comments
    OHD Supporter

    New Orleans, LA

    Street view seems to be nonfunctional on this one. Great old second empire.

  5. Colleen J says: 1168 comments

    It is set farther back from the others, but the others are older homes too, so kind of strange. This house looks like fun!

  6. I like this style of house especially being a light colored brick. In love with the fireplaces and arches.

  7. John Shiflet says: 5464 comments

    1856 would have been remarkably early for a Second Empire style house in the Midwest; even on the architecturally progressive eastern seaboard, few Second Empires date back that far. Of course, the explanation might be that a Greek Revival style house was later updated to the French Mansard style. Whatever the exact date, the interior details are intriguing.

  8. Gregory Hubbard says: 472 comments

    Hello, another long post, so I ask you in advance to forgive me….

    A wonderful house. However, as A. Davis has noted, we need more photographs to give us some sense of the room arrangement and style. Except for the limp mantel in photograph 6, the interior fittings shown in these photographs are very elegant. Those arched doors were expensive when new, and today they are rare survivals. However, are the closed pocket doors in photograph 8 the other side of the closed doors in photograph 9? Why not move the sofa in photograph 9 for the sake of the sales photographs and open the door to show us what appears to be a very impressive suite of rooms? What about the main staircase? We need photographs of the ‘ballroom,’ the secret room and the tunnel.

    In my opinion, Michael Mackin is correct. The front of the house faces West North Street. Judging from the age of the very nice homes on West North Street, the lot was subdivided around the turn of the century. The result is the awkward situation where the main front of the house is buried in other homes’ backyards, and the first view of the house is from the North Fremont Street side.

    According to the 2013 Whitewater Historic Landmark Guide:

    ‘F. J. Starin Mansion 131 N. Fremont Street, 1856: 1878 • LL 1/12/1984 This house was originally built as a two story cream brick Italianate by the firm of Cook, Roseman and Kjuhn for Frederick J. Starin, a civil engineer and land speculator. In 1878, Starin added a mansard roof, a feature of the Second Empire Style. This enlarged the house by adding a fourth floor ballroom. Two unusual features in the basement are a “tunnel”, and a “secret room” which can only be accessed by crawling through a window located near the ceiling.’

    In my opinion, the 4th floor Mansard addition to the home appears to include the projecting ‘tower’ on both the front and rear elevations, which is actually a full mansard roof across the center of the house. Including that as part of the addition would explain the awkward narrow windows in the corners were the addition intersects the main body of the house. The so-called ‘secret’ basement room accessed through a window may have been the result of the collision between the foundations of the 1856 house and the 1878 alterations creating a redundant space.

    Photograph no. 13 was taken ‘inside’ the Mansard, although it is not clear if this is a third floor Mansard room or a 4th floor Mansard room. The legend that ballrooms were often on the top floor of large homes has apparently allowed a large room on this home’s 4th floor to be labeled a ballroom when it might simply be a large room. Top floor ballrooms are, in my experience, very, very rare.

    Remember the sheer weight of Victorian era fancy dresses and ball gowns. 19th century fabrics didn’t have a voluptuous drape to them, so textile manufacturers added mineral salts to their dyes. Thus a significant portion of the weight of mid to late 19th century fabrics was actually added to make them look well as they hung. Can you imagine the effort of walking up 3 flights of stairs to a 4th floor ballroom with a dress deliberately stiffened with stays, careful layering of fabrics, and perhaps a bustle, a dress that might have weighed 20-25 pounds, maybe more.

    In addition, there has to be a reason to build a 4th floor ballroom. In Denver, for example, it was the view of the mountains from Capitol Hill. But all those that I know of were accessible by both a fine staircase and an elevator.

    Again, a lovely house, but more photographs are required!

  9. John Shiflet says: 5464 comments

    Thanks for making sense of some confusing details about this house. The only comment I wish to add is about third floor or higher “Ballrooms”. I’m not sure where this myth originated that nearly every two story or taller Victorian home was equipped with a top floor ballroom. Perhaps it was a creative way of describing an attic space? One house that I toured was claimed to have an attic “ballroom” that wasn’t finished out. Not only was there no flooring (just spaced rafters) but the height precluded most uses for the space. I didn’t want to wear out my welcome so “ballroom” it was… Just as you mentioned, I’ve found that authentic upstairs ballrooms are exceptionally rare. One of the very few authentic upstairs ballrooms I have ever seen was in the c. 1900 Sumner House in tiny Earl Park, Indiana. I took some photos of it: https://www.flickr.com/photos/11236515@N05/7270592734/in/album-72157629894166708/ The voluminous room was fully finished out with nice (intact and original) wallpaper, a cloak closet with shelves for hats and hooks for garments, and a wide, nicely finished staircase coming up from the second floor while still providing privacy for the bedrooms on the second floor. The parlor usually functioned as the room for social activities and in grand homes; double parlors allowed for large social gatherings including dances. We all know that one advantage of the Mansard style was the extra attic space provided by the steep mansard slopes around the roofline. The story goes that the Mansard skirted height restrictions and in some cases, tax issues by providing an extra floor without it appearing so from ground level. You nailed it when you mentioned the attire of the period which made climbing multiple stairs challenging for well dressed ladies. Although home elevators were available as early as the late Victorian era, they were mostly confined to grand expansive homes which usually also had cavernous parlors to handle social events. There is a fourth floor room here not shown in the photos so we have no way of seeing if it was purposed as a ballroom or for some other use.

  10. FG says: 89 comments

    I know someone who has a 3rd floor ballroom in a late Victorian house (on the west side of Chicago). Whether or not it was actually used as such, I can’t tell ya. I know of several in very large houses in Kenwood (also Chicago), but those are massive houses for society folks.

    Whitewater is situated in the Kettle Moraine and is wooded and rolling, lots of hiking and scenic drives, close to the Funt and Mundane’s summer maison in Genesee Depot too!

  11. BrendaInWi says: 72 comments

    As noted above, Whitewater is a great college town with many tasty properties!

  12. Gregory K. Hubbard says: 472 comments

    FG, you are right on the money: Society Folks! Almost all of the homes I’ve known with second or third floor ballrooms belonged to really rich folks, not the merely wealthy. Most, if not all of them, could afford an elevator. Two of the homes in Denver, Colorado, had signed Tiffany windows, and both of those were under demolition when I explored them.
    Denver tossed most of it’s historic architecture in the garbage between 1965 and 1980. Towns such as Whitewater are so fortunate that common sense prevailed. Wonderful historic buildings like this are their reward

  13. KoMo says: 6 comments

    We’re in the market to buy and we’re going to look at this house Monday. Any specifics of what we should look for? Would this type of house have started with a grand staircase or something less austere?

  14. KoMo says: 6 comments

    **Report after visiting the house yesterday**
    The “ballroom” is indeed a small room on the top of the home, probably 20’x30′. It’s a nice size room for sure but would have never been more than a single room. Luckily when the house was split by the university into a duplex for student housing the major style was saved.
    The “mystery” room in the basement is most likely the leftovers of a sistern that was used in the original 20 years of the homes life and was replaced when the Mansard addition was added on.
    Pix 8 and 9 of the parlors are back to back of the same door. This is the separation between the owners quarters and the transition folks living space and furniture wasn’t moved to allow for pictures. Pix with desk in mansard room is third floor room, very large bedroom with a twin on the other side of the floor. Lots of stairs and lots of character.
    Basement was intriguing as it has a wood floor and was most likely the original kitchen and servants room.
    Original front of house, as surmised, is facing the back of the neighbors house. There is no longer a door there but the front was never a large porch area so only a small loss.
    Overall, I think I’m in love.

    • RosewaterRosewater says: 6577 comments
      OHD Supporter

      1875 Italianate cottage
      Noblesville, IN

      Thank you KoMo! Do you have more pix you can post online somewhere? I’m kind of fiending for this house, and totally understand why you’re in love. Are you going to take it on? Thanks’ Jeff 🙂

      • KoMo says: 6 comments

        We posted the bulk of pictures that were understandable here, the house is very “lived in” there weren’t enough empty spaces to allow for lots of good photos. We are hoping to take this house on and make it our labor of love!

  15. Kelly, OHDKelly, OHD says: 11850 comments

    1901 Folk Victorian
    Chestatee, GA

    Pics from KoMo. Thanks!

  16. StarrStarr says: 1 comments

    I also lived in Whitewater. It’s got some cool houses, as someone earlier mentioned, but many are chopped into student housing and frat and sorority houses. Another interesting fact is that whitewater is sometimes called “Second Salem” due to the fact that it once was a very active spiritualist community (they believe in communicating with the dead) and there are underground tunnels which connect some of the houses and buildings there, particularly some closer to the university.

    Interesting, but didn’t really like living there, very inconvenient (there is no grocery store in whitewater, just a very small Walmart) and had to drive about 45 mins to Janesville to shop.

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