Egg Harbor Preservation Push

Committee will gain power to declare properties historic

An Egg Harbor committee is working to gain the power to declare houses and business structures “historic,” allowing the village to block demolition and significant alteration of those buildings.

To start learning how to make those declarations, the board members didn’t need to look far to find an agreeable property owner willing to go first. 

Kathy Navis, a member of the village Architectural Review and Historic Preservation Board (ARHP), in November volunteered to put her oldest property – Greens N Grains Natural Food Market and Cafe – up for review and a declaration. 

“Since I am on the committee, I’m an easy target,” Navis said. “So we’re going to do this building first, just as sort of a practice run, so we figure out what we’re doing and how to go about it.”

Before doing that practice run, the committee members decided in December to seek out the services of a state historic-preservation expert to help them compile a list of important properties and to shepherd them through the process of analyzing Navis’ building, said Chris Roedl, committee chair.

ARHP is working to become a Certified Local Government through a partnership program with Wisconsin State Historic Preservation Office. The board can declare properties historic without certification, but as a certified government, it could identify properties eligible for the National Register of Historic Places and help property owners make preservation plans or receive tax credits, said Megan Sawyer, Village Administrator. The certification also could help the village win grants for archaeological and historic surveys.

Before the ARHP formed this summer, the village zoning ordinance tasked the Plan Commission with declaring structures historic. Village President John Heller said that commission and village staff already had enough time-consuming duties, so ARHP will study historic qualifications.

Sitting in the dining-area addition connected to her century-old store building, Navis said the local historic designation has nothing to do with the National Register of Historic Places. 

“We are trying to get licensed by the state to designate historic buildings in the village and thereby have some degree of control as to whether they can be remodeled, torn down,” Navis said. 

Navis took a break from talking and sipping beet juice. She looked up at a 16-foot-wide gap in the wall that lets customers pass between the old store building and her 33-year-old building that includes cafe seating. She said she didn’t know if the building is less historic due to the linking old and new buildings, or the modifications that connect Airbnb short-term rental units at the upstairs rear of the old building and her newer Victorian-style addition.

“This is getting ahead of myself, but I don’t really know if the building is going to qualify,” Navis said. 

The Greens N Grains building originally served as Baraboo Hardware Store, opened in 1914 by Theodore Baraboo. It continued to house hardware stores, including one operated by Francis Bogenschutz later in the 20th century. It later housed an antique store. She bought the building in 1987 and sold imported goods until switching to the natural-goods store in 2005.

Much of her building remains original, such as the maple floors and the transom windows that were covered in plywood siding when she purchased it. She couldn’t save some of the leaded glass in those small windows, and she had to replace some woodblock dentils and some of the decorative wood details around the front door frame.

She said her building’s certainly not the most historic in town. That would go to Cupola House – a National Historic Landmark – and perhaps the multi-story house that was moved from the Eames Farm area to a lot next to Cupola House.The committee hasn’t pinpointed buildings to declare historic, but possibilities include a few buildings among Egg Harbor Historical Society listings, available at