Historical group to host walking tour in Florence

MARGE LEMANSKI, LEFT, and Karen Wertanen discuss plans for the Florence County Historical Society walking tours at 3 and 6 p.m. Monday in Florence, Wis. They will feature 37 historical locations in that community. (Terri Castelaz/Daily News Photo)

FLORENCE, Wis. — The public will have the opportunity Monday to learn about the many historic buildings and other sites in Florence.

The Florence County Historical Society will host two guided walking tours, at 3 and 6 p.m., featuring 37 historical locations.

Those participating can meet at the Historical Society Museum, at Central Avenue and U.S. 2

The Historical Florence Walking Tour Guidebook that Florence High School world geography students developed in 2016 with the assistance of their teacher, Pam Smith, will be used as reference.

Members of the Historical Society, as well as Smith, will conduct the tours.

“Many older homes featured were built from the late 1800s and early 1900s and still look like they were at that time,” said Karen Wertanen, president of the Historial Society.

The tour’s first stop will be the Tiderman home, 201 Florence Ave., established in 1881. It now houses an antique shop.

Another talked-about home on the walk will be the Judge house at 200 Central Ave. This Queen Anne Victorian was built in 1893 by Robert and Estelle Webb, then later bought by Bill and Maggie Judge.

“The Webb-Judge residence is on the National

Historical Society Register,” Wertanen said, adding that current owners Rachel and Don Egelseer restored the home in the early 2000s.

Another important piece of Florence history is Maxsells, 209 Central Ave., which dates back to 1904 and throughout the years served as a nursing home and then residence for Dr. Sommers and the Hamontrees families.

“The Maxsells’ daughter, Verle, served as the first lady judge in 1940,” Wertanen said.

Down the road is the Wilson Rynder home, 317 Central Ave., now home to Mama Bear’s Soaps.

“This home is very close to how it looked in 1889, with the porch now being open without the glass windows,” Wertanen said.

A couple of the smaller houses on Central Avenue built in the 1880s are the Chainey and Nelson homes, which are now businesses.

The county courthouse and jail was built during the Romanesque Revival period in 1889 and designed by James E. Clancy, a nationally known architect.

“This is a popular attraction for visitors,” Historical Society member Marge Lemanski said.

The Hiram D. Fisher Lodge, 425 Central Ave., once was a bank, with the vault still inside.

“This was named after the man who discovered the town of Florence,” Lemanski said.

The two-story structure at 441 Central Ave. still has the name E.W. Peterson in a mosaic of stones on the doorway threshold.

“This building housed many businesses over the years,” Wertanen said.

“This 1875 structure still has the roof line, which all the businesses had that lined the main street of Florence,” Lemanski added. “We just don’t make buildings like that anymore.”

The tour will conclude back on Florence Avenue, with the last three stops being the McCraw Service Station, Arthur and Evelyn Sells home and Novak Service Station.

Many other homes, businesses and churches, as well as the school, will be included in the hour-plus tour. They also will discuss establishments that no longer exist.

A refreshment break will be taken at the Encore on Central about midway through the mile-long walk.

Members of the Historical Society hope to possibly do the walk again in the future.

“The event was originally planned for last summer, but was postponed due to the utility construction work that was occurring throughout the town,” Wertanen said. “This year, our new sidewalks will make the walk more enjoyable.”

The booklet was funded by a Dickinson Community Foundation grant and is available for $5 at the museum.

There is no charge for the guided walk; however, donations always are appreciated.

The Florence County Historical Museum is open from 10 a.m. to noon on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Wertanen noted it, too, is free and relies on donations.

“We owe a lot to Rachel and Don Egelseer, who allow us to use this facility as our museum,” Wertanen said. “They have done so much for our community.”

Terri Castelaz can be reached at 906-774-2772, ext. 39, or tcastelaz@ironmountaindailynews.com.