Brief history of the Crosse House and the Crosse Pharmacy
Prepared by Peter Klein, January 1, 2008 [Revised February 25, 2012]
I initiated this research in an attempt to clarify the history of the Crosse Family and the Crosse House. This isn’t a complete history of the Crosse family and the Crosse House. This sketch uses early township and village records to develop the history of the Crosse Family and the professional services of Doctor Charles G. Crosse. This is the first time that the location of the Crosse & Lewis partnership was explored in the archival collection. This research should provide a framework for future research in the early history of the Crosse family in Sun Prairie.
The 1850s and the Crosse House
The Crosse home could date from the early 1850s after Ellen and Patrick Doyle purchased the property from Charles H. Bird on March 27, 1850 and constructed three houses next to Doyle’s blacksmith shop. Either Doyle’s house was moved or destroyed, or the front section of the Crosse House is one of Doyle’s houses. In the 1850s according to local tradition a large room was added to the back of Doyle’s house. This room was used as a private school for one year. This private school according to tradition and the 20th Century Scrapbook became the Baptist Academy also known as the Seminary. We know from research in original sources that the Seminary existed in 1853 at the Flat Iron Point site. If tradition is correct use of Patrick Doyle’s house as a school took place in 1852.
1860 and the Crosse Family
Where did the Crosse family live when the family arrived in Sun Prairie? According to the 1860 tax assessment of the Town of Sun Prairie, the Crosse family lived in Section 5 of the Town of Sun Prairie, west of South Street. The “structure” was valued at $120.00 with Dr. Crosse’s personal property valued at $320.00. He also owned thirty-six acres. South Street was named in 1868. In 1860 it was probably just called The Lane. The legend is that Dr. Crosse only had ten dollars to his name when he came to Sun Prairie. This doesn’t quite fit the fact that he owned thirty-six acres.
The 1860 census of Sun Prairie Township listed Charles as age 32 and as a physician born in New York. Rowena Crosse was age 28 and born in Ohio. Theodore P Crosse was age four and born in Wisconsin. Charles S. Crosse was age 3 and born in Wisconsin. Edith J. Crosse was age five months by July 24th and was born in Sun Prairie. Verdine Palmer, age 17 lived with the Crosse family and was a medical student who was born in Ohio.
1864 Assessment Records
Dr. Crosse’s personal property was listed as $730.00 in the 1864 Town of Sun Prairie Assessment records.
1866 Assessment Records
In 1866 the place of residence was in section 5 with the residence worth $315.00. The assessment was completed by July 2, 1866. This is the last record from the Township of Sun Prairie currently available to the Museum.
1866 Abstract and Home
In 1866 Rowena Crosse purchased the property from David B. Turnbull and wife. Rowena and Dr. Charles G. Crosse remodeled an existing home in the Gothic style or constructed a new house. Major additions to the house date from the 1870's since newspapers from the 1870s were used as insulation. The tax records from the early 1870s also show an increase in taxes on the property that was not reflected in other homes.
Organization of the Village of Sun Prairie in 1868
The village of Sun Prairie plat map was recorded on December 8, 1868 with L. P. Drake as the surveyor. The survey was completed on Nov. 20, 1868. The newly formed village officials signed off on the survey map on December 4, 1868. The 1868 Treasurer’s Receipts have Dr. Crosse as the owner of property in Block 8 and lot 2 in block 10. Dr. Crosse was also in a partnership with Spencer. No details were given in the records.
1869 Assessment Records and Crosse & Lewis Partnership
The 1869 Village Assessment Records listed the following properties and taxes for Dr. Crosse, his home, and his business. The Crosse home purchased in 1869, Lot 2, Block 12, was valued at $2,200.00. Dr. Crosse still owned two properties on South Street. The home on Lot 6, Block 8 was valued at $400.00. This was probably the home on South Street where the Crosse family lived after moving to Sun Prairie. An empty lot (Lot 11, Block 8) was valued at $25.00. The thirty-six acres in Section 8 were valued at $1,800.00. This land was actually within the village boundaries.
The firm of Crosse and Lewis property was valued at $580.00. The building was located at Lot 12 of Block 10, located at the southwest corner of Market Street and East Main
Dr. Crosse’s Personal Property in 1869 was listed as 3 horses at $180, 1 Neat Cattle at
$20, 1 wagon (carriages) $60, Merchants Stock $534.00, Personal Property $300.00
The Countryman was not printed in the Crosse House. Printing was noisy and dirty work. Why print a paper in the house when a business site provided for printing stationary, etc.? C. G. Crosse already operated a print shop in an earlier store building, which was located at Lot 12, Block 10 as late as the 1883 Assessment Roll. Dr. Crosse provided stationary for the village government in the 1870s.
1870s Assessment Rolls
The Assessment Roll for 1878 notes the partnership of Crosse & Lewis in Lot 10 block 12 that was valued at $1,150.00. The merchant’s stock was valued at $625.00. Dr. Crosse owned all of Block 14 and 38 acres in Section 8 that he or an employee actually farmed. He also owned his home. All of this property was valued at $2,375.00.
1880s Records Crosse & Son
1880 is important in that the firm of Crosse & Son is mentioned in the tax record for the first time. Crosse & Son’s office was the same building earlier used by Crosse and Lewis in Lot 12 of Block 10. It was valued at $400.00. Their merchant’s stock was valued at $400.00.
The Assessment Rolls for 1883 and 1884 still list the location of Crosse and Son on Lot 12 or block 10. The value of the merchants stock was $900.00 in 1884.
1885 Assessment Roll and the New Crosse Pharmacy, The Countryman & Store
The Assessment Roll for 1885 has Carlos Jones as owning Lot 12 of Block 10. It was no longer the office of Crosse & Son. Dr. Crosse was the new owner of Block 6 and lot 9 with an assessed value of $2,000.00. This is the existing building on the northwest corner of North Bristol Street and East Main Street. Theodore Crosse was listed as owning the property where he constructed his home on Block 6. It is important to know where Dr. Crosse and his family lived and worked.
1916 Sale of Crosse House to Voelker Family
The Crosse family sold the house to Otto and Anna B. Voelker in 1916. Leslie J. Voelker, an unmarried son of Otto and Anna Voelker purchased the house in 1951.
Homestead Cleaners & Leslie Voelker
Leslie operated a dry cleaning and pressing plant known as Homesite Cleaners prior to 1950 in a barn located south of the Voelker house at 131 West Main Street. By 1954 the Homesite Cleaners changed its name to Main Cleaners. Al Scherer & Florence Conley operated Main Cleaners at 131 West Main Street by 1956. Leslie was living in the home located at 128 Lane Street.
Crosse House as Rental Property
The Crosse House was rented out as a residence for many years. Two of the families that lived in the Crosse House were the Wenzel Schuster family and the Francis Sheehan Family. I’ve never developed the full history of the rental property.
Crosse House as a Commercial Property
Dr. Frank Baldwin rented the front section of the Crosse House as his office in 1954. Dr. Baldwin moved the location of the stairway to the second floor when he set up his office in the Crosse House. Dr. Baldwin’s office was located in the building for several years.
Sale of Voelker Property to City of Sun Prairie
Leslie sold the property to the City of Sun Prairie; the land contract is dated September 16, 1973. The property was purchased as an expansion site for the Water and Light Commission. The contract specified that Leslie could continue to live in the house located at 128 Lane Street. The city had a right of possession on the property if Leslie left the home for more than one year or if the house was destroyed. Leslie died in 1974.
Sun Prairie Historical Restorations Inc. 1976
Sun Prairie Historical Restorations organized on August 9, 1976 (Bylaws are from October 13, 1976) to preserve the Crosse House. Miriam Semmann was the president and Charmaine M. O’Brien was the secretary of the initial board.
Peter Klein, one of the Museum Board members agreed to assist with research. However the research committee set up with the Crosse House considered the research as unimportant and the committee fell apart. Peter Klein continued with the basic research which was then deposited with the Museum and with the Crosse House. The Museum copy still exists at the Museum and was used by the researcher hired by the Crosse House when the building was nominated for the National Register.
City Council and Crosse House
The first time the issue went to the City Council, Peter Klein was asked to attend by Sun Prairie Historical Restorations. My ultimate advice to the council and to Dale Davis was that the City Council should decide the future of the Crosse House. Dale Davis later told Peter Klein that he (Davis) appreciated Klein’s support of the Council as the governing body of the city.
City Administrator & Possible Transfer of Crosse House to Museum 1986
Keith Smith, Rick Finn, and Peter Klein met in 1986 on possibly transferring the Crosse House to the Museum. Keith Smith was confined to a wheelchair at this time and was actually dying. Keith wanted the city to take over the Crosse House as part of the City of Sun Prairie Museum. A decision package was prepared for the City Council’s consideration in 1986. The decision package was rejected. Another decision package on the Sesquicentennial Committee under the Museum was accepted by the City Council.
Chamber of Commerce and Historical Restorations
The Chamber of Commerce rented the front office formerly used by Dr. Baldwin as their office under Carolyn Rusk. I don’t have the actual dates of the rental available at this time.
Crosse House and National Register of Historic Places
The dedication ceremony of the Landmark Plaque awarded by the National Register of Historic Places to the Crosse House took place on October 16, 1993. The speakers included Nancy McMahon, Peter Klein, JoAnn Orfan, and Ellen and Darwin Virchow.
Move of Crosse House from Original Lot
After a lengthy negation Sun Prairie Historical Restorations and the Sun Prairie Water and Light Commission reached an agreement on moving the Crosse House to the adjacent lot on the west also owned by Sun Prairie Water and Light. Water and Light paid for the construction of the new foundation and basement of the Crosse House. Rumors have put the cost at over $60,000.00. Sun Prairie Historical Restorations owns the home but not the property. Sun Prairie Historical Restorations blames Water and Light and its agents for the structural problems that developed with the home. The first move of the Crosse House took place on Monday, June 14, 1999 and then the house was moved to its new foundation on June 16, 1999.
Amended by Linda Martin (August 15, 2021)
The Crosse House Today
Over the past 20 years, the Crosse House has been used for school tours, educational events, fundraisers for restoration, recognition events, historical presentations, Georgia O'Keeffe teas, as well as being a meeting place for the Sun Prairie Historical Restorations and the Sun Prairie Historical Society. COVID-19 made 2020 - 2021 challenging by limiting the number of people allowed in the house, so school tours and other events had to be cancelled. Hopefully, the House will continue to be an historical attraction for visitors to Sun Prairie.