Nestled on a quiet street in the city of Elkhorn, Wisconsin, the Webster House Museum is a well maintained white clapboard house, containing Civil War and Victorian period items. The composer Joseph Philbrick Webster once owned the home. Both the structure and its famous owner played an important part of the history of Elkhorn.
According to museum records, the Greek-revival style cottage was constructed in 1836 and was originally located in Elkhorn's public square, now known as courthouse square. The building served as the federal land grant office, selling land to Walworth County pioneers before Wisconsin became a state in 1848, and was used for court cases by the district judge until a real court house was constructed.
The building originally measured 18 by 22 feet and was only one story. The land office was abandoned in 1840 and later moved to its present site at the corner of Rockwell and Washington Streets by LeGrand Rockwell, one of Elkhorn's first settlers. After the building was placed in its permanent location, Rockwell added the east-wing. When the Webster's moved in to the house they added a kitchen. The house now had a front parlor, a back parlor--which was used as a music room--a dining room, a large kitchen, and three bedrooms upstairs.
The family lived in the house from 1857. Webster's youngest son Fred, and his wife, Mary Bird, returned from the east where he was teaching in 1930, to renovate the home; Fred Webster died in 1948, his wife, in 1951. They had no children.
Relatives of the Webster's were not interested in keeping the home and sold it in 1955 to the county. It was then leased to the Walworth County Historical Society for $1.00 per year.
After further restoration, the home was opened as a museum for the first time in 1956. The first official season began in 1957, with dedication ceremonies held May 19, 1957. On August 8, 1970, the Webster House Museum was named a Wisconsin State Landmark and an official marker was installed.
Come visit us and step into the past. Listen carefully, you may hear the lovely melodies "Lorena" and "Sweet By and By" which emanated from the square rosewood piano once belonging to Joseph P. Webster.
For a brief look at what the museum has to offer, click here