MEQUON - Getting the final stamp of approval from the city would be fitting for the Mequon-Thiensville Historical Society.
The group wants to create a stamp museum in the historical Isham Day House.
Sam Cutler of the Mequon-Thiensville Historical Society is heading up the effort to get some use out of the little white cottage across from Mequon City Hall, 11312 N. Cedarburg Road.
Cutler said those working on the project hope to get plans to city committees and the common council this spring with construction lasting throughout summer and fall. The exhibits would be installed in spring 2018 with an opening in June 2018. Once completed, the museum will only be open two afternoons per week during the summer to start with free admission.
Plans so far include a new roof, masonry and paint outside. No plumbing will be added inside but minimal heating will be added to keep the museum somewhat climate-controlled.
Cutler said the response has been pretty positive so far.
The Isham Day House was built in 1839 and had a varied history of uses. Originally a residence, the house was a post office for a number of years. The last use of the house was residential and when the last of the family who lived there passed away, the house remained vacant and began to deteriorate.
“It’s got quite a history,” Cutler said. “It’s been all sorts of things.”
Despite the history, according to Cutler, the city wanted to condemn and bulldoze it because of its condition.
However, in 1992, the historical society stepped in and tore off additions added over the years, leaving the small cottage. This was not inexpensive, and the city of Mequon stepped in to pay off the last of the bill and became the owner.
In 2000, the Isham Day House was put on the national register of historic places. It has sat vacant for 16 or 17 years. The home is open for certain special events but because it’s not currently ADA compliant, it’s not used. There is no heat, no plumbing and only one baseboard outlet for electricity.
“The time has come to hopefully resurrect this building,” Cutler said.
It's the house's postal history that led Cutler to want to create the Mequon River Postal Museum.
“(It’s) a relatively low-impact use for the town center, although one that historically is quite significant,” Cutler said.
Cutler said the plan is to repurpose the building as a museum and to include a stamp gallery to make money. Donated stamp collections will be combined with some stamps, such as replicas from multiple collections, being sold off. Money earned will benefit the museum and the historical society.
Cutler said many baby boomers collected stamps and this will offer the chance to display them. Cutler himself is a stamp collector, starting when he was 6 years old, getting out of the hobby in high school, and the rediscovering it again after college.
Architect and plan commission member Jim Schaefer will help with the project, Cutler said. One concern is whether or not the building can handle the traffic. Cutler said he is optimistic it can, saying the building is still in “remarkably good shape.”
The city will still own the building.