First, and for most: Outsiders get rare inside view of Original homes

Sept. 4, 2008

When Margo Kuehn first set foot in a Greendale Original along Alba Court 12 years ago, she knew she was home.

“I told the Realtor, ‘I just want an Original — don’t show me anything else,’ because I just liked the style of it,” Kuehn said. “When I came into this one … I knew it was the one.”

For Kuehn, it was first the quaint, cozy feel of Originals that appealed to her, and later, the history behind them.

Kuehn’s home is one of nine, mostly in the A section, that will be featured as part of the Greendale Historical Society’s Tour of Original Homes later this month.

Opening the door

Despite the curiosity that Originals have long evoked in those who have never experienced their interior charm, this is the first time in the village’s history that homeowners are opening their doors for a public tour, said William Attewell, society board member.

“It’s Greendale’s 70th anniversary, and this is a great chance for the community and visitors to the community to really find out what Greendale is all about … and really get a piece of the history,” Attewell said.

So far the society has sold more than 100 tickets, and received inquiries from people as far away as Chicago, Ohio and Washington, D.C., Attewell said.

Even for locals the appeal is strong, he said.

“A lot of people who have lived in Greendale for years and years and years have never seen an original, so this is a great opportunity for them,” he said.

Kuehn and fellow Original homeowners Leslie Potter and Julie Grant, who reside on Arrowwood, are familiar with that curiosity.

“We get a lot of foot traffic and a lot of people are curious about what they look like inside,” Potter said.

Kuehn, who operates Margo’s Village Boutique in downtown Greendale, also gets asked a lot of questions by her customers. She has personally taken people on tours, and even encountered a customer who lived in her home as a child.

Built-in history

During the society’s tour, Kuehn and Potter will both be present at their homes to get guests acquainted. Whether owners are present or not, there also will be docents at each location to give more details about the homes, Attewell said.

For example, the tour will highlight the unique aspects of each home — such as the exposed wood ceiling beams or decorative, lead glass window panels designed by her father in Kuehn’s home. Or the history of Potter’s home, which was originally occupied by her grandparents, Henry and Helen Nicholson, and has remained in the family ever since.

Visitors will also get a rundown of the structural history of the homes on the tour, with Originals running the gamut from those that have had extensive renovations, to those that essentially remain in their original state, Attewell said.

The self-guided tour begins at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, where participants will be given maps so they can travel their own routes at their own paces, he said.

Fun for funds

The event is the society’s second fundraiser this summer, with proceeds raised to benefit the group’s efforts to renovate the village’s historic police and fire station buildings.

“After this we’re going to take a breath and begin focusing on grants,” Attewell said.

The group hopes to hear back soon on a couple of pending grants, and is poised to select a firm to complete a Historic Structures Report for the buildings, he said, which will determine exactly how much work will need to be done and the approximate cost in order to achieve the group’s goal.

Julie Becker can be reached at (262) 446-6606.



Original living units in Greendale when it opened in 1938


Original buildings in the village


Original single-family homes in the village


“Hillside” style homes, the rarest style of Originals


WHAT: Greendale Historical Society’s Tour of Original Homes

WHEN: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 13

WHERE: Maps available at St. Luke’s Church, 6705 Northway

COST: $15 in advance, at the Reiman Visitor Center or the society’s Web site; $20 the day of the event

MORE: To buy tickets or for information, call (414) 423-7064 or visit

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