Home houses rich history, memories; award honors ownersLarry and Jenny Hennemann bought the big house at 558 E. Maple St. 37 years ago. They saw the rental property as a place for their growing family to call home.
By: Debbie Griffin, River Falls Journal
Larry and Jenny Hennemann bought the big house at 558 E. Maple St. 37 years ago. They saw the rental property as a place for their growing family to call home.
Asked how they came to buy the home, Jenny giggles and answers, “It was my birthday present.”
The Hennemanns explain that they were looking at homes in the country on her birthday when the real estate agent mentioned the Maple Street house. He didn’t have the keys, so the couple could only peer in the windows.
Even through the glass, Jenny fell in love with the hardwood floors, and the 2,500 square feet appealed to the whole family. The Hennemanns made a down payment and began building memories.
The family can now file as one of its memories -- a visit last week from the River Falls Historic Preservation Commission to present them with a plaque of recognition for taking exceptional care of their late-1800s home.
Jenny describes it as Queen Anne style, with its big porch wrapping around two sides, varied roof angles and a rounded section on one corner.
Larry said, “After we moved in, students lived upstairs and we lived downstairs.”
The couple says they outgrew the lower level after about two years and expanded to the upstairs, too.
Both say their favorite spot is the big porch. They had removed screening to convert it from enclosed to open, then came a bigger job.
Larry said, “At one point the porch was falling off the house so we had to completely rebuild it.”
Comfortable wicker furniture beckons for a morning coffee with the birds, a midday read or a place to catch the evening breeze. Larry said he often sits out there to watch storms rolling into town.
Inside, the Hennemanns reconfigured parts of the split-up rental house so that it better accommodated one family. The home has four separate entrances, five bedrooms and two staircases.
Some of the rooms have no closet at all. And, surprisingly, one of them has a walk-in closet with shelves. Jenny believes the first project was changing the kitchen’s “ugly carpeting.”
She said, “The kids and I put the kitchen floor in.”
Larry says another ‘early’ project was ripping out walls made of plaster and lathe, a piece of which had fallen on one of their daughters, as well as removing the old-and-inadequate insulation.
“The front door was boarded up and we opened that up,” said Jenny, adding they’d also recreated the front entryway from what had been a closet.
The family replaced all the doors and windows a few years ago, not only cutting the heating bill in half to $75 per month, but also putting an end to the glass rattling in its frames.
Larry says the boiler in the basement and the home’s radiator heat are “very efficient,” though an early project was replacing rotted boards beneath the radiators.
He can tell by the home’s basement that past owners had heated it with oil, as well as coal or wood.
Jenny remembers scraping paint from all the wood in two large rooms, including doorways, windows and a big built-in buffet. She worked to reach the original wood then finished and varnished it.
The Hennemanns say they’ve been careful to plant more trees on the home site as old ones have died off. Larry says they had a lot of box elder trees in the beginning.
Jenny said especially in their location, it made sense to plant a few maple trees. They also have two cherry trees that bear fruit -- and many birds.
The Hennemanns have added nothing to the home but did build a detached garage.
Many know Jenny and Larry from her work for the last nine years at Treasures from the Heart, and Larry from his work as a CPR instructor and for the past 20 years, and as a deacon at St. Bridget’s Catholic Church.
The couple has 10 sons, two daughters, and by July -- 20 grandchildren. Their favorite memories include the kids adding onto and playing in a tree house and sleeping in triple bunk beds in an alcove-like room upstairs.
Jenny says, and Larry agrees, that the Hennemanns feels as though they’re caretakers of the home.
The HPC calls original owner Oliver Powell one of River Falls’ “founding fathers.”
He bought the land in 1868, but it is unclear what exact year the home itself was built. It is possible that the Powells moved it from their family farm.
Powell grew sorghum and had a “cane mill” to process it into molasses and vinegar. The mill stood approximately where Meyer Middle School is today.
Other owners of the home include his daughter, Lucy, and her husband, Elbridge Currier, in 1899; John and Alice Wasson, who bought the acreage around the house years before coming to own the home in 1934; Alice and Clair Morgan bought the home in 1945; and Doyne and Ruth Anderson took possession of it in 1956.
The HPC acknowledges the Hennemanns partially because May is Historic Preservation Month and mostly because theirs is an older home “that has been well cared for in order to maintain its historical significance.”