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VIDEO | On a history note | Demolition of former St. Mary’s rectory on River Drive in West Bend, WI

Barton, WI – It was September 2019 when the two-story brick home, that once served as the rectory to St. Mary’s Immaculate Conception Parish in West Bend, was demolished. 

The home, 317 River Drive, was originally constructed in 1860. Neighbors said the pink sand brick is a pretty rare commodity.

Neighbor Gene Turner had his homestead, built in the 1840s, down on the corner by the bridge.

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“I’ve lived in this community for 70 years,” said Turner. “This used to be a church right here on the corner. The St. Mary’s Church used to be right on the corner there and in 1900 they built a new church up on Jefferson Street.”
“This building here, I believe was the rectory for that church and there was another building in between here, according to some of the maps, I believe it might have been the carriage house. At that time, they had horses.”
Former rectory for St. Mary’s Parish
According to Turner, that old church was torn down in 1905. “A guy bought that church in 1905 and tore it down piece by piece and sold all the pieces.  I guess there were some complaints that it took them a long time to sell a lot of the parts.  This building here was the rectory for the pastor and probably some other assistance or whatever in 1860.
“Unfortunately, it’s a sad day for the Barton historic district when we lose the building to
the city of West Bend that’s 160 years old,” said Turner. “We don’t lose many, but this is one of them it’s hard to bring back history it’s easy to take it down, but you can never replace it.”
Former rectory for St. Mary’s Parish
Turner said, one of the interesting things was the makeup of the building. “The pink bricks, when they were taken down and maybe some of your camera footage will show it, there’s actually three walls on this building: three rows of brick.
“The internal brick was the standard sand brick that was white in color; they call it cream city brick.  Milwaukee especially on the outside of that brick was the pink brick.
“I’ve been here for 70 years and I used to call this the pink lady because it had that pink brick and there are no other buildings with pink brick on it. I believe they either had that made special at the brickyards here in West Bend or in Barton at the Barton brickyard or maybe they had it shipped in from Milwaukee at that time.  But that’s an unusual color and you won’t find any other buildings that I know in west bend that are that color with that pink brick.”
American Commercial Real Estate
“Unfortunately, they’re all lost because nowadays we don’t take things down,” he said.
Turner also noted a piece of stained glass in the front window. “They couldn’t retrieve that
piece of stained glass. That would have been the last piece that we would have been saved
and now you see what it is scraps,” he said.
“I understand the people next door they don’t like it because it’s the eyesore well when you live in a historical district if you look out your window and you don’t like what you see you need to move because what you see is the history and you can’t change that.
“You can repair it; you can improve on it, but you can’t change it dramatically and so it’s unfortunate that some of the neighbors which you ran into are a little upset the notoriety that this building has brought and the fact that it was not taken care of.”
cast iron

The parish, which was once located on the corner of Barton Avenue and River Road, eventually sold and a new church built in 1909 where St. Mary’s currently stands, 406 Jefferson Street.

St. Mary's Parish and School

The old rectory eventually became a private home owned by David Binney. He lived out of town and neighbors in Barton started to complain when the home fell into disrepair. There were obvious holes in the roof; plastic tarps were held down by long boards nailed to the roof.

Local real estate agents said there was extensive mold and water damage inside the home and neighbors often complained about a fence in the yard that had fallen down and there was a sense the property was vacant and unkempt.

Contractors said the building was originally very structurally sound. “Whenever you have an abutted structure you want to pull the building into the middle and that’s what we’re trying to do,” said the contractor.

The city ordered the building be razed. The cost of the demolition was forwarded to the property owner.

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