Days Gone By: The House House

On the corner of Taylor Street and East Grant Highway, where the restaurant La Hacienda is currently located, there once stood a local landmark called, "The House House." The clapboard house was built by Mr. George House, circa early 1840’s. Mr. House died in 1861, the year the Civil War started. I read that Mr. House was the first person buried in the new Marengo City Cemetery, which is on East Street north of the Union- Pacific Railroad tracks. I also came across some information which stated The House House was at one time called the "Halfway House"    because supposedly, it was halfway between Chicago and Galena.

The stagecoach stopped at The House House and guests could stay overnight. It is said that the house had a huge water well that served many of the r e s i d e n t s on the east side of Marengo. Just to the west of the house was a residence owned by Otto Kutzner. Next to the Kutzner home stood the old "Free Methodist Church." This church was dedicated in 1862. Years after the congregation disbanded the building, it was occupied by the Albert Tessendorf Plumbing Shop after the turn of the century. Both the house and church were razed circa 1959. This made room for the Kelly Brothers Chevrolet Garage and a real estate office at 229 South State Street, owned by Tom Bright. My mother, Blanche, worked at his office. On October 27, 1949, auctioneers William B. Sullivan and William Russell sold the house at public auction to William Peterman, who sometime after the auction, tore down the pioneer landmark. A Conoco Gas and Oil Station was built there and operated by Otto Krueger, who was a Marengo resident. Ron Flemming, also from Marengo, operated a Mobil Service Station at this location following the Conoco Station. Later, the building was converted to a restaurant and remains a restaurant to this day.

The following are some of the people and businesses that occupied The House House over the years: residence of the Hensel and Behr Families; Jim Woleben’s "Crispettes" Donut Shop; a mercantile store; and a roofing business. Rooms were available for rent for many years. I came across an      interesting story about a wedding party that stayed at " House House" on their way out west. The bride and groom were Tom Thumb and his famous little wife, Livinia, of Barnum’s Circus, accompanied by the bridesmaid and best man. They were married in New York City on February 10, 1863. Is it true or not? I don’t know, but it is part of Marengo folklore.

I would like to thank Bob Hensel, and once again, Rudy Husfeldt’s "Ruminations" for information contained in this article. Thanks also to Dan Wernham for the great photo. I also used information from my personal files. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed this look into Marengo’s past. (For more information, call Mike Bigalke at 815-568-5887, or e-mail him at mbigalke@mc.net)