The double-door farmhouses of Kewaunee County : preservation of a history and a heritage

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MA in Historic Preservation

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To view a complete copy of this thesis please contact Goucher College Special Collections & Archives at or (410) 337-6075.


The focus of this thesis is the German-Bohemian double-door farmhouses, a form of vernacular architecture located in the rural community of Kewaunee County, Wisconsin. The strikingly similar features that the houses share are front-facing, large double gables and the two front doors. The understanding of these farmhouses, architecturally similar and distinctive, is significant as part of the historical, architectural and ethnic heritage of this community and their reflection of legal and social traditions, including and especially, the bond of maintenance, an ethnic version of life estate. The thesis begins with a discussion of the definition of vernacular architecture and its importance to our built environment. A historical overview examines the background of Kewaunee County‟s agricultural past. Settlement history documents links between this building type and the German and Bohemian immigrants that settled in the county. Of the possible explanations considered, the culture and building traditions of the Germans and Bohemians blended together to inspire and shape the form. Study of five farmhouses provided the defining characteristics. Preservation challenges facing rural properties are examined and strategies are laid out. This thesis shows the importance of an inter-disciplinary approach to combine the values of history and heritage. It is the combination of these values, so well represented in this set of farmhouses that gives the community identity and sense of place.