Governor William H. Upham House gets a fresh look from its past
By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — The North Wood County Historical Society is working to rebrand and restore the look of the Governor William H. Upham House, known to many as the Upham Mansion. Principally, the group is spending $25,000 to restore the original paint job to the exterior of the house and to make other improvements and restorations to its façade. Painting will likely be completed around the end of August.
The house and its long and proud heritage are the “prized possession” of the North Wood County Historical Society, which is why the group is restoring the original look of the house with yellow paint as opposed to the white color it has been for many years. The historical society also recently redid the roof on the mansion.
“With the new paint job, they (the public) can see we’re very concerned as a society — and the board of directors are very concerned — that we want to keep this house going,” said Tom Ptak, a former president and current member of the North Wood County Historical Society.
The group is funded through membership dues, donations, mansion tours, and a few business sponsors.
“We’re constantly studying what needs to be done and trying to lay out a plan and do it as we can afford it,” said former Marshfield Mayor and former Society President Mike Meyers, who is still an active member of the group. Meyers’ grandfather was the first president of the North Wood County Historical Society. The group now has roughly 150 members.
Kim Krueger, coordinator of the North Wood County Historical Society and its lone employee, described the mansion as the group’s “biggest artifact.”
She added that because to some extent Marshfield is a transient community with numerous people commuting to work here, many in town do not know about the mansion. Still, Ptak said that over 1,200 people visit the house each year. A large percentage of visitors are third-grade students who annually tour the mansion.
Krueger said that the society had recently removed some mock orange bushes surrounding the house, which laid the house bare and made the need for a paint job more obvious.
“When those came down, we were like, ‘Whoa,’” Krueger said. The group knew it needed to address the look of the house to restore it for historical purposes, to beautify it, and to help it stand out to the public. Along with efforts to restore the look of the house, the society wants the public to utilize the proper name of the house, which is the Governor William H. Upham House, not the Upham Mansion as it is commonly known.
Krueger said it was important to her to be a good steward of the house and the possessions of the society, and she enjoys learning more every day about the Upham family.
“Learning more and more about the history of the Upham family and the impact that they had on this community has been amazing. The more I learn the more I’m humbled because of their selflessness in what they provided for the community,” Krueger said.
Ptak said that being involved with the society has been a way he could give something back to Marshfield, which has been a great place for his family. Ptak is also the yard and garden house chair for the property and has been instrumental in cultivating the gardens on the grounds, in particular the property’s heritage rose garden.
Meyers said that he has been interested in history and the Upham family since his youth.
“I started out by writing a biography on Mr. Upham to save my freshman English score,” Meyers said. “The first time I walked through those front doors it was just, it took my breath away.”
The North Wood County Historical Society also wants to work more with other historical groups in Marshfield such as The Laird Foundation for Historic Preservation, the Marshfield Area Genealogy Group, and the Marshfield Historic Preservation Association.
Built in 1880, the Governor William H. Upham House was occupied by Governor Upham and his wife Mary. When Mary died in 1912, Upham remarried, wedding Grace Mason. The couple had two sons together, and Upham passed away in 1924. Mason then married Harold Hambright, and together they occupied the mansion. Mason died in 1975, and the North Wood County Historical Society purchased the property in 1976. The house was built by T.F. Vannedom, a 19th century architect and businessman, in Italianate style, which was quite popular at the time of construction. It is the oldest documented residence in the city of Marshfield.
The Governor William H. Upham House is open to the public from 1:30-4 p.m. on Wednesday and Saturday. It costs $2 to tour the house. There are also office hours from 12-4 p.m. on Wednesday and 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. on Thursday. Reserving the house and garden for special events, such as a wedding, is also an option.
If you would like to volunteer for the North Wood County Historical Society or donate to projects it is involved in, including maintaining the Governor William H. Upham House, you can stop into the office at the mansion during the above listed hours. You may also mail donations to P.O. Box 142, Marshfield. To contact the society, email [email protected] or call 715-387-3322. To learn more visit uphammansion.com.