A plan to raze the home on the San Damiano property on Monona Drive has ended – at least for the foreseeable future as the owners make plans to sell the historic site.
Monona city officials were informed late last week the Norbertine Order was withdrawing its application for demolition of the house and will proceed to market the house and land. The withdrawal was made in writing Friday, Jan. 31, by Terry Ellenbecker, vice president of field operations with Hoffman Planning, Design & Construction, the company assisting the Norbertines in the process.
A public hearing in December by the Monona Landmarks Commission led dozens of area residents to urge for the maintenance of the historic home, despite statements from Ellenbecker that those costs outweighed the benefit. The two sides had agreed to a postponement of a decision on the razing application while they attempted to work through issues.
The commission was scheduled to take up the issue again Wednesday, Feb. 12.
“After much discussion, it was determined that the large investment in resources to try and preserve the house far outweigh the benefit of just maintaining the house,” Ellenbecker wrote to City Planner Doug Plowman. “We are aware that due to the many additions and numerous renovations, it has prohibited the building from being recorded on the national historical registry.”
In a statement from the Norbertines, the Catholic priests said the decision not to invest resources is also warranted due to the absence of Norbertines working in the Diocese of Madison at this time. Instead, the Abbey will proceed to sell the property to an outside party.
“At this time, the Abbey feels that an outside partner may very well have more resources and better ideas for the property which could include preservation of the existing house.”
“We decided that another party may make better use of the Frank Allis house and may be interested in preserving it,” added Abbot Dane Radecki, O. Praem.
The Abbey will continue to work with the city of Monona and other parties as necessary.
Ellenbecker left the door open for the issue of razing the home to resurface again.
“We understand that by withdrawing this application at this time will in no way prohibit the property from being included in a future application request for demolition by the Abbey or any other interested party,” he said.
The 14-room home built about 130 years ago is listed as a Monona landmark.
The Frank Allis house was deeded to St. Norbert Abbey in De Pere in 1929 by Margaret and Joanna Mahoney. The property was used as a novitiate and a house of studies for the Norbertines from 1929-75. From 1975 until 2015, the property was leased to the Capuchin Province of St. Joseph as a retreat house and home for elderly religious. During this period, the property was known as San Damiano Friary.
It encompasses 9.8 acres of land and more than 1,000 of shoreline on Lake Monona.
According to the Historic Blooming Grove Historical Society, the building on the property was designed in an eclectic style. The Dutch Colonial Revival house fits into a time period when revival styles were popularized. It possesses many Georgian characteristics, such as dormer, fanlights, columns and decorative pilasters. Other unique features include seven fireplaces, an open carved oak staircase and ballroom on the third floor.