Back in 1870 over in Norway, a man by the name of Carl Christopher “C.C.” Menes was born. When he turned 16, he would make his way over to the United State and begin his career as a carpenter.
Menes settled in Morrisonville where he built his first house. He would eventually move his family over to Lodi in 1897. This is where his illustrious career as a master builder would begin.
The City of Lodi is speckled with large, three-story Victorian homes that have been around for over a hundred years. These houses are the work of C.C. Menes. In a survey sent out across the city a few years ago, residents identified the houses as an aspect of Lodi that makes the city unique. This clued the Lodi Valley Historical Society into considering recognizing the man behind the houses.
“When we looked at all he had accomplished and the impact on the landscape in Lodi, we felt it was time to honor Carl,” said Mary Thompson, Lodi Valley Historical Society member.
This came in the form of a new memorial marker at the Jolivette House Museum after holding a dedication ceremony on Saturday, July 20. The monument includes the years he lived (1870-1948) as well as his title “Master Builder”. This title was created by the National Register of Historic Places to denote a builder with the same qualifications for design and construction as a trained architect.
Historical society member Monte Thompson created the monument and collected old paver bricks that were once a part of the Lodi streets to use as the base.
Monte Thompson said they held a program on C.C. Menes a couple months ago where he met a relative of Menes, Gary Richardson of Waunakee, whose mother was a Menes.
“Unfortunately, he (Gary) said, there’s not a marker that memorializes Carl in this whole town or even on his grave,” Monte Thompson said. “I told Gary that night, ‘just hang on.’”
Along with Richardson, C.C. Menes’ great-granddaughters, Carrie Menes of Lake Havasu, Arizona, and Christine Menes-Fryer of Loughlin, Nevada, also came out to the event. Both of them grew up in Lodi and lived in a house on North Street designed by C.C. Menes.
“I was basically alerted to this about six months ago and it’s incredible the effort that’s been put into this, Richardson said. “I appreciate all the hard work and I think it’s a fantastic effort on everybody’s part.”
C.C. Menes is responsible for around 30 houses in the surrounding area, including Lodi, Morrisonville, Sun Prairie and more. Other buildings, such as Lodi City Hall, is based off a Menes design. Richardson said there were also some places Menes isn’t credited with because he wasn’t proud of them and didn’t want his name behind it.
During the celebration on Saturday, Monte held a tour of Victorian houses in Lodi and got to show and tell people a little of their history. He said Menes’ work is “unbelievable” given the tools he had back in the 1890s. He said Menes also built the huge three-story houses for $3 a day and sold them for under $2,000.
Today, Monte said the house couldn’t be touched for $300,000. He said one that was sold recently went for around $500,000.
While some have been updated over the years, they continue to maintain their signature Menes look. C.C. Menes’ memorial will be on display permanently outside the Jolivette House Museum.