Officials with St. Norbert Abbey have confirmed they do not intend to sell or further develop the former Frank Allis property on Monona Drive.
Known as the San Damiano Friary, the property and historic house are located at 4123 Monona Drive.
St. Norbert Abbey contracted with Hoffman Planning, Design & Construction Inc. to begin demolition of the house. Logistics regarding the demolition will be scheduled following the outcome of the Monona Landmarks Commission meeting Wednesday, Dec. 11, according to a statement from the religious order.
The Frank Allis house was deeded to St. Norbert Abbey, 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 became known as San Damiano Friary.
“The decision to demolish the house was made after assessing a number of issues with the structure,” said Abbot Dane Radecki, O. Praem. “We determined that it is not feasible to further invest in the house due to maintenance needs requiring substantial investment.”
At this time, St. Norbert Abbey is not selling this property nor developing it for other purposes, according to the statement. Arrangements have been made to maintain the property following demolition of the house.
Ann Waidelich, curator of the Historic Blooming Grove Historical Society, said members are disappointed with plans to raze the house. She said they were hoping the house could somehow be incorporated into any future use of the property.
“Needless to say, we are quite surprised and disappointed,” she said. “It is a historic house, and we certainly prefer to see it standing and used in some way. Of course, we’re as concerned about the whole property.”
The house has been altered several times over the years, which prohibited it from earning a state or national historical designation. It was originally an estate built by Allis-Chalmers heir Frank Allis.
The Dutch Colonial Revival house, built in 1888, 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.
In its time, the Allis home was among the first year-round dwellings on the lakeshore beyond the city limits of Madison.
“It’s quite sad and disappointing and frustrating, and we, as a society, were hoping for some better use than tearing it down,” Waidelich said.
St. Norbert Abbey officials said they are committed to protecting the environment and are working with Hoffman to demolish the house in a safe and environmentally friendly way.