The Clark House Museum, located at 206 East Wisconsin Avenue in the Village of Pewaukee, recalls Asa Clark, the first white settler of Pewaukee. Current exhibits include Native American Indian Life with Emphasis on the Potawatomi and Elections - from Local to National. Pictures and artifacts portray a way of life from the early 1900s in the Village and Town (now the City).
Asa Clark's son built the Clark House, which remained in the Clark family until the death of Marietta Clark Larson, great granddaughter of Asa, in 1984. In 1992 the Pewaukee Area Historical Society purchased the property.
History of the Pewaukee Area Historical Society
The roots of the Pewaukee Area Historical Society can be traced to 1976, when a dedicated group of area citizens sought to commemorate the U.S. Bicentennial and to celebrate the history of Pewaukee. They organized a temporary museum, with the hall of Pewaukee’s Christ Lutheran Church serving as the site. There were over 900 visitors and it was evident that a permanent museum would be a welcome addition to the community.
In November of 1976, a group of volunteers voted to form the Pewaukee Area Historical Society. The following year, it was incorporated as a nonprofit educational and charitable organization responsible for researching the history of the Pewaukee area, collecting, preserving and exhibiting historical archives and artifacts. The slogan was “Reverence for the past and eye to the future."
The museum was soon moved to a former garage on Oakton Avenue in the village. Its collections grew and the museum rapidly outgrew its quarters. It did not have far to look for a new location. The former Mosley Clark Stagecoach Inn, at the corner of East Wisconsin and Prospect Avenue was available. It had remained in the Clark family; the last of the family to live in the house was Mosely Clark’s grand daughter, Marietta Clark Larson, and her husband Charles. When she died in 1984, Charles continued to live in the home. When Charles Larson died in 1992, the Historical Society purchased the house from the Larson estate and a vote of the membership named it the Clark House Museum. Since there had been many alterations over the years, the decision was made to renovate it for museum use, rather than restore it. Renovations were made possible by the support of interested citizens and a generous bequest from the estate of Robert J. Shaw, great grandson of Alexander Caldwell, an early Pewaukee merchant.
History of the Clarks and the Clark House
In 1836, Deacon Asa Clark left Lunenburg, Vermont for the western frontier. He traveled by horseback with a neighbor. They arrived in Milwaukee, where Clark formed a partnership with the firm of Childs and Wheelock for the purpose of building a mill at Snail Lake, now Pewaukee Lake. It was 1837 when Clark arrived in the area. When the site was selected and business agreements drawn up, Clark returned to Vermont where he sold his farm and returned to this area.
The Clark House, currently the Clark House Museum, was built under the supervision of Mosely Clark, a son of Asa Clark. Building began in 1844. The structure featured a double-gabled front, and L-shaped porch. It became known as Lilac Rest, for the profusion of lilacs which bloomed around it.
With its location on the Watertown Plank Road, it was ideally suited as an inn. Thus it became Pewaukee’s first hotel, with the Clarks providing shelter for weary travelers.
Advertised by its first manager, Theodore Sheldon as offering “good beds and good food,” it offered hospitality to travelers on the Watertown Plank Road which went past its door. Guests were fed home-produced food from Clark Mills, produce, meat, and dairy products from the nearby family farm. Rope beds had straw mattresses. When the hotel was crowded with overnight travelers, guests could find shelter in the barn across the plank road, where animals and provisions were kept.
When other hotels were built, it was home to Mosely Clark and his wife Sarah Hardman Clark and their family. The Clark House remained in the Clark family from the time it was built until 1992 when it was purchased by the Historical Society.