History of the Oscar H. Hanson House
George Dow, a Scot and one of Cambridge’s founding fathers, settled in Cambridge in the 1800’s. He ran the Village bank and creamery and was also involved in the building of the grist mill, the current site of The Feed Mill Restaurant (established 2010).
In 1883, Dow commissioned the construction of this house on lots 7 and 8 of block 5 for his daughter, Jennifer, and her husband, James H. Townsend (1841-1914).
James was born in Pelham Township, Westchester County, New York, September 16, 1841, the son of James L. and Sarah (Dederer) Townsend, natives of the same county and brother to Charles H. Townsend, born on March 24, 1835 in Eastchester, Westchester County, New York.. During the Civil War, Charles rose to the rank of Captain. He died July 28, 1913 in Omaha, Nebraska. Charles married Cecelia Eliza Douglas October 14, 1860 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, daughter of James J. Douglas.
James L. and Sarah Townsends emigrated to Cambridge, Dane County, Wisconsin, in 1850 when James was 9 years old. He graduated from Stoughton High School. One year later, in 1860, he went overland to California, returning in 1863. This was the time of the California Gold Rush, the blazing of the Oregon Trail, and the American Civil War (1861-1865). James and Jenny married September 9, 1868. They had four children Joan, Sarah Elizabeth (deceased in infancy), Isa Gavina, and Georgia Dow. James and Jenny remained residents of Dane County, Wisconsin.
The Townsend lineage can be traced back to Norfolk England. James H. Townsend represented the eight generation of Townsends in America. The family is closely related to Lord Townsend of Rainham, Norfolk county, England, who was an ancestor of the greater part of the Townsends in America. At that time the old English family coat of arms represented a stag and hounds on either side of the shield supporting a crown and stag. The first Townsend who immigrated to America was Richard Townsend, who came in 1620 to Jamestown, VA.
The home was built 36 years after Joseph Keyes recorded the plat for the Village of Cambridge with the Register of Deeds in Dane County. For those that could afford to do so, Victorian families traditionally included a home as part of their daughter’s dowry. James and Jennifer were married for 15 years before moving into the home.
In its day, the house sat on several acres with a horse pasture to the East and a carriage house where the garage stands today. The servants’ cottage is now a single family residence to the East of the Hanson House.
The home originally had six second floor bedrooms including a nursery in the rounded feature above the first floor entrance. The door to this room lay directly across from the windows. During renovation, the innkeepers discovered a second door to the nursery in the room’s East wall. The Townsends built a seventh bedroom in the attic to be used as a maid’s quarters. While it is unknown if anyone ever slept in this attic hide-way, we do know that children played here. Workmen found four clay marbles above the ceiling of the attic bedroom. A bee-bee and multiple bee-bee size indentations found in the closet in the south bedroom (Mia’s Room) also speak to the antics to children that lived in the house.
The home remained in the Townsend family until shortly after James’ death when Jennifer sold the house in 1915 to Oscar H. Hanson (2) , a local business man. Nine years earlier, Townsend and Hanson had worked together on the community’s 16th anniversary celebration. The June 27, 1906 edition of the Madison Democrat reports Townsend as a member of the Invitation Committee and Hanson part of the Executive Committee in charge of the festivities.
Oscar was born on December 14, 1858 in Lake Mills. After his father, John Hanson, died of wounds from the Civil War, Hanson’s family moved to Cambridge. Mina Olson, Hanson’s mother, was born in Cambridge and had family here. As a young man, Hanson worked as a clerk in the mercantile business and then as a manager of the P. Lorrilard Tobacco Company warehouse in Cambridge. Later, he owned Lee’s Pontiac Dealership on the southwest corner of Main and Water in Cambridge, the site of Rowe Pottery retail sales.
He loved horses and entered his horses often in the county fairs. The August 23, 1924 edition of the Capitol Times reported Hanson, his wife and their four children: Allen, Julian, Oscar Jr, and Kilbourn, attending an Olson Family reunion in Cambridge. As a young woman, Kilbourn married W. R. Wengel and moved to Rochester, New York. Oscar also had five grandchildren, Andrea and William Wengel of Rochester, New York; John Allen, Judith, and Martha Hanson of Fort Atkinson.
It is said that Al Capone at one time slept in the house.
In 1939, when Oscar was 80 years old, the Hanson’s sold the house to Sam Bouma (3). Bouma, a mason, is responsible for the stucco on the home’s exterior, in the parlor and on either side of the attic stairs. Relatives of the Bouma’s remember the fireplace and staircase as more ornate. In 1954, the Bouma’s sold the house to Earl Sorenson (4). Earl C. Humble, Jr (5) purchased the home in 1959.
A story is told that one winter night during the late 50s, the owner, who was cold, removed the home’s original elegant stair banister and threw it in the fireplace to keep warm. A fire resulted, consuming the original fireplace.
Evidence of the fire remains in the charred planks below the parlor. When Duke and Mary Jane bought the home, a brick fireplace with a decorative American Eagle graced the home’s second parlor. The Eagle is a symbol for the high degree of post-WWII patriotism. Duke and Mary’s renovation crew found in the Dining Room walls (originally a front Parlor) crumpled pages from the “Morning Final” edition of the Wisconsin State Journal from Sunday, August 3, 1958. It is presumed that work to repair fire damage took place during this time. The hardwood floor in the dining room also tells of a wall that once separated the foyer from the dining room, previously one of the home’s two parlors.
n 1966, Humble sold the Hanson House to Fred Decker (6), and in 1971 Decker sold the home to Daniel and Georigia Gomez-Ibanez (7). Jim Schuler (8) bought the home from Gomez-Ibanez. The Mihajlovic’s are the 10th owners.
Oscar H. Hanson is remembered as an outstanding citizen, honest, fair, and “public spirited.” At home, he is described as “kindly, loving, and considerate.” He lies in eternal rest in Lake Ripley Cemetery.