The Plumer Mansion Comes Down

485 Franklin St Wausau

Marathon County Historical Society
Written By Marathon County Historical Society

Marathon County Historical Society- home of the Yawkey House Museum & The Woodson History Center.

Demolition of the Plumer Mansion

The building that once stood on this block was built in 1890 by Daniel and Mary Plumer. The Plumers were among the foremost pioneers of the Wausau area. Like its builders, the Plumer Mansion was a truly unique and outstanding structure for the community in which it was built. It was constructed with Marathon County’s distinct red granite, and a variety of local sources of lumber was featured on the inside.

After Mary’s death in 1928, the building was given to Memorial Hospital (which she helped to found). It became a residence for the clergy of the First Presbyterian Church, then briefly the location of the Milwaukee Journal newspaper, before finally becoming home to the WSAU radio station. As WSAU expanded into television, the Plumer Mansion became the studio for Channel 7 broadcasts for many years.

But in 1970, WSAU-TV moved to a new building on Grand Avenue, and the future of the old Plumer Mansion was put into question. In response to the issuing of a wrecking permit to raze the mansion as early as January 1, 1971, a group of concerned citizens created the “Committee for the Preservation of the D.L. Plumer Mansion.”

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“It would be unfortunate … if we would not use this building for the betterment of this community as the Plumers would have wanted it. It is imperative that we save reminders of our past in order to build a better future.” –Douglas Durkee in an editorial printed in the WDH (7 December 1971)

The group met regularly over the next few months, hoping to raise enough money to save the distinctive landmark. Pledge cards were sent out to the citizens of Wausau, to gauge their willingness to contribute to the cause. But it became clear fairly quickly that the citizens of Wausau, while they were generally against seeing the Plumer Mansion fall to the wrecking ball, were apathetic toward attempts to save it.

Some blamed the younger generation for not seeing the value of the building. Others questioned the civic pride of their neighbors. But whomever they blamed, it was clear that there was a lack of support for historic preservation in Wausau.

In April 1972, although the Committee’s efforts had kept the wrecking ball away from the Plumer Mansion for over a year, the old building came down.

“This committee’s saving attempts went on for well over a year, right up to the time that demolition started. If hours could be stacked like granite blocks in the mansion, we’d have a tower of time spent in research, interviews and meetings." ... “The tearing down of the D.L. Plumer Mansion in Wausau is now a fact; and that fact is a tearing experience for all who believed in its intrinsic value.” COMMITTEE FOR THE PRESERVATION OF THE D.L. PLUMER MANSION (Wausau Daily Herald, 14 February 1972)

Particularly at a time when Wausau, and the whole United States, was readying itself to celebrate the National Bicentennial in 1976, the destruction of such an iconic landmark for a parking lot, helped to awaken the public to the need for historic preservation. In 1975, the Wausau Historic Landmark Commission was established to help preserve old buildings.

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