ELK GROVE — Southwest Wisconsin is full of communities introduced by signs that include the word “Unincorporated.”
Elk Grove, on Lafayette County X in the Town of Elk Grove, doesn’t even have “Unincorporated” on its sign. The hamlet of Elk Grove does have the town hall and shop, and a farm with farmhouse. Next to the farm is a white building that used to be Elk Grove’s cheese factory, which closed in 1949. There used to be a post office, tavern and hotel on the east side of what now is County X.
Across from the farmhouse, next to the town shop, is a house now in the possession of Town of Lima resident Ted Ogden. The house can be seen in old photos of Elk Grove’s general store. Though the store and the clothing store next to it are gone, the general store’s foundation is outlined by stones in the ground. Cottonwood and black locust trees have grown up where the store used to be.
“I just don’t like having all this history taken away,” said Ogden.
Ogden’s sister lives near the house, and her husband’s uncle grew up near the house. Ogden’s sister thought of her brother because of his house, built from a log cabin on property that contained an abandoned house.
“There again, I can’t tear that log cabin down, so I built around it,” said Ogden, a finish carpenter. “I love framing. That’s why I love these projects.”
In addition, he said, “My family is very into history and heritage.” One aunt and uncle restored a house in Spring Green, and another restored a house near Rewey.
The Elk Grove house was formerly the summer home of a couple from the Chicago area, who purchased it in 1988. The house fell into disrepair after the man died.
“They were actually thinking about tearing it down,” said Ogden. “Now I’m at the question of what am I going to do with it.
“This isn’t a first-time homebuyer house. This is a vacation house. So I’m going to decide how deep I want to get into this.”
While the house suffered from several years of non-usage, Ogden marvels at how straight each of the corners and walls of the house — obviously all built by hand — are. “I can’t get over how straight it is,” he said.
At a minimum, the house needs heating and electrical upgrades — “trying to keep heat in it and modernize it,” he said.
The lack of heat led to sagging of the roof after a snowy winter. Ogden brought in two companies, Schaefer Construction and KS Construction, both of Platteville, to jack up the roof to repair it from below.
“They noticed the roof wasn’t right, and they weren’t paying much attention to it,” said Ogden.
Six years before the previous owners bought the house, the owners of the time built an addition on the house’s west side.
Behind the addition is a root cellar, which Ogden found covered with planks. He wants to “get it back to everything usable.” That’s the extent of a basement, other than a 16½-inch crawl space.
The house has one bathroom, off the kitchen in the back of the house. He’s considering adding another bathroom in the northwest corner of the second floor.
“It all boils down to how deep I want to get with it,” he said.
Ogden might not be done with houses in Elk Grove. He said the town approached him about a property to the north, possibly a former blacksmith shop.