Pickard House is the Ripon Historical Society’s main headquarters, located at 508 Watson Street in Lot 3, Block 10 of Bovay’s Addition. Over time, the house has served a variety of purposes and has been remodeled and changed accordingly.
We do not know exactly when the house was built, but we believe it was built in the 1870’s and lived in by Avery Brown.
We know that Belle Pickard of Oshkosh came to Ripon and occupied this house in 1912. She was 24 years old, single, trained as a beautician and chiropodist. She came with her ailing mother, Lulu, and two of her brothers, Sam and Franklin. Her father, Herman, had died in 1907. Belle, the chief support of her family, ran a beauty shop downstairs on the south side of the house and lived in the downstairs north rooms and upstairs.
Belle continued to live in the house and run a beauty shop until 1965. At times she had one or two of her beauticians living with her. Her brother Sam had married and moved to Neenah. Franklin had died in 1917, and her mother had died in mid-1920s.
For her business, alterations and additions were made. She used what we now call the Entrance Room as her waiting room with the southwest corner curtained off for chiropody (foot care). She enclosed the north end of the front porch. Elaine Briese, one of her beauticians who lived upstairs, ran a wool shop in the enclosed porch. Belle installed sinks in what is now our main floor Exhibit Room. In the 1930s she added a large room with a small lavatory at the west end of the south side. The Society later used this room for meetings. Miss Pickard continued to occupy her living quarters until 1967 when she required nursing care.
Through the generosity of the Elizabeth Murray Foundation and Sam Pickard, the Society was able to purchase Pickard House in March 1968. Society members Dorothy Lambert and Fae Nichols, who were soon joined by Beverly King, took on the challenge of restoring the house to the 1910-1920 era when Belle Pickard first lived in it.
By the early 1990s, the appearance of Pickard House and its functional inadequacies had become concerns of the Society’s membership and Board of Directors. A timely gift from member Doris Miller in 1993 and the services of Rick Schroeder, restoration architect of Oshkosh, made possible the exterior restoration of the front of the house. It included removal of asbestos shingles exposing the original clapboard and removal of the enclosed portion of the front porch.
The changed appearance was well received by both the membership and community. With this success, the Board undertook an entirely private fundraising campaign to improve the functional aspects of Pickard House. By 1998 adequate funds had been raised to hire Ripon Area Builders as the general contractor and to use Rick Schroeder, architect, for the second phase of Pickard House improvements.
The new addition, completed by October 1999 in celebration of the Society’s 100thyear, met the identified needs. They included, on the main floor, a larger meeting room/library with a required emergency exit porch on its east exterior wall, handicapped accessible bathrooms, a small kitchen, a storage closet and a workroom for the museum’s artifact accessioning, maintenance and exhibit preparation. An elevator was installed, as required, for accessibility to the main floor and lower level through a new rear entrance.
RESOURCES FOR THE HISTORY OF PICKARD HOUSE
“Ripon Family Files”—individual folders in Society archives.
The following are located in the bookcase on the east wall of the meeting room:
“Biographical and Statistical Information—Relating to Many Families That Have Lived in Ripon and Vicinity” compiled by Samuel M. Pedrick.
History of Ripon by David P. Mapes
A History of Ripon, Wisconsin by S. M. Pedrick and G. H. Miller
Call Me Sam by D. W. Pickard
(Please click on thumbnails for a larger version of each picture)