July 30, 2010
Israel Stowell was a transplanted temperance supporter and he joined the Phoenix Brothers in Delavan, who founded the city as a colony for temperance and abolitionists. Stowell built a hotel in 1839, meant to be a stagecoach overnght stop between Madison and Chicago. The hotel catered to Baptists, Yankees and those who did not indulge in the use of alcohol. If you weren't in one of those categories, you were turned away.
The temperance movement came to a close in Delavan in the mid 1840s. In 1847, Edmund and Jerimiah Mabie selected Delavan as the winter quarters for their U.S. Olympic Circus, the largest traveling show in the country at the time. After the collapse of the temperance movement, the Temperance House changed hands numerous times and at one point, in a strange twist of irony, it was a tavern. Its last commercial use was as a used book store. One can see shelves of books remaining inside the building.
The owner of the books, the closed bookstore and the building itself is 87 years old. He is in the process of donating the house to the Delavan Historical Society. (Most of the bookstore inventory has actually been removed to reduce the load on the structure.)
The house is in bad shape and is in peril of demolition. A banner attached to the front pleads for help to save the historic structure. It is thought to be the oldest building in Delavan and according to the Wisconsin Historical Society, is the last temperance house in the state.
The Israel Stowell Temperance House was condemned and scheduled for demolition on July 1, 2010. As of this writing, the house still stands. The demolition order was extended and recently has been lifted. On July 27, 2010, a consultant inspected the property to examine the possibility of saving the structure. Members of the city government have speculated on the restoration of the house in order to use it as a resource center for historical research and possibly to house the offices of the historical society.
The results of the study are due approximately October 1.