Hiram C. Stewart House

521 Grant St., Wausau, Wisconsin

Prairie School design house now serving as a popular bed & breakfast


Overview Looking Southwest

Photo taken by J.R. Manning in May 2020




"The Hiram C. Stewart House is a gray two-story stucco Prairie School design by George Washington Maher, Chicago, built in 1906. It is a rectangular block with a low hipped roof. The central chim- ney is a proportionally-broad mass. The stuccoed walls are slightly battered and have a wooden "string course" at the lower edge of the second-story windows. A prominent entrance porch on the right side of the main facade is the major visual accent.

"The porch is a parapet supported by one pier and two columns at each corner. The piers are massive, plain blocks and the columns have lotus-like capitals actually based on the tulip motif. The massive parapet above is a giant bolection molding the top of which is stop- ped and enclosed by the "string course" referred to above.

"At the center of the main (north) facade is a quasi-Palladian window the basic shape of which is carried throughout the house in interior wood trim. A tripartite design, the central portion is surmounted by a segmental arch and is flanked by two smaller casement windows framed under half-segmental arches. The dividing colonnettes ni are based on an abstracted tulip-capital motif.

"Indeed, the entire house is designed around two thematic forms: the tulip and the tripartite arch form established in the central window. The house is, therefore, an excellent example of Maher's "motif rhythm theory" in which a basic plant or geometric form is chosen and a complete design evolved from these. In interior trim, leaded-glass designs, and light fixtures the tulip reappears contin- ually. The tulip shape relates well to the Egyptian lotus, which would have been reasonable for Maher who revealed Egyptian influences in many of his designs.

"Inside the house a stunning mosaic framing the living room fire- place was designed and executed by Ciannini and Hilgart, Chicago.

"Until recently, it was not thought that George W. Maher (1864- 1926) had designed any houses for Wisconsin clients. It is now known this was untrue. In Wausau he designed four complete houses and one major interior remodeling from 1889 to about 1915. The Stewart house perhaps is the finest example of these houses in that it exemplifies to clearly the Maher "motif-rhythm theory/' and is most true to the Prairie School design philosophy.

"The Stewart house was one of Maher's fairly successful designs evolved from the "motif-rhythm theory." It is the most representa- tive of the Wausau houses as far as the application of this theory is concerned, though the other houses evidence similar tendencies. As the best design among the newly-discovered cluster of Maher houses in Wausau, it is a major Prairie School site in Wisconsin.

"Hiram C. Stewart was an officer in the Barker and Stewart Lum- ber Company. In 1914 he sold the house to Louis Dessert, another lumberman, whose family owned it until 1964."

Quotation from the National Register of Historic Places Inventory - Nomination Form prepared by Jeffrey M. Dean, State Preservation Planner and Juanita Ellias, Summer Survey Field Supervisor of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, February 26, 1974. A link to the document is listed below under "Sources."

National Register information 

Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on August 30, 1974
Reference number
NR name
Stewart, Hiram C., House
Architectural style
American Movement: Prairie School
Area of significance
Level of significance
Evaluation criteria
C - Design/Construction
Property type
Historic function
Single dwelling
Current function
Single dwelling
Period of significance
Significant year

Update Log 

  • June 2, 2020: New photos from J.R. Manning
  • June 2, 2020: Updated by J.R. Manning: Updated status, added description, and added photos