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UW-Eau Claire archivists, student help with research for Third Ward Historic Home Tour

| Gary Johnson

Photo caption: The Third Ward Neighborhood Association’s “100 Years of Architectural Style” historic home tour is from 2-5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 6.

Sarah Beer loves research and her Third Ward neighborhood adjacent to the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, so the associate university archivist was more than happy to dig into the area’s history to help organizers with the first Third Ward Historic Home Tour.


Sarah Beer, associate university archivist

“I would spend the day researching these old homes and their inhabitants, and then walk past them on my way home,” Beer says. “It deepened the tie I felt to the neighborhood. I am always fond of house history projects because it combines Eau Claire history, genealogy and architecture, all of which I am deeply interested in.”

The Third Ward Neighborhood Association’s “100 Years of Architectural Style” historic home tour is from 2-5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 6. Guided walking tours led by local historian Frank Smoot will start at 2:15 and 4 p.m., and independent walking tour tickets also are available. Tickets can be obtained at

The 10 featured homes are being showcased for their age and architectural style. All the homes are over 100 years old and are either local, state or national landmarks.

Beer collected information on the history of the homes for seven of the 10 historic structures on the tour, including information about builders, owners, occupants, property records, architectural style, photographs and map images. University archivist Greg Kocken and UW-Eau Claire graduate student Kaitlin Augustine assisted with archive retrieval for other homes.

Augustine, a native of Ellsworth who is pursuing her master of arts degree in history, says this was the first time she had researched a house property request, which taught her practical skills and knowledge that archivists develop over time. Augustine made a comprehensive list of residents who lived in the homes, added biological and genealogical information about prominent owners and made scans to explain architectural style elements.

“It is exciting to know that the research gathered by the university archives will be used to help members of the community learn more about the Third Ward,” Augustine says. “It is gratifying to help a neighbor. It just goes to show the importance of collaboration between the university and the public in order to create programs for the community to enjoy.”

Another Third Ward

This aerial photo of the Third Ward neighborhood was taken between 1925 and 1930.

Eileen Immerman, chair of the tour, said the UW-Eau Claire archivists found newspaper clippings, census entries and other interesting tidbits, “things I’m certain I’d never have found.” People on the walking tour will hear and see information about the history of homeowners, what was done to maintain the buildings and the roles homeowners played in the city’s growth. 

The collaboration with Beer and the UW-Eau Claire students helped “save the day” for Laurie Norstedt, owner of a home on the tour and a member of the tour committee. She called the work with UW-Eau Claire staff and students “a good partnership.”

Beer says the collaboration was a way for UW-Eau Claire’s Special Collections and Archives — and the university — to show it “serves a greater purpose to the community.”

“We can serve the community directly, and performing research such as this is a great way to show that,” Beer says. “Building a relationship with the community and organizations within it is something we are always striving to achieve.” 

Chancellor James Schmidt says UW-Eau Claire’s reputation as “Wisconsin’s most beautiful campus” is enhanced by the historic neighborhoods that sit on the university’s doorstep.

“When future students visit UW-Eau Claire for the first time, their first impressions of the campus and community are indelibly shaped by the quality and architectural variety of the historic Third Ward neighborhood,” Schmidt says. “The pride that homeowners have in their neighborhood is evidenced by the care with which their homes and gardens are maintained, and the tour will provide a deeper look at one of the oldest and best-preserved neighborhoods in Eau Claire.”

This year’s inaugural tour is a tour of the outside of the historic homes, but the committee hopes to include interior tours in the future.

“We hope people understand this is just the start,” Immerman says.

For additional information about the Third Ward Neighborhood Association, visit its website or its Facebook page.