Historic District Walking Tour

Category: History

Article Index

"The buildings are started, only with rough material, the carpenters are working every day to finish the in and outside of (them), so they be a light of the hardworking Swiss people and for the American citizens to copy our buildings...." 

J.G. Propst, 1896
New Switzerland Developer

Explore The Past 1The Historic District is located in the original 1895 New Switzerland Township.  The Swiss Pioneer Union of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with help and encouragement from the NC & St.L Railroad and developer J.G. Propst, purchased the land from Eliza Smith and divided the land into lots.  Streets were laid out at 90 degree angles.  A train depot and a few wooden store buildings were built.  The Union then advertised for immigrants in the Midwest to move to a new Switzerland in America.  Union members had the first opportunity to buy the lots; however, many lots were sold to immigrants from countries other than Switzerland.

The first settlers lived in a temporary barracks built on what is now South Park Avenue.  At first, many new arrivals could only afford to build two room houses, just enough for their families to survive the first year.  Additions were soon added.  The style of the first generation houses was similar to the late Victorian and Colonial Revival houses that were common for that era.

By 1899, the New Switzerland Township merged with the smaller town of Hohenwald and assumed its name.  The Kursheedt Manufacturing Company of New York bought a large central portion of the District in 1901 and built an embroidery factory and houses for its supervisors.

Each lot in the District was fenced and animals were allowed to roam free on the streets until the 1920's.  Most lots were small farms, complete with a garden patch and a barn for horses, cattle and chickens.

Hohenwald began to prosper in the 1920's, and second generation houses were constructed in the District in the Arts and Crafts style.  Three of the oldest houses were "modernized" in the 1920's by adding a stucco facade and bungalow features.

The next major wave of the building in the District occurred during and immediately after World War II.

So download the map, and we can begin our tour! 

Hohenwald Historic District Walking Tour Map 


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compass The Walking Tour begins at Wilhelm Tellplatz on South Maple Street.  A scanned image of a hand drawn map of the Historic District is available for download, in pdf format, for your convenience.

1. Explore The Past 2 Wilhelm Tellplatz

The city park honors the memory of the early town settlers.  The street was originally named Tell Street for Wilhelm Tell, a hero of Switzerland.  The park property was site to the home of R.H. Lacher, who owned a canning factory in town.  The yard was known for its ornate gardens.  The Bandstand, modeled from the 1888 Bellville, Ohio, bandstand, was built in 1993 to commemorate the Sesquicentennial of Lewis County.  One of Hohenwald's first city appropriations was to purchase band uniforms for its "The Echo of Switzerland" band.

compass  Exit the park on 1st Street and turn right toward Park Avenue.

2. Kistler Haus, 17 E. 1st St. 

The original portion of the house was built by C.A. Daniel and was located on the corner.  Town blacksmith Casper Kistler lived in the house and built his blacksmith shop to the rear of this lot.  In the 1920's, the house was moved to its present location and additions were made.  The house has continuously remained home for the Kistler family, one of the founding members of the New Switzerland colony.

3.  Schwendimann House, 1905.  20 E. 1st.

Town merchant Nicholas Wenger built this house as a wedding gift for his daughter Lena who married John Schwendimann, Jr.  Her father-in-law John Schwendimann, Sr., also lived in the house.  John Schwendimann Sr. was bandleader of The Echo of Switzerland.  He also opened an entertainment hall for the Swiss settlers called Liberty Hall, where he promoted regular waltzes, performances of Wilhelm Tel, and masked balls.  He even bottled his own soft drink.

4.  Old Hohenwald City Hall, 1931.  29 S. Park.

Built at the beginning of the Great Depression, this building was the first permanent building constructed to house city functions.  The small group of city staff worked on the north side of the building and the first fire engine was housed on the south.  The fire whistle tower is still visible.  After the whistle failed during a fire alarm, the city began blowing a fire siren as a test noon everyday except Sunday, a tradition that continued to the present.

Park Avenue was originally named Helvetia Street.  Across the street where Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative is located, banker Felix Goodman's house stood on the corner.  To the right was a silent movie theater.  Some parents would not allow their children to attend the theater because they did not think it proper for boys and girls to be alone in the dark.  To the right of the theater was the home and barber shop of Louis Lemason, who immigrated from Paris.

5.  Wenger House, 1899.  101 S. Park.

This house was home to town merchant Nicolas Wenger.  The house was originally a two story clapboard house.  In the early 1920's, Dr. Springer removed the second story and added stucco to give the house a "modern" bungalow appearance.

"On this block, the Swiss Pioneer Union originally built a long wooden building as a temporary shelter to be used for newly arriving settlers.  "We arrived about 4P.M. at the Propst Hotel.  We ate our supper and were told that we had two rooms in a long shed which consisted of eighteen rooms.  That was to be our home until we could build a house." ~ Maggie Grimes

Across the street on Helvetia, from right to left, were the houses of town pharmacist Dr. Beasley, merchant Home Rasbury, and Swiss settler Emil Whipf.


compass   Turn left and cross East First Street to corner.

6.  Voorhies House, 1925.  103 S. Park.

Luther Voorhies owned the combination hardware store and funeral parlor on Main St., a practice not uncommon at the time.  Voorhies also began selling new machines from Ford called "automobiles" as a normal outgrowth of farm machinery.  Demand for the automobile was so great that he built the first Hohenwald Filling Station now on the corner of Main St. and Park.  Voorhies built this bungalow house as he was building his business.

7.  Randall House, 1923.  105 S. Park.

This bungalow style house was built by Riley Randall, who gained popularity as a rural mail carrier and then successfully ran for the State Legislature.

8.  Cohen House, 1897.  107 S. Park.

The oldest documented house in the Historic District, this house was built by merchant T. Cohen.  Dr. Springer also converted this house to the bungalow style by adding stucco and partially enclosing the front porch.

9.  Poore House, 1946.  111 S. Park.

The corner lot was originally the location of the Parsonage for the Swiss Reformed Church.  Banker Leland Poore built this colonial revival house immediately after World War II.  It was one of the few brick houses in the county at the time.

 swedish church10.  Hohenwald Church of Christ, 1927.

The original 1899 structure for the Christian Church was topped by a bell tower, and was built on one of the first lots sold by the Swiss Pioneer Union.  Lightning destroyed the first building 1927.  The current building soon replaced it the same year for the Church of Christ.  A ten-year-old Cordell Hull placed his Bible in the cornerstone, and was present for the 1999 centennial ceremony to view his Bible when the cornerstone was opened.  Many early Hohenwald buildings were heated with coal, which was shoveled from delivery wagons into the buildings through coal chutes.  The coal chute for the church building is still visible on the south side.


compass  Turn left on East Second St.  The large cedar tree on the left was present when the first settlers arrived.  It served as the first community Christmas tree in the Swiss colony.  Children lit candles to place on the tree on Christmas Eve as Hulda Muehlenthaler, dressed as an angel with white wings, dispensed oranges, nuts and applies to the children, an unusual treat for the time.  The Swiss Reformed Church building was built to the right of the tree.  Services were conducted in German.  The building was also used as a school house for the Swiss children.

Explore The Past 511.  Swiss Reformed Church Parsonage, 1902.  15 E. Second St.

Built to house the minister of the Swiss Reformed Church, the house features a bay window that was an unusual luxury for first generation houses.  Emily Goemans remembers, "The Church had built a parsonage and they had one (minister) come over from Nashville, but it wasn't often enough -- the people wanted more than just Sunday school, which was every Sunday.  So they asked my father to give talks to them.  Later, he was ordained as a minister and we movved to town into the parsonage."  Her father taught the school for the Swiss children.  The house was closed in 1954 and remained boarded up for half a century.

12.  Muechlenbach House, 1899.  114 South Maple St.

First owned by Frank Muechlenbach, a Swiss farmer, who likely built the house.  The house was later home to 1912 Mayor Ed Johnson, who built about half the buildings in Hohenwald prior to 1914.  Johnson then moved to Flagler Beach, Florida, where he helped create that town and was instrumental in construction of A!A highway from Saint Augustine to Daytona Beach.  Other owners have included County Court Clerk Ernest Sprinkles and inventor Sam Bates, who built the first electrical power plant in town and who once built a Ferris wheel in the front yard for neighborhood children.  During World War I, Bates and Cooper Allison invented a cluster bomb.  When they sent to Chicago for a balloon to drop it and test it, investigators from the War Department showed up instead and confiscated the plans.  Franklin Delano Roosevelt later sent Bates a person note of thanks for the contribution of his plans to the war effort. (The fish scaling trim on the eaves of this house was carved by hand.)

13.  Keung HJouse, 1905.  18 East Second St.

Built by early town merchant Michael Keung, the house later served as home for Swiss carpenter August Schmidt, who likely made additions.  Schmidt helped build several of the early houses in the town.


compass  Turn right on Maple Street.  Across the street where Highland Corporation is now located, was the location of Grover's Lumber Mills, where lumber was planed and loaded into box cars.

[Interior Kursheedt Manufacturing Co. photo]

Explore The Past 314.a  Kursheedt Manufacturing Company houses.

New Switzerland was originally designed as an agricultural colony; however, the early immigrants were not familiar with agriculture in this area and they nearly starved.  The Kursheedt Manufacturing Company was one of the first industries in the colony that helped save it.  The factory, which made fine Hamburg lace, was housed in two large buildings on the right, at the end of the block.  It is said that an arbor extended down the alley to keep workers from the rain.  Houses on the right were built for the factory supervisors.

14.b  Wuest/Hudgins House, c. 1901.  210 South Maple.

Also built on the lot for factory supervisors, the house was sold to town merchant J. Scheiwiller in 1913.  It contained an underground wine cellar.  (Empty lot was the location of another Kursheedt that has since been razed.  It was sol to Arnold Spiess, a Swiss immigrant.)

14.c  Wuest/Starbuck, c 1901.  216 South Maple.

Home of Katherine Wuest, who was the sister of the supervisor of Kursheedt Manufacturing Company.  She ran the factory operation.  It was said that Ms. Wuest carried so many keys that she jingled when she walked.  Ms. Wuest sold this house to local merchant W.T. Starbuck when the factory closed.

(Note that Thurnherr House #21 was also related to the Kursheedt industry.)

compass  (Left, east side of the block)

15.  The Grove, Intersection of South Maple and East Second Street.

During the early 20th Century, the lot was known as the "grove" for a grove of trees that grew there.  Religious groups which did not have buildings of worship used the property for services.,  They built brush arbors, temporary buildings made of brush cut for that prupose.  Brush arbors were specifically built during periods of drought as tathering places to pray for rain.  In 1937, W.W. Marbet built the existing house.

16.  Porter House, c. 1924. 209 South Maple.

Built by Carl Porter.

17. Porter/Muehlenthaler House, c. 1906.  213 South Maple.

Built by Carl Porter, it was later home to Marie Muehlenthaler, who gave birth Lewis Tennessee Muehlenthaler, the first child born in the New Switzerland colony.  Lewis died in an accident at the age of 16.

18.  Beard House.  1920.  217 South Maple.

Later sold to Hohenwald merchant C.D. Harder.

19.  Lomax House, c. 1910.  219 South Maple.

Built by lumber man William Lomax, the house also served as home to a Hohenwald Bank & Trust Co. founder and state senator Commodore Loveless.  It also briefly served as one of the first funeral homes in the town.  The ornate iron fence was manufactured by the Cincinnati Iron Works Company.


compass   Second Block:

20.  Water Tank.

Parts for the water tank arrived by train in 1926, and were hauled to the site and put in place by Swiss immigrant Fred Roth and D.L. Voorhies using levers pulled by mules.  The tank has remained in continuous operation.  The tank or standpipe stands 145 feet and holds 100,000 gallons of water.  Swiss carpenter August Schmidt built the pumping station.

Prior to the erection of the tank, residents in the District collected rain water as runoff from their roofs in underground cisterns and then pumped the water to the surface as needed.  Water for fires had to be raised cisterns and delivered to the fir by a bucket brigade.  The water tank symbolizes Hohenwald's 1920 progressive era, when a partnership between local businesses and city government produced major improvements in the town.


compass   (Right:)

Explore The Past 4 21.  Thurnherr House, 1901.  302 S. Maple St.

Built by Robert Thurnherr, the supervisor of the Kursheedt Manufacturing Company.  When Thurnherr returned to New York, the second suspervisor August Cranwehr, purchased the house.  Herb Defoe added to the original house and added brick.

22.  Nicholson House, 1947.  304 S. Maple St.

Built by Guy and Ramona Nicholson after World War II.  Guy Nicholson served as Hohenwald Mayor from 1983-2003.

23.  Weinhappel House, 1921.  308 S. Maple St.

Built by Franz Weinhappel, a cabinet maker and Austrian immigrant who worked in his mother country for the company that made carriages for the royal family.  The house contained an undergroiund wine cellar with a large wine vat, similar to those found in Austria.  The wooden ceiling and paneling from Mr. Weinhappel's first house in the Swiss Colony has been preserved and reassembled in the Lewis County Public Library genealogy room.

24.  Barber House, 1945.  312 S. Maple St.

A post-World War II house built by Lee Barber.

25.  Hickerson and Gray House, 1945.  314 S. Maple St.

A post-World War II house built by Hickerson and Gray.

26.  Horace Whitehead House, c. 1963.  316 S. Maple St.

Built on the site of the Anna Dinkle house.  Dinkle owned several buildings on Main Street in the 1920's.  Horace Whitehead, who owned the Main Street Whitehead Plumbing & Electric, built the present house.

27.  Little Gem Theater Building.  319 S. Maple St.

This house was originally one half the building used for showing silent movies in town and was originally located on Helvetia Street.  The first motion picture machine was a small black box that operated on kerosene.,  In summer, the doors to the theater were left open for a breeze.  The woman who played the organ during the show later moved into the house.  While serving in the military during WWII, Preston Brown sent money home for his father to have a house built that would be ready upon his return.  The theater building was to be moved and the father arranged for one half the building to be moved to this lot.

28.  Hubert Milam House, 1941.  317 S. Maple St.

29.  Donald Kelly House, c. 1940.  315 S. Maple St.

30.  William B. Peters House, 1939.  313 S. Maple St.

This house was built from materials from an older house in the mining community of Allen's Creek.

31.  W.W. Lancaster House, c. 1936.  309 S. Maple St.

32.  Goldie Harder House, c. 1924.  307 S. Maple St.

Turn west onto East Third Street.  This wide street was originally East Main Street in New Switzerland.  Town founders did not anticipate that business would be drawn to the Depot, the commercial link to the outside world at the time.  When businesses failed to locate on the street, the current Main Street was given that name.

33.  Richardson House.  15 E. 3rd St.

This two-story house was built by Hohenwald Mayor J.F. Richardson.


compass   Turn left on Park Avenue, Left.

34. and 34a.  Whittenberg Houses.  305 and 307 South Park.

Two houses built in the Tudor Revival Style in the 1940's by one of the founding families of the Swiss Colony to replace one of the original houses, at the same location.  Notice the "W" on the chmney of the house on the right.

35.  Old Lewis County Jail, 1899.  309 S. Park.

Built by Lewis County, this house is one of the oldest brick structures in the county.  Walls are one foot thick and the ceilings are made of concrete to help prevent jail breaks.  The jailer and his family lived downstairs and the men's cells were upstairs.  A small cell in the rear of the downstairs held female prisoners.  In the 1920's, the jail was the scene of a forced jail break when men accused of murder were taken from the jail by a hooded mob and lynched, an event that caught the attention of the New York Times.  It was later discovered that the men were innocent.

The building was restored by Avery Armstrong, who played in the original town brass band.  Armstrong's Bakery, which was located across the street, produced Armstrong Pies, a local favorite still for sale in local groceries.  The crust recipe is used by a nationally known pie crust company.


compass   Right, west.

Explore The Past 8

36.  Meriwether Lewis High School.  1927.

The lot was the site of the original Public Square.  The 1899 Court House sat in the center and houses surrounded it.  A horse racing track was located in the rear and an agricultural building sat to the right.  Local county fairs were held on the property.  In 1927, when the Courthouse was moved to its present location, the new highschool building was constructed.

(Left)  37.  A.B. Sisco House, 1939.  212 S. Park St.

The classically styled late 1930's house was home to High School principal A.B. Sisco, for whom the Jr. High School football field is named.

(Right)  38.  W.B. Beard/Dr. Pickard House, 1908.  213 S. Park St.

Built by one of Hohenwald's youngest mayors, W. B. Beard.  It later served as home to Dr. Pickard and, in the 1970's, to Dr. Virender and Veena Anand.

(Left)  39.  C.P. Hull House, 1921.  210 S. Park St.

Built by town merchant C.P. Hull, the house is a good example of 1920's architecture.

40.  Seagraves House, 1898.  208 S. Park St.

Seagraves began publication of the Lewis County Herald in this house in 1898, and it remains the town paper.

41.  A.B. Cooper House, 1905.  211 S. Park St.

Built by A.B. Cooper, grandson of Lt. General Robert Melville Cooper, who served under Andrew Jackson in the Battle of New Orleans and who made the nails for Meriwether Lewis' coffin.  "The people of the house where Lewis killed himself sent to my brother's shop to get nails to make a coffin and my brother, Hamilton, two years older than myself and I went to the shop and between us made the nails which were used in making his coffin,"  R. M. Cooper.  Five of Robert Melville Cooper's sons died fighting in the Civil War and another four were severely wounded.  The Cooper family was instrumental in the founding of Lewis County.  A.B. Cooper, a carpenter, built this house after a brief stint as a young man in the old west in New Mexico.

42.  Randall/Schubert/Phelan House, 1911.  206 S. Park St.

Built by mail carrier Riley Randall, the house was sold to town lawyer Fred Schubert, a relative of the Austrian composer Franz Schubert.  Later owner Gene Phelan said that in the 1930's, a limousine containing gangster Al Capone pulled up to ask directions back to the main highway.

43.  Lomax House/Boyce Clinic, 1919.  209 S. Park St.

The lot was originally set aside for the Swiss Reformed Church, but later sold to merchant Sam Hinson when the church was built up the street.  Hinson's house burned in 1910.  Lumberman Will Lomax built the current building in 1919 as the most elegant house in the county.  Large gold mirrors rose from the fireplaces to the ceilings.  Lomax's son Fred was the first soldier from the county killed in World War I in France.  Fred's flag draped coffin was returned to the front parlor and the house became the scene o a military honor guard and elaborate funeral, never seen before in the county.  In 1939, Dr. W.E. Boyce bought the house and converted it to the first hospital in the county.  The kitchen and operating room were located in the basement.  When nurses were not tending to patients, they helped care for the garden in the read of the lot and canned vegetables to be used in patients' meals.

44.  Goodman/Flowers House, 1912.  207 S. Park St.

Built by Felix Goodman, president of the Hohenwald Bank & Trust Company.  In 1919, a merchant offered to purchase the house for a low price.  Mr. Goodman thought the offer was part of a joke and in a similar joking vein, said that he would accept the offer.  After learning that the offer was serious, Mr. Goodman kept his word and sold the house for that price.

45.  Cumberland Presbyterian Church, 1903.  205 S. Park St.

Originally a two story structure, the building housed the Masonic Lodge on the second floor.  Much of the early original interior woodwork remains in the sanctuary.  In 1934, the second floor was sawed off by hand; however, the patterned second story floor of the lodge remained.  The bell in front was brought to Hohenwald when the congregation moved from nearby Riverside.


compass   Continue on South Park Avenue to Main Street Corner.

Explore The Past 1

Main Street was originally named Propst Street, for J.G. Propst, the land developer who helped organize New Switzerland.  The block south of Main Street on the left was originally the location of livery stables, where horses were kept for travelers or people in town for the day.  Louis Lemason's house and barber shop were located on the corner.  In the 1920's , D.L. Voorhies built the corner building as the Hohenwald Filling Station, one of the first in town for the automobile.  The other buildings have served as a theater, a cafe' and a meat locker.

North of Main Street on the left was the site of N. Hinson's corner store and residences.  In the early 1920's, J.W. Finerty built the row of buildings which still exist.  The corner building became the corner drug store B&O Pharmacy.  The building to the left at various times, has housed the post office, a movie theater and a bowling alley.  The other buildings have been used as restaurants and for retail.

Turn right on Main Street.  Most buildings on the north side of Main Street on the left were built after the 1926 fire destroyed most of the block.  In the early 1900's, Dr. Dabbs' pharmacy stood on the corner and a post office was built next door.  The Schild Hotel and boarding house stood to the right.  Next, a small row of buildings, including the two-story Meryln Theater or opera house, formed the center of the block.  To the east, was open space containing a well for people to water their horses.  On thge corner was the Swiss Merchandise Company, the first store in the colony.,  Swiss Pioneer Union members shared in any profits from the store.

The buildings on the south side, on the right, date from 1898.  An ice cream parlor stood on the corner where the bank is now located.  To the east was another livery stable for horses and a hardware store.  A.P. Grover, a merchant from the old Hohenwald colony, built the next building for a dry goods and grocery in 1912.  The buildings housing the next three stores were built around 1915, to replace a three-story dry goods store, W.J. Cude's, where the early city government also met upstairs.  The building was destroyed in the 1912 fire.  The next brick building is likely the oldest on the block and was built for the Overbey dry goods store.The following three brick buildings were also built by J.D. Overbey beginning in the late 1890's, for an expansion of the brothers' store and for the 1903 Hohenwald Bank & Trust Company.  The current corner parking lot was the location of the Propst Hotel, where new settlers stayed until they could move to the temporary barracks and then on to their new houses.

Cross Maple Street and continue walking east.  The Jones Hotel stood on the north side of Main St.  Dr. Beasley's Drug Store was located downstairs.  F.A. Goodman built a large brick building on the south side of Main St. on the right for a dry goods store in 1903.  Bricks from that building were incorporated into the 1939 Strand Theater.  At the corner, a large bell on a pole served as a fire bell to alert the "bucket brigade" to assemble to draw water from the well to fight a fire.

At the end of the walk, tracks from the NC & St. L Railroad and later the L&N Railroad line are visible along the walk on the north side of Main Street.  These tracks are where new settlers got their first glimpse of the new town and they served as their link to the outside world.  It is also believed that Thomas Edison traveled these tracks in search of cobalt.  To the right is the NC &St.L Depot, built in 1896, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  It was originally located near what is now the center of US Hwy 412, and its bay window originally faced Main St.  Main Street ended at the Depot.  The Depot was one of the main gathering places in the community as early settlers met to receive ltheir mail, packages and new visitors to the town.  To the east of the depot property was the original location to the Swiss Society Park, where settlers gathered to dance waltzes, listen to the brass band "The Echo of Switzerland" or perform the William Tell play.  Many early settlers are buried in Swiss Cemetery to the south of Society Park.



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