Wheeler-Bull House (1868)
The house at 1127 Lake Avenue consists of two older houses built for different owners that were later fused together. Originally, they stood side-by-side on lots 3 (to the north) and 4 (the present location) and can still be clearly distinguished in the present house. The first house was built in 1869 on what was then Chatham Street and is defined by the large, asymmetrical gable facing the street. It was built for Mrs. Elizabeth Wheeler, widow of Peter B. Wheeler, whose grocery store had been on downtown Main Street. Before he died, the couple lived at 1144 Main Street in the house whose cupola is now the logo for Preservation Racine.

In fact, the Wheelers owned both lots; and, when Mrs. Wheeler died in 1873, they passed to Mayor Reuben Doud, a highly successful shipping and lumber merchant, who lived with his wife Katharine in the classical revival house at 1135 Main Street, now known as the Cooley House. He died in 1878, and Mrs. Doud went to Europe in 1880, deeding both lots to Frank K. Bull before she left. The following year, he or his father, Stephen Bull, built a single-story side-gabled house (Bull’s Cottage) on the empty lot 4, and there the family coachman, Charles J. Apgar, lived.

The two houses are seen, still separate, on the Stoner Bird’s Eye Map of Racine, 1893, and were probably joined in 1903 when the taxable value of the combined lots increased considerably. The Wheeler house was moved southwards to join Bull’s Cottage on lot 4, while Bull’s Cottage itself received a second story and had its interior significantly reconfigured. The combined building was given a Shingle style facelift and was attracting higher status tenants by 1908, most of whom worked with or for the J. I. Case Threshing Machine Co., now controlled by the Bull family.

In 1927, the Bull family sold the house to their new mechanical superintendant, Wallace V. McGregor and his wife Jessie, complete with tenant. When their daughter Jeanette married Richard D. Miller in 1935 the McGregors considered tearing the house down to make way for a new one as a wedding gift. However, they refurbished it instead; and, when it passed to the Millers in 1937, it had acquired a garage. Sometime in the 1950s, when their children were teenagers, a “sleep-over” apartment was added above the garage, and the living room was extended to connect the apartment to the house.

The present owners, Michael A. and Anne Frontier acquired the house in 1985 from the Miller estate, along with the then empty lot 5 to the south, which had previously belonged to Wallace McGregor’s predecessor at J. I. Case, George W. Morris. Committed to preserving the historic urban and natural environment, the Frontiers combine both passions in this house overlooking Samuel Myers Park, whose rehabilitation is one of their community collaborations.

Preservation Racine is most grateful to include the Frontier’s home on the tour this year.