Take a peak inside my family’s historical house

My family’s historical house, the Havilah Babcock house, has a website.  The house was built by my great-great grandfather (the aforementioned Havilah), who was one of the co-founders of the Kimberly-Clark Corporation.

Havilah designed everything in the house, picking the furnishings, the wallpaper—and after he died, the family left it all the way it was.  So you can take a peak inside at what Havilah designed.

Ghosts of Wallpaper Past

I’ve actually never had wallpaper anywhere I lived. We always used paint in the house where I grew, which surprises me in a way. My father is colorblind (red/green, the most common form) and that influenced all the color choices of paint.

Translation: The interior was yellow. It was the one color he could see.

But wallpaper design certainly would have been something he could see. It was probably too much work to put up. If something got too complicated to do, he’d say, “This is turning into a project.”

Then there’s the wallpaper in the house my great-great father built. The house was built in the late 1800s, right when the Victorian era was a huge influence. The house itself is on the state historical register and the national register, and the family trust is trying to get it declared a national landmark.

This site has seven photos of the exterior.

Everyone describes walking into the house like stepping back into time. Every family member who lived in that house did not change anything (unlike other houses in the area where owners put a wet bar into the entrance way or remodeled to make it modern).

But all the walls are covered with handmade wallpaper.

And it’s textured!

My grandfather was a dry goods merchant turned future big business owner (Kimberly-Clark), so he had a good eye for textures. He hand picked all the wallpaper in the house.

So this video was fascinating to watch, even if it is about a process from 1968. The machine process probably came out of the hand making process, and there are some techniques done by hand were probably used in my great-great grandfather’s day.


Peeking into a historical house

The video of my family’s historical house is up!  The house portion starts at about 10:11.


My Family’s Historical House on PBS!

My family’s historical house in Wisconsin is going to be part of a PBS special this week!  The house was built by my great-great grandfather Havilah Babcock, who was one of the four founders of the Kimberly-Clark Corporation.  He started out as a dry goods merchant and had an eye for fabrics, which translates out into what’s in the house.  No one in the family changed a thing.

This is a commercial from the special, which has other houses as well.  Only one clip of the interior of the house appears: It’s at the :19 mark.

The link to where the videos will be posted is here:  http://wptschedule.org/episodes/45651599/Remarkable-Homes-of-Wisconsin/

The cover for the DVD they are selling features the house.

Edited to add this interview about the documentary.  The photo at the top is in the house.  My uncle is to the left.  They’re in the dining room, and the blue curtains in the background are the sitting room.

Bats in the Belfry, Washing Machine, and Oven Vent

Bats in a tree
Bats in the tree. Photo from Clipart.com

Tonight’s International Bat Night, a program designed to address the myths everyone has about bats.  I just had to do a bit of research into bats for a part of one of my stories.  Most of my knowledge comes from a few bat experiences (other than watching Batman anyway), though I did learn:

  • Bats may look like rats, but they aren’t related
  • They’re the only mammal that can fly
  • Bat babies are called pups

They can fit into very small cracks and crevices.  My uncle has a historical house (the Havilah Babcock House in this link).  The house was built with two walls, kind of like a submarine.  But it makes a great bat egress. They get in through the holes in the foundation where the mortar is crumbling away, go up between the walls, and then come out in the attic.  They turn up in weird places in the house.  One time my aunt found one inside the washing machine!

I had one that tried to get into my oven vent one morning.  I woke up to this screaming sound coming from the kitchen.  It was just after dawn and the sky had that gray tone to it.  I went to see what the sound was, and I could see this head through the fan.  Apparently, the bat thought the vent was a place it could hide in.  A few minutes later, the bat was gone, off to find another sleeping place.

Any encounters of the bat kind?

The Otherworldly Family is Watching

When we hear about ghosts, the first image we get is a story told in front of the orange flames of a campfire against the dark, a barrier against the unknown that surrounds us.   I remember one of those stories being about the ghostly hitchhiker who vanishes after being picked up.   That story is an urban legend, but the ghost story I’m about to tell you really did happen.  To me.  And it wasn’t scary.

This post is part of the Absolute Write October Blog Chain, with “Otherworldly” as the theme.  At the end of the post is a list of the other contributors, so check in on their posts.

My own ghost starts with a house.  This one:

Front view of the Havilah Babcock House, a Queen Anne style house with a tower and carriage porch on the left side and a wrap around porch on the right.

It’s the house that was built by my great-great grandfather Havilah Babcock, one of the co-founders of the Kimberly-Clark company (the Kleenix guys).  He decorated the entire house to his personal taste.  It was so much his personal taste that after the house was inherited by two of his daughters, they were afraid to touch anything!

So it was left as it was, and eventually my grandparents inherited it.  Essentially, the family is living in a museum.   For pictures of the interior, check out the book Wisconsin’s Own.  But you if want a quick view, the cover of this catalog shows the library.

The house is the only one in the United States that is still occupied by the descendents of the original builder.

My grandfather died 18 years ago, and my grandmother Arva earlier this year.  After Arva died, my uncle reported ghostly activity.  Nothing scary — but clearly something “otherworldly.”  He thought it was Havilah’s wife, Frances Kimberly.  So, as part of the memorial service for Arva, we had a psychic come out to the house.  Not contact Arva, but just to see what was going on in the house.

The psychic was not told anything in advance.  In fact, she was completely shocked when she saw the outside of the house.  While we waited in the kitchen, she and my uncle wandered through the first floor.  In minutes, my uncle was back, telling us to hurry.  The psychic had contacted Havilah!

We rushed to the library.  The psychic described Havilah as being brilliant, almost brilliant to the point of autistic.  My father, who followed along the same route, was amazed at where it had come from.  The psychic reported that Havilah was pleased by the caretakers of the house — he dropped in periodically to make sure it was well cared for.   Then he was abruptly gone, which was, according to the psychic, the nature of spirits.

So we retreated back to the kitchen to wait, and then a few minutes later, they’re back.  This time, Arva had stopped in to visit.  If there were any doubts about the psychic, they were gone with this.  She knew one thing about Arva that no one would have said, would not have been posted anywhere, and yet was common knowledge:  Arva liked to talk.  The psychic was having some problems because it was “talk, talk, talk, talk.”  The psychic mentioned that Arva was not always well-treated because she was a little progressive for her time.   Arva also knew about two babies that had been born after she had died.

After that, I had to dash off to catch my plane at the airport.  They were four hours wandering around the house, and other spirits dropped in for a spell.  But Arva stayed present during that time and kept saying that we were not to sell the house.

Have you had any ghostly encounters?


Linda Adams – Soldier, Storyteller


Wisconsin Historical Markers, a blog featuring a photo of the house a month before the memorial service showing the roof being repaired.

Conrad Schmitt Studios shows off their restoration work of the stained glass windows inside the house.


Starting November 5, I will doing a month-long session on Forward Motion on “Basic Training of Military Culture.”  The lesson plan for the course is posted here.

Check out my article Balancing Writing and Blogging on Vision: A Resource for Writers.  It deals with the pesky issue of time management so that blogging doesn’t interfere with writing.

And for a little Halloween fun, a very short story about the House of Green Cats on IO9.


Absolute Write October Blog Chain:

Participants and posts:
Ralph Pines: http://ralfast.wordpress.com (post link here)
randi.lee: http://emotionalnovel.blogspot.com (post link here)
Aranenvo: http://www.simonpclark.com (post link here)
pyrosama: http://matrix-hole.blogspot.com (post link here)
hilaryjacques: http://hillaryjacques.blogspot.com (post link here)
meowzbark: http://erlessard.wordpress.com (post link here)
slcboston: http://fleasof1000camels.blogspot.com (post link here)
areteus: http://lurkingmusings.wordpress.com (post link here)
dolores haze: http://dianedooley.wordpress.com (post link here)
SuzanneSeese: http://viewofsue.blogspot.com (post link here)
bmadsen: http://hospitaloflife.wordpress.com (post link here)
Linda Adams: Me
Alynza: http://www.alynzasmith.blogspot.com (post link here)
Orion mk3: http://nonexistentbooks.wordpress.com (post link here)
BBBurke: http://awritersprogression.blogspot.com (post link here)
SRHowen: http://srhowen1.blogspot.com (post link here)
Damina Rucci: http://thegraypen.wordpress.com (post link here)
CJMichaels: http://christinajmichaels.blogspot.com (post link here)
wonderactivist: http://luciesmoker.wordpress.com (post link here)
Lady Cat: http://carolsrandomness.blogspot.ca (post link here)
xcomplex: http://arielemerald.blogspot.com (post link here)
debranneelliot: http://www.debragrayelliott.blogspot.com (post link here)

Step into my time machine

This week, I’ve got a trip into the adventure zone, because any travel is an adventure.  I went to Wisconsin for the weekend for my grandmother’s memorial, and anything that involves Wisconsin involves The House:

A three story Queen Anne style house.  A stone base wraps around the front of the house, and to the left is a tower.

I stayed in the room where those center windows on the second floor are.  The house was built by my great-great grandfather Havilah Babcock, and he picked everything — right down to the wallpaper.  His influence over everything in the house was so strong that his daughters who inherited it were afraid to touch anything!  Of course, that left it preserved so much that it’s like stepping back in time.  Ivy was trying to take over the back of the house, and spiders were working on the front porch.  And there’s nothing like having your uncle say, “If you don’t want a bat in your room, make sure you close the door.”

Of course, I had to snoop around the internet and see what else on the house was out there.  I found this blog about a woman’s journey to visit all the historical markets in Wisconsin.  She took almost exactly the same picture about a month before.   The roof is in the process of being replaced, so if you click on the photo in her blog post, you can see the repair work on the right side that’s not evident in mine.  Do drop by her blog — she’s undergoing chemo therapy and would like some comments!

Linda Adams – Soldier, Storyteller

Since I visited the family home, I thought I’d share with you a scene I wrote about a soldier’s Homecoming, posted on Forward Motion’s September Challenge.  We imagine they always come back to cheering crowds and tearful family members, but sometimes that’s not the case.