In the city, if you say that you were going to the "Big House," you may be talking
about going to a prison. But, if you said that in Leoti, you just might be going
to Margie’s "Big House!" The Wichita County Historical Society would like to announce
that Margie’s big house has very graciously been donated to them by Margie’s families,
Norman and Yvonne Ames, Dean and Lorna Wiegers, all of Leoti and Sandra Quartemont
of Cudahy, WI. Margie’s house is the beautiful jewel of Leoti, as it once was.
The house is called the Washington-Ames House. As best we can put together, William
B. and Julia Washington were the original owners. W. B. came here from Kentucky.
He made his home in Leoti since May of 1886,and set up practice as a pioneer lawyer
before the county had actually been settled.
As a young man, W.B. became a prominent attorney in Kentucky. His first case in the
District Court of Henderson County was a suit prosecuted for carpenter work against
a wealthy tobacconist. Mr. Washington won the case, although the trial almost resulted
in a court room fight. He also defended Aaron Hooper, who was charged with arson
of his jewelry store in Leoti by an insurance company. He secured a verdict in favor
of his client. He was a tenacious defender of the law and for many years was active
in Wichita County politics.
W.B. and Julia raised 4 sons, Herbert, Harry, William B. Jr. and Herschel, in this
home. Julia passed away in 1926 and W.B. in 1934. There may even be someone out there
that will remember W.B. or Herschel. We recently found pictures of both W.B. and
Julia and another of the four children at our courthouse. We are looking for anything
from the family to put on display in the house.
The big house is located on the corner of J and 3rd Streets. In early photos, the
house was painted a dark color with light colored trim and had decorative gingerbread
trim We painted the exterior of the house like one of the Victorian Painted Ladies
of that era. It will catch the eye of people traveling on both highways #96 and 25
and our hope is they will stop in Leoti for awhile.
An interesting story is at the time of the Tornado of 1923, many buildings around
the big house were destroyed, but the big house stood firm. One of the photos taken
at this time shows roofs, boards, mangled tin, etc. lying all around it. Another
time, there had been a fire in the house. Every home has a story to tell of the sad
and happy events that went on in the home, and its like they say, If only walls could
talk. We would love to hear and document any stories and memories that people have
of the house and its owners.
After the passing of his parents, Herschel Washington rented the home as a private
residence to the Cibluski family. Several years ago, Martin Van DenLangenberg, a
descendant of the Cibulski’s toured the museum and donated a lovely picture of the
house taken in the late 1930s. The back porch had not been added on to the house
at this time.
In 1943, the big house was sold to Pearl Burch, and in 1947, Tom Burch acquired a
Hotel & Restaurant license and rented the upstairs bedrooms to teachers or high school
students that lived in the country. One of the licenses was still hanging up on the
porch when Margie & Oren purchased the house. We believe that the back porch was
added at that time.
Margie and Oren Ames purchased the big house in about 1958 from Tom Burch. The Ames
family lived there for many years. Sometime after the passing of her husband, Margie
moved to a smaller home in Leoti. The big house was full of antique furniture and
other collectibles, remaining that way until her passing in 2004.
One of the large displays is Margie’s Boutique and Millinery Shop, which is full
of Margie’s favorite thing, HATS! When hats became out of style and ladies were getting
rid of their hats, Margie was collecting them at garage sales, auctions, or anywhere
else she could find them. Margie and hats are synonymous, she always wore a hat.
Wouldn’t she be happy to know that her hats were going back into her big house? I
am excited about decorating Margie’s Boutique & Millinery Shop in memory of her.
The Wichita County Historical Society has restored and preserved the home which is
very pertinent to the history of Wichita County. The finished rooms appear like
they were at the turn of the century and the interior is lovely with beautiful woodwork
that has never been painted. It is possibly the oldest house in town and surely was
the grandest in its time.
The Washington Ames House is now on the National Register of Historic Places.