ND Paper seeks group to relocate historic ‘white house’
BIRON – ND Paper officials hope they can find a community partner to save the more than 150-year-old “white house” on the paper mill property.
Francis Biron Sr. built the White House in 1865, according to Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune records.
“The house is a pleasantly designed two-story building, architecturally graceful and massive without being ostentatious,” said a December 15, 1934 article. “Today it is surrounded by lawns, stately old elm trees imported from the Orient and of gardens laid out in the 1960s.
The ceilings had intricate stucco work done by expert craftsmen from New York City, according to the article. The house, which covered 3,300 square feet of land, was made from “the finest hand-picked lumber.”
The house once had a “panoramic view” of the Wisconsin River and surrounding area, according to newspaper records. But, over time, the mill, which Francis Biron and his descendants owned and operated in the 1800s, arose around the White House, which had been a center of Biron-area society for years, according to the archives.
The White House would become the business offices of Consolidated Papers and at one point, according to records, held a school. Now ND Paper, the current owner of the mill, wants the historic house removed from ownership.
In a letter to village president Jon Evenson; Phil Brown, president of the South Wood County Historical Museum; the Mead Witter Foundation; and Historic Point Bass, Caleb Coder, general manager of Biron Mill, says the company wants to continue improving safety on plant property.
In 2022, ND wants to stop repairing and maintaining the former general manager’s house called the “white house”, according to the letter. The company hopes to find a community partner in the Biron area to buy the company’s house for $ 1 and move it to another location.
The White House does not match ND’s operational plans for the Biron plant, said Brennan Burks, ND Paper’s communications and government affairs manager. The house is close to the company’s main operating site and the new office space makes the house unnecessary for the business.
“We really hope that a community partner will be able to preserve it,” said Burks.
Burks is optimistic that a community partner finds a way to save the house. The letter sent by ND Paper set a deadline of December 31 for someone to notify the company of their intention to own the home. The deadline for interested buyers to submit a written plan for purchase and withdrawal is March 31. Before June 2, the buyer must remove the house from the property of the Biron mill.
The letter says that if no one comes forward to take possession and move it, ND Paper will do away with the White House as the company sees fit.
Burks said a group of interested local residents are planning to visit the house on Thursday, and other local groups have contacted him as well.
“From our perspective, we are very happy with the public interest,” said Burks.
Evenson has researched the house and intends to present the issue at the Monday village board meeting at 6:30 p.m. at the Biron Municipal Center, 451 Kahoun Avenue, Biron.
Evenson said he wanted to get opinions on the future of the house from members of the village board. He is in doubt as to whether anyone will be able to move the house. Evenson said his knowledge of moving buildings is limited, but he thinks it would be a monumental task to move the two-story building.
Brown also has concerns about the future of the house.
“It’s really going to take a Herculean effort,” Brown said. “It’s a big, big house.”
The Biron mill was one of the first sawmills in central Wisconsin, Brown said. Francis Biron bought the mill in the 1840s, installed a new mill, and built his house nearby, Brown said.
“It would be a real shame to lose it,” said Brown, “but I don’t know of anyone who is willing to invest this money just yet.”
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