The vast stands of white pine that once covered the Chippewa Valley are gone, as are the lumberjacks, the sawmills, the saloons, river front hotels, and the steamboats. Yet there remains very visible evidence of this exciting era. It was an era when lumber transactions made a man a millionaire overnight.
One of these lumber barons was Edward Rutledge and the evidence of his lifestyle has been preserved in the Cook-Rutledge Mansion.
History of Ownership
In 1873, attorney James Monroe Bingham and his wife, Justine purchased Block 14, consisting of 8 lots from the Union Lumbering Company for $2500.00
Construction of the Bingham home was started immediately after the purchase of the land in the fall of 1873. The residence on Mill Street (now called Grand Avenue) was completed at a cost of $7500.00.
Bingham was elected to the State Assembly in 1877 for two terms and in 1883 was unanimously elected Mayor of Chippewa. James Bingham died in 1885. His wife, Justine, continued to live in the house.
In August of 1887, Justine Bingham sold the property to Edward Rutledge for $5500.00. On September 9, 1887 the Chippewa Herald reported that "the Bingham residence was undergoing a complete makeover at the hands of present owner Edward Rutledge." The home you see today is the result of the Rutledge's extensive remodeling and additions.
Edward Rutledge was born in 1834 in Ireland. When he was eleven years old the family emigrated to Canada. He was one of ten children and received little formal education. When he was sixteen, with $10 in his pocket, he left Canada to work in the Michigan woods. Later he moved to Wisconsin and became a timber cruiser and soon was considered an expert in locating and estimating pine.
He worked in the woods all winter, as all lumbermen did, and in the summer he would come into Chippewa Falls in search of a place to stay. He became aquatinted with the widow Hannah Gregg who ran a boarding house. The widow and the logger fell in love and were married. Rutledge was about 39 at the time and Hannah was 44.
About 1881 Rutledge became "Chief Officer" for Frederick Weyerhaeuser, owner of the big sawmill in Chippewa Falls. It was through the guidance of his employer and friend that Rutledge was able to make very good investments and accumulate a great deal of wealth.
Rutledge's position often required entertaining clients. The lavish red brick mansion of High Victorian-Italianate architecture provided the perfect setting, no doubt eyebrows were raised when this lumberman built a brick house. The interior wood work, however, was a masterpiece of carving and inlay.
The Rutledge's moved into the big house in November of 1887, and lived there until the time of their deaths. Hannah died in 1910 and Edward in 1911.
Frederick Weyerhaeuser bought the mansion from the estate for $10,000 in 1911 and sold it soon after to Christopher Sundet. Sundet was a proprietor of a large and profitable music store and considered one of the leading businessmen in Chippewa Falls.
A short time after he purchased the Rutledge home, Mr Sundet subdivided the property selling the lots on the south side to C.T. Delaney and the house and some of the property on the north to Dayton Cook.
Attorney (and later county judge) Dayton Cook, his wife Florence and their two children, Mabel and Maurice, moved into the mansion just before Christmas of 1915. The Cook family owned and lived in the home from 1915 until 1973 when daughter Mabel Cook sold the mansion to the Chippewa County Historical Society.
Cook-Rutledge Mansion, Inc.
The Cook-Rutledge Mansion Trust was formed in 1973. In 2006, this Trust became the present Cook-Rutledge Mansion, Inc.
Recognizing its historical significance and high Victorian-Italianate style architecture, the Mansion was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.