Upon its completion in 1868, Orchard Lawn began as an impressive eleven acre working estate situated on a hill overlooking the industrious city of Mineral Point, founded 40 years before. Built by Cornish immigrants Joseph and Sarah Gundry, it boasted gardens, an orchard, tennis lawn, outbuildings (including a barn, carriage house, woodshed/icehouse and a hothouse used to nurture seedlings and tender plants) and a fine Italianate mansion made of locally quarried sandstone. Three generations of this merchant family lived, worked and played at Orchard Lawn in grand style.
When the last Gundry to reside in the house died in 1936, heirs tried hard to sell or even give the great estate away but to no avail, so in 1939 they were forced to hire a demolition contractor. After most of the outbuildings fell the wrecking ball was poised to destroy the house until eleven local citizens intervened. Together they raised $800 to buy out the demolition contract, asked the heirs for ownership of the estate, formed the Mineral Point Historical Society and after paying the heirs one dollar, Orchard Lawn was saved.
The Society’s mission is to foster understanding and appreciation of, and enthusiasm for the history of the Mineral Point area by past, present and future residents of the community by:
* Researching, collecting, preserving and sharing Mineral Point history
* Providing an historical setting for community use
* Providing a forum for learning and discussion
* Providing a structure for advocacy
Since 1939 when the eleven Founders signed the first Articles of Organization, MPHS members elect a volunteer Board of Directors at the Annual Meeting each January. Volunteers serve on committees and give hundreds of hours of time annually to ensure the success of the Society and to carry out its mission.
But how does an historical society, especially in a small town, keep a large house and estate sustainable and relevant to the community? Can a house museum be more than a house museum? How can such a landmark attract and serve a much broader group of users and enthusiasts? Well, we’ve done it by reinventing Orchard Lawn into The Living Room of Mineral Point.