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Discover Wisconsin’s Cornish History and the Couple Who Helped Preserve It

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In this sepia tinted historic photo Bob & Edgar stand outside of Pendarvis looking casual

The picturesque cluster of stone buildings that make up Pendarvis Historic Site today were originally constructed by Cornish immigrants who immigrated to the area in the early 1800s. They were preserved through the efforts of life and business partners Bob Neal and Edgar Hellum.

Bob and Edgar met in 1934 and began to rescue these buildings one at a time from demolition. Assigning Cornish-language names to each, they opened a restaurant to sustain their preservation efforts and lived on the grounds. Their remarkable success – at the height of the Great Depression – launched the 20th-century transformation of Mineral Point into the vibrant hub for arts, preservation, and tourism it is today.

Tucked away in a valley in historic Mineral Point, Pendarvis celebrates the groundbreaking community of the first Wisconsin “badgers.” As you approach this quaint neighborhood, the 19th century will instantly come alive through the quintessential limestone buildings and cozy nooks. Unearth the significant lead and zinc mining history of Wisconsin and develop a true sense of mining life in the young Badger state. Explore the industry that brought miners from Cornwall, England to Mineral Point, Wisconsin. Pendarvis will give visitors a new understanding of what it means to be a Wisconsin badger, and how one amazing couple helped save this piece of Wisconsin’s history.


Things To Explore

PENDARVIS

Constructed in 1845, Pendarvis was purchased in 1935 by Bob and Edgar. The dining room of the Pendarvis House restaurant served traditional Cornish pasty dinners, tea, saffron cake, and pastries with clotted cream. It was named as a top seven restaurant in the country by The Saturday Evening Post and appeared in publications such as National Geographic and Life magazines. The restaurant was a favorite of Duncan Hines, who visited twice and listed the restaurant in the early editions of his guidebook, Adventures in Good Eating.

POLPERRO

Bob and Edgar bought their second Shake Rag house in 1937 all because of a birch tree. Built in 1842, Polperro was used as their residence while they restored Trelawny. Their work included stripping clapboards from the building to reveal the log and stone structure underneath and removing a two-story addition. Bob and Edgar used the first floor space as an antique shop and mining museum, while the second floor housed their Wisconsin history library, including diaries, books, photographs, drawings, maps, and papers from early southwest Wisconsin settlers.

TRELAWNY

This was the third building bought and restored by Bob and Edgar in the late 1930s and was the home they shared for 37 years. Richard Thomas and James Carbis, Cornish stonemasons who also constructed Orchard Lawn, built this house in late 1842/early 1843. The original four room structure housed nine people. The kitchen, located in the back of the house, was added during the 1930s restoration and serviced the adjacent restaurant. Bob and Edgar entertained guests and friends here. The first-floor rooms still appear much as they did while they lived here in the 1940s

MARTIN CABIN

The oldest structure on site, this cabin was built in 1841 and home to John and Christiana Martin and their five children. Both were immigrants to Mineral Point, with John being one of the earliest Cornish settlers in the early 1830s and Christiana arriving from Nova Scotia. Bob and Edgar bought the entire Tamblyn’s Row structure in the early 1950s and removed clapboard siding as well as an addition from the cabin.

KIDDLEYWINK PUB

This Cornish pub in the basement of Tamblyn’s Row was created in the 1960s by Edgar and never existed before that time. After visiting Cornwall several times, Edgar was inspired to recreate a pub for Pendarvis. The leather trim comes from his uncle’s shoe factory in Stoughton. This room was most likely originally used as a cellar or kitchen.

MERRY CHRISTMAS MINE HILL TRAILS AND PRAIRIE

Though this property never belonged to Bob and Edgar, it is central to the mining history they were attempting to save. Over 100 badger holes and mine shafts dot this hill and can be seen from trails winding through one of the largest prairies in Southwest Wisconsin. After zinc was discovered in the mines around Christmas time, the mine became known as Merry Christmas Mine. Take to the trails to learn about the natural and historic landscape shaped by mining from our new interpretive panels! Open sunrise to sunset every day.


Pendarvis Visitor Guide

MAP & GUIDE


Learn with the Wisconsin Historical Society

Virtual and In-person Programs

Get ready to give your young learners the best field trip memory of the year. WHS is excited to bring back our popular sensory-rich, wonder-filled, on-site Field Trips at our historic sites and museums. We are also continuing our live, interactive online programs to bring creativity, critical thinking, and empowered storytelling into your classroom!

Wisconsin Historical Society Sites

Pendarvis is one of the 12 historic sites and museums owned and operated by the Wisconsin Historical Society. Explore all of these sites below.