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  • Queer Public History in Small-Town Wisconsin:The Pendarvis Historic Site and Interpreting the Queer Past

This essay examines the interpretation of the lives and work of two queer men, Robert Neal and Edgar Hellum, at the Pendarvis Historic Site in the small town of Mineral Point, Wisconsin. Using this interpretation as a case study, the essay addresses how public historians might more fully incorporate the history of sexuality into historic site interpretative models. It suggests a number of strategies for helping visitors think critically about the history of sexuality and how our current understandings of sexual identity are not always useful or accurate ways of thinking about queer pasts.


history of sexuality, historic sites, Wisconsin, rural/small-town, queer

I had made the hour-long trip southwest from Madison, Wisconsin, to the small town of Mineral Point many times before. Nestled in the rolling hills of Wisconsin's Driftless Region—an area so named because it was untouched by the most recent ice age and the "drift" the glaciers carried with them—the town of about two thousand people is one of the oldest Anglo-European settlements in the state. Tracing its origins back to 1827, the town was an early outpost of the regional lead (and later zinc) mining trade centered around the Mississippi River and Galena, Illinois. Home to mines, processing facilities, and a robust commercial district, Mineral Point flourished as a mining town for decades before the rest of Wisconsin was coming into its own. As one prominent historian of Wisconsin has noted, Mineral Point was already well established at a time when "Milwaukee was just a trading post . . . Madison [the future state capital] didn't exist, [and] Chicago was a little frontier outpost."1

Despite having visited Mineral Point frequently, a trip in June 2017 presented a new experience. At first, everything appeared as usual. I pulled off the divided four-lane highway from Madison and followed roads that traced the rhythmic shape of the characteristic hills of the Driftless Region. I plunged down into Shake [End Page 70] Rag Alley, a narrow ravine at the edge of town. I drove past the large limestone building tucked into the hillside that once housed a brewery, supplying the area with cave-cooled refreshment. The brewery long ago ceased operation and the building now serves as one of the town's many artist studios and galleries. Continuing along the bottom of Shake Rag Alley, I passed the Pendarvis Historic Site, operated by the Wisconsin Historical Society since 1974. The site gets its name from the previous occupants of the collection of small, early-nineteenth-century log and stone miners' cottages huddled close together and nestled against a limestone outcropping. Robert Neal and Edgar Hellum, two men who were partners in business as well as in life, operated an antique shop and tearoom out of the smallest of the cottages, which they dubbed Pendarvis House after a wealthy estate in Cornwall. The name was a nod to the area's early Cornish immigrants. Neal and Hellum utilized the other buildings, each with its own Cornish name, as guest rooms, workshops, and their own private residence.

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Map of southwestern Wisconsin and the Driftless Region. (Map created by Sebastian Renfield; Driftless Area boundaries based on Driftless Area Initiative data layers from the US Geological Survey)

As I continued down Shake Rag Street on this most recent trip, past the Shake Rag Center for the Arts, making a left turn onto Commerce Street, past a famed Wisconsin cheesemaker and even more artists' studios and galleries, and finally a right turn up onto the steep slope of Mineral Point's main drag, High Street, I was met with an unexpected sight: a sea of Gay Pride flags. Admittedly, "a sea" might be a touch of hyperbole, but it was striking to see nearly every business—from [End Page 71] galleries to restaurants to local dive bars—flying some iteration of a rainbow flag. And the reason? It was the first day of Pride 53565 (after the local zip code), an event ambitiously nicknamed the "First Annual Pride Festival" in Mineral Point.2

The event itself took place in Jail Alley, a narrow road just off High Street. The space behind the restaurant sponsoring the event was cordoned off and a tent erected to protect attendees from the always-fickle Midwestern weather of early summer. Everything was festooned with rainbow decorations. Attendance was free and food and drink were offered for purchase. The main event, as one might expect, was a drag show, featuring performers from both Madison and the nearby Iowa city of Dubuque. By the time the first drag queen took the stage to a remix of "Over the Rainbow" the tent was full. A few noticeably queer folks were present, but the majority of those at this "family friendly" show were locals, with children and pets in tow. (Despite the name, Jail Alley is decidedly not Folsom Street.)

Having studied the lives of Neal and Hellum for several years, I was intrigued by a small fact that most in attendance were likely unaware of: the whole event took place just mere feet from the back door of the home Neal occupied from 1974 until his death in 1983.3 Such proximity begged the question: What would Neal and Hellum—two queer men who so centrally shaped the present-day town—think of such a spectacle? As queer men, would they approve? More specifically, as queer men of an earlier era, how would they position themselves relative to current forms of personal and political identification? In other words, would Neal and Hellum feel welcomed under the proverbial (and literal) tent of "Gay Pride"? Is such a contemporary framework as gay pride—emphasizing visible, self-proclaimed identities—useful for interpreting the lives of these two men who never openly identified as gay and experienced post-Stonewall queer life as elderly men in small-town Wisconsin? Is it historically accurate, or, as I suggest here, does it miss the nuances of the queer past?

The goal of this paper is to explore these and other questions through the example of Neal, Hellum, and the Pendarvis Historic Site. The Pendarvis Historic Site has long included in its interpretive plan the story of Neal and Hellum, their historic preservation work, and their nationally famous restaurant. Only recently, however, has the site decided to explicitly address the queerness of the two men, their relationship, and the connections between that queerness and the partners' work. By using the interpretation of Neal and Hellum at Pendarvis as a case study, I hope to address two shortcomings I see in the [End Page 72] current surge of interest in preserving and interpreting LGBTQ history at historic sites.4 First, I want to address the "metronormativity" of much of this work. That is, the pervasive idea that queer pasts can only—or at least most easily—be found and interpreted in urban settings.5 The story of Neal and Hellum, and the central role that queerness plays within that story, gives lie to the notion that queerness outside of urban centers was historically hidden, invisible, and cut off from queers in other locations.

The second issue I hope to address here is the interpretation of queer history at historic sites like Pendarvis. In particular, I want to address the difficulties of conveying the nuance of queer history to modern-day audiences. With Neal and Hellum, for example, the modern, post-Stonewall notions of LGBT identities predicated on visible, out, and open declarations of one's sexual identity would have been unfamiliar to the partners who lived most of their lives before such notions of sexuality were in place. Neal and Hellum never affirmed their queerness—at least not publicly or openly. As such, to modern-day audiences, Neal and Hellum might appear to have lived closeted, invisible, and silenced lives. But when viewed through the more nuanced lens of the history of sexuality and queer history, their lives appear anything but closeted. In fact, from such a perspective, we can see that the partners' business and preservation efforts were inextricably tied up with their queerness, meaning that including that aspect of their lives in the interpretation of the Pendarvis site is crucial to offering visitors a fuller understanding of the site's past.

So, how do we present this story to audiences only familiar with modern understandings of queerness? How do we deliver Neal and Hellum's story along with an appropriate dose of queer history? How, for instance, do we teach the presumably majority-straight drag show audience under the Gay Pride tent that queer history is not a progress narrative, from invisibility and silence to visibility and public identification, but a much more complicated story involving rapidly evolving and overlapping models of sexuality that may look completely foreign to us today? How do we convince these drag show goers that knowing this history might help them understand the queer past more fully, even that which—or especially that which—is right under their feet, or mere steps away? [End Page 73]

Neal, Hellum, and Pendarvis House

Neal and Hellum first met in 1934. Neal was living with his father in Mineral Point, in the house where he was born in 1906. Neal and his father, Conger, were not especially close, as the latter could never quite understand Neal's passion for antiques and interior decorating.6 This passion was nurtured, instead, by Neal's mother, who tragically died in 1923.7 Despite this loss, Neal pursued a career in interior decorating that led him first to Chicago in 1928, then to New York and London, where he worked under the famous modern interior designer Syrie Maugham.8 In 1933, unhappy with the lack of career advancement he was seeing under Maugham's heavy managerial hand, Neal returned to Mineral Point.9

As the story goes, on that fateful day in 1934, Hellum, who was the same age as Neal, traveled to Mineral Point in search of building materials for the 1848 house he was fixing up in the south-central Wisconsin village of Cooksville, just a few miles south of his hometown of Stoughton. Hellum found the building materials he was looking for amongst the dozens of stone mining cottages the Works Progress Administration (WPA) was dismantling for use in other local construction projects. While in Mineral Point, he also found Neal.10 Not much is known about this initial meeting, but over the next few months, the two men spent a great deal of time together, often staying at their respective parents' residences in either Mineral Point or Stoughton.11 During this time, the two men decided to make good on one of Neal's childhood dreams: to purchase and renovate one of the small stone mining cottages the WPA was tearing down.12

Neal and Hellum would have had a number of dilapidated cottages to choose from as Mineral Point had fallen on hard times by 1935. Major mining and ore processing operations in Mineral Point began to shut down after the turn of the century. The agricultural boom that came as a result of World War I meant that many farmers in the surrounding area had overextended themselves during the conflict, only to find the market fall out from under them as Europe once again [End Page 74] began to produce its own foodstuffs. With miners out of work and farmers in foreclosure, the Great Depression of the 1930s must have seemed like a death knell to Mineral Point residents.13 To Neal and Hellum, however, it was an opportunity. They purchased their small, one-room cottage for a mere ten dollars.14

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Shake Rag Street in 1910, over twenty years before Neal and Hellum would purchase their first stone cottage, Pendarvis. What would become Pendarvis is the one-story cottage at center, flanked by the future Polperro at left and Trelawny at right. The one-story cottages to the right of Trelawny were demolished by the WPA in the 1930s.

(Image courtesy of the Wisconsin State Historical Society, image ID: 37497)

Out of this cottage, and the several others they would later purchase and refurbish, Neal and Hellum sold antiques and served guests tea and full meals. The partners became particularly famous for their Cornish fare: Cornish teas with saffron cake, plum preserves, and clotted cream, and especially Cornish dinners featuring a family-sized pasty. It was an odd business model for two men in a small town in a rural corner of Wisconsin. Mineral Pointers thought the two men were crazy to undertake such an unsound and indulgent venture. One newspaper columnist wrote that neighbors thought Neal and Hellum were "pixilated"—enchanted by the pixies, or maybe even of the pixies.15 That same columnist even referred to Neal as the "Fairy Prince of Mineral Point," for the magical, enchanting, and "fairy-like" atmosphere he created inside the tiny [End Page 75] cottage the partners dubbed Pendarvis House.16 One would think that such tongue-in-cheek allusions to the queerness of Neal and Hellum would sink their questionable business venture, but, surprisingly, Neal and Hellum actually credited this coverage with launching their business.17

Neal and Hellum made steady progress on their project despite the precarious economics of such a venture. For one thing, Pendarvis House was a seasonal business and closed during the winter months. Neal and Hellum supplemented their income during the off-season by developing a mail-order business to sell baked goods and preserves during the holidays.18 Additionally, as historian Will Fellows has noted, Pendarvis House "was not a business that catered to locals. It was pricey, and Neal's personality imbued it with haughty, discriminating airs."19 Despite these difficulties in creating a viable business, the partners not only persevered, but expanded their operations, purchasing the buildings on either side of Pendarvis House. These purchases and the overall stability of the partners' business received an important boost starting in 1938 when they received the financial support of a secret queer benefactor. Called "Mr. X" by Neal and Hellum, Gordon McCormick, heir to the McCormick Reaper fortune, funneled thousands of dollars to the partners, insisting only on anonymity in return.20 Although sources are unclear, it is possible that McCormick and Neal met while the latter was working as an interior decorator in Chicago, where Maugham's firm did do work for the McCormick family.21 Regardless, McCormick's patronage highlights the importance of rural-urban queer networks that made Neal and Hellum's work possible.22

With the outbreak of World War II, McCormick provided Neal and Hellum with more than just money. With travel limited and food, fuel, and rubber rationed, Pendarvis House was unable to stay open. Leveraging a series of connections, McCormick helped arrange wartime jobs for Neal and Hellum, who were both medically ineligible for the draft. During the war, Neal managed the kitchen at the Truax Air Base in Madison, Wisconsin, and Hellum, who was limited in his ability to work due to a stomach ulcer, was sent to McCormick's rustic camp in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.23 Neal and Hellum would occasionally meet and spend [End Page 76] time together during the war years, but for the most part the two remained separate. Their relationship, however—like so many during that period—continued in epistolary form. While only Hellum's half of the correspondence survives, the letters the two exchanged shed light on queer wartime life in Madison, Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and the Upper Midwest more broadly. They also illuminate Neal and Hellum's relationship—their trials, tribulations, and perhaps most importantly their desire for each other.24

Following the war, Neal and Hellum returned to Pendarvis House and picked up where they had left off. McCormick once again offered his assistance, leveraging his connections to bring Pendarvis House national renown in the postwar period—what Fellows calls the "golden years" of Pendarvis House.25 During this period, Neal and Hellum saw Pendarvis House heavily publicized. The tiny restaurant in small-town Wisconsin was written up in a wide variety of newspapers and magazines including The Saturday Evening Post, Gourmet, Glamour, Travel, and Holiday magazines, amongst others.26 With the help of McCormick, Neal and Hellum also developed a close working relationship with Duncan Hines, the midcentury arbiter of on-the-road cuisine. Pendarvis House had been a constant presence in Hines's guide book, Adventures in Eating, as early as 1937.27 Hines even worked with Neal to publish the partners' recipe for pasty and both Hines and his wife were frequent guests at Pendarvis House.28

As the reputation of Pendarvis House grew nationally, Neal and Hellum's efforts at historic preservation slowly came to bear fruit in Mineral Point. As town leaders came to see how Neal and Hellum were capitalizing on the town's history, Mineral Point began a number of initiatives in the 1960s and 1970s to promote the historic nature of the town to tourists.29 These efforts culminated in Mineral Point being listed as a historic district in the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, the first municipality to earn such a designation in the state of Wisconsin. Shortly after, in [End Page 77] 1973, Neal and Hellum sold the Pendarvis complex to the Wisconsin State Historical Society. The following year, the Historical Society opened the doors of the Pendarvis Historic Site.30 After their retirement, the partners continued to live in Mineral Point and stayed active in promoting the town's history and historic architecture until Neal's death in 1985 and Hellum's in 2000.31 The Pendarvis Historic Site has continued the partners' work up to the present.

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Pendarvis House menu featuring the Pendarvis House specialty—Cornish pasty. The menu also features an image of the three most prominent houses at the Pendarvis site, from left to right, Polperro, Pendarvis, and Trelawny.

(Image courtesy of theWisconsin Historical Society, image ID: 99817).

Pendarvis Historic Site

Until recently, a visitor to the Pendarvis Historic Site would have been given a guided tour or interpretative material organized around three themes: the mining history of Mineral Point, the Cornish immigrant population that was a part of the town's mining history, and the story of Neal and Hellum and their efforts at preserving both the history of mining and Cornish immigration. Each of these themes was taken up in turn in the three most prominent buildings at the Pendarvis site—Polperro, Pendarvis, and Trelawny.32

Under this earlier interpretive model, after buying a ticket and safely making your way through the gift shop, visitors entered a log building that once served as Hellum's workshop but now functions as an interpretative center. In this building, [End Page 78] not original to the site, but disassembled and moved from a property in nearby Dodgeville, the walls are covered with interpretative panels that give visitors an overview of the site and the three themes it covers. After orienting oneself to the site and its interpretive model, visitors took a short walkway to the two-and-a-half-story log and stone cottage the partners dubbed Polperro.

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1940 image of the restored cottage, Polperro. Until recently, this building, which told the history of mining in Mineral Point, was the first stop on a visitor's tour.

(Image courtesy of Wisconsin Historical Society, image ID: 37583)

At various times during Neal and Hellum's ownership, this structure served as an antique shop, a private residence, a library, and guest rooms. Now this building interprets the history of mining in the region. The ground floor features pictures of miners deep underground and displays tools ranging from pickaxes to hoist buckets to molds used to make the candles that miners would affix to their hats as their sole source of light. The two upper levels attempt to display the spartan living conditions of early miners by featuring an old stove, a root cellar, and a small selection of furniture. Polperro was built directly into the hillside, so visitors who entered on the ground floor on one side of the building exit the other side on the second floor.

After a short walk past a large birch tree, which the partners wanted so badly that they bought what was to become Polperro just to gain access to the property, visitors entered the site's namesake, a tiny one-room cottage called Pendarvis. This was the first building that Neal and Hellum purchased in 1935. This building operated as the Pendarvis House restaurant, which was Neal and Hellum's main source of income until the 1970s. Prior to recent changes in the site's interpretive [End Page 79] model, this building sought to tell the story of Cornish immigrant history. The furnishings were again spartan: a trundle bed, a table, a few pieces of furniture for storage, and a fire screen, all overlooked by the stern portrait of a Wisconsin frontier Cornishwoman. Interpretative material in this cottage was limited to basic information about Cornwall.

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1945 image of Pendarvis (right) and Trelawny (left). Under Neal and Hellum's ownership, Pendarvis housed the partners' restaurant while Trelawny served as the men's home. Until recently, Pendarvis was the second stop on the guided tour and told the story of Cornish immigration to Mineral Point.

(Image courtesy of Wisconsin Historical Society, image ID: 6048)

Under the earlier interpretive model, Neal and Hellum came more clearly to the fore in the third themed building, mere feet from Pendarvis and accessible to visitors via a stone courtyard built by Hellum in the 1930s. This third cottage, which the partners named Trelawny, provides a glimpse into the lives of Neal and Hellum, showing the cottage they shared as their home as it would have been in the 1940s. Compared to the first two cottages, Polperro and Pendarvis, Trelawny feels opulent, displaying many of the antiques Neal used to decorate their home. Visitors first entered through the back door and the rear kitchen wing that Neal and Hellum rebuilt shortly after purchasing the building in 1936. Contrary to the rest of their antique dé cor, this was a modern kitchen, paid for largely with funding from [End Page 80] McCormick, their queer Chicago benefactor.33 This was the kitchen for Pendarvis, with modern conveniences and appliances for preparing traditional Cornish meals of pasty and Beef Truro for midcentury American guests. The appliances and kitchen equipment are gone, but the wing's display of pictures, artifacts, and interpretative panels provide visitors with a good understanding of Neal and Hellum's Pendarvis House restaurant operation.

As visitors leave the kitchen wing, they finally enter the partners' private living quarters. Perhaps tellingly, however, unlike most of the complex of buildings, here visitors are limited to walking through Neal and Hellum's dining room and front hall, which showcase the china used in the Pendarvis House restaurant and photographs of 1930s restoration work. Guests are not allowed into the partners' parlor, for instance, which displays a nearly exact replica of Neal's 1940s interior. Plexiglass partitions separate guests from this more personal space, a space not dedicated to telling the story of mining history, Cornish immigration history, or the history of the public face of Pendarvis House. The transparent divider protecting Neal's finely crafted interior from twenty-first-century guests allows visitors to peer into the private lives of these two men, albeit with difficulty—to see the entire room requires leaning over the partition and craning one's neck. In this way the partition prevents a fuller view, quietly cordoning off a closer examination of Neal and Hellum's private life. In addition to being restricted from the entire parlor, visitors are not allowed upstairs to the most private and intimate part of the house: the bedrooms. Although clearly meant to protect the antique furnishings and to facilitate visitor safety and accessibility, limiting access to the parlor and upstairs bedrooms also has the effect of shielding most visitors from the queerer history of Neal, Hellum, and the Pendarvis site.

For some of the tourists who are already aware of or pick up on the queerer aspect of Neal and Hellum's story, the portioning off of that story can seem problematic. For some, this interpretation is an act of erasure, a closeting of a relationship whose visibility would be a mark of progressive politics on the part of the Wisconsin Historical Society and a valuable role model for queer-identified visitors. In 2003, for example, a travel writer from the Chicago Tribune wrote of his visit to the Pendarvis site and his attempt to elicit from a tour guide what he called "The Hidden History of Mineral Point." The tour guide was not very forthcoming: "I know what you are trying to ask," the guide was reported to have said. "And I don't know and I don't care." According to former site director Tamara Funk, at the time, guides were instructed to keep Neal and Hellum's private life private, per the partners' wish. The author of the Tribune article was not so sure that, one, this was their wish, and, two, that it should necessarily be honored in our contemporary moment.34 [End Page 81]

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The parlor in Trelawny, the cottage Neal and Hellum shared. Using photographs and the partners' own furnishings, the parlor has been restored to its appearance in the 1940s. Visitor access to the parlor is restricted by plexiglass partitions in the two doorways. One of these partitions is visible behind the chair at the left. (Photo by the author)

Whereas the Tribune journalist called out what he saw as an intentional closeting of Neal and Hellum, other visitors have dispensed with the question of interpretative intent and simply declared Bob and Edgar as gay men. Historian Will Fellows, for example, dedicates a chapter of his 2004 book, Passion to Preserve: Gay Men as Keepers of Culture, to the story of Neal and Hellum. Using a variety of archival materials and relying heavily on an oral history interview with Hellum several years before his death, Fellows argues that Neal and Hellums's penchant for historic preservation was an essential aspect of their gay identity, despite neither man publicly claiming such an identity during their lifetimes.35

More recently, and basing their work heavily on Fellows' study, the librarianscum-playwrights Martha Meyer and Rick Kinnebrew have adapted Neal and Hellum's story for the stage. Meyer and Kinnebrew bill their play, Ten Dollar House, as a love story between two men in a homophobic world. Admittedly a fictional portrayal of Neal and Hellum's life, the play explores conflicts of class, gender, and sexuality in small-town Wisconsin and reinforces the romantic notion that Neal and Hellum's love for each other grew as they built their historic preservation project together.36 [End Page 82]

Crucially, in Meyer and Kinnebrew's rendition, that romance can only flourish behind closed doors and pulled curtains, far from the prying eyes of family, friends, and neighbors.37

Given these different takes on Neal and Hellum's story, it is worth asking which of these versions might be thought of as most accurate. Moreover, it leads to the question of which of these versions might be best suited for interpreting the queer history of Neal and Hellum at the Pendarvis Historic Site, a process that lead interpreter Rachel Erika Lewis initiated during the summer season of 2017 as site staff began developing a new interpretive model.38 In this new model, visitors still buy tickets, make their way through the gift shop, and begin their tour in the interpretive building that once housed Hellum's workshop. As before, guides introduce the site in this building but rather than a story of mining history, Cornish immigration, and the work of Neal and Hellum, under the new model Neal and Hellum are the stars of the show and their relationship is clearly announced as a "domestic partnership."39

Equally crucial to the new model, guests no longer march sequentially and chronologically through the buildings and their themes. Visitors begin not with Polperro and mining history, but in Pendarvis, which is now furnished to tell the story not of Cornish immigration but of Neal and Hellum's restaurant, Pendarvis House. Here guides explain that Neal and Hellum financed their preservation work through their restaurant (McCormick is left out of the story), thus framing the entire site as the work of this queer couple. After seeing the Pendarvis House restaurant, visitors enter Trelawny—and this time through the front door. The parlor and bedrooms are still cordoned off, but by entering through the front door rather than the back kitchen, the partners' personal, private life is emphasized. The tour finally proceeds back to Polperro, which still tells the story of mining and Cornish immigration in Mineral Point, but that theme is now filtered through the lens of Neal and Hellum's preservation work. Finally, to further emphasize the centrality of Neal and Hellum and their relationship to the site, the tour ends at the big birch tree between Polperro and Pendarvis, where the tour guide solemnly explains that this tree—perhaps the oldest birch tree in Wisconsin—is where portions of Neal and Hellum's ashes were spread after their respective deaths, to permanently connect them to the site.40

The new interpretive model is well thought out and clearly puts Neal and Hellum at the center of the story of the Pendarvis site. The acknowledgement of their queerness, however, remains subtle and not fully integrated into the site's interpretation. On a recent tour I participated in, for example, as we stood under the birch tree after being told that Neal and Hellum rest here, together, forever, one [End Page 83] guest asked the guide if either man had married or had children. The guide had to reiterate that, no, these men were domestic partners and neither married nor had children. The guide stopped short, however, of explicitly naming the partners' sexuality.41 This raises the question of how exactly should this be done given that Neal and Hellum never named it themselves? Moreover, what is the most historically accurate way of naming their sexuality given that modern, post-Stonewall terms and concepts are recent iterations that likely did not factor into how Neal and Hellum thought about themselves and others like them? My suggestion throughout this piece is that incorporating the history of sexuality into the site's interpretation is one way to approach these questions.

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Under the new interpretive plan, the interior of Pendarvis is now staged as the Pendarvis House Restaurant, where Neal and Hellum served guests their nationally famous Cornish fare. (Photo by the author)

To date, Neal and Hellum's queerness has been named in a variety of ways. On the one hand, we have the interpretation of Neal and Hellum's story that relies on euphemism, coded language, and an otherwise unspoken acknowledgement of the partners' queerness. This is best encapsulated in the terse response of the tour [End Page 84] guide in 2003 to the Chicago Tribune reporter: "I know what you're asking, and I don't know and I don't care." Historian John Howard, who first explored the question of twentieth-century queer lives outside of major urban centers nearly twenty years ago, would refer to this stance as the "heterosexual-will-to-not-know."42 For Howard, the heterosexual-will-to-not-know operated by way of quiet accommodation. It relied on not speaking queerness—at least not directly and openly. It relied instead on allusion, euphemism, and ambiguous terminology. In this way, according to Howard, "like so many other vices, homosexuality and gender insubordination were acknowledged and accommodated with a pervasive, deflective pretense of ignorance."43

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The large birch tree between Pendarvis (visible behind the tree) and Polperro. The most recent interpretive plan for Pendarvis has the tour end here, where portions of Neal and Hellum's ashes were laid to rest. Ending the tour here and on that note further centers the partners' story in the new interpretive plan. (Photo by the author)

Throughout their lifetimes Neal and Hellum were euphemistically described as "pixies" and "fairies" and generally viewed as local eccentrics. And while they may [End Page 85] have existed at the margins of Mineral Point, they were never fully ostracized—indeed, in a number of cases, the two were at the heart of civic life. In other words, the men were fully integrated into at least part of Mineral Point society. In 1939, for example, the partners motivated like-minded townsfolk to organize and establish the Mineral Point Historical Society, a group that continues to function to this day.44 Likewise, by the mid-1960s, Neal began to wield political power as he sat on Mineral Point's city council.45 During all of this, Mineral Pointers knew Neal and Hellum lived and worked together. When their queerness was spoken of it was spoken euphemistically, not directly named, which allowed them to be a part of the Mineral Point community despite their eccentricity. As historian Colin R. Johnson writes, in rural communities "certain people, even morally repugnant people, may be indispensable to the life of a community because of a skill that they possess, a professional position that they occupy, or an economic entity that they manage or own, or simply because they are more 'us' than 'them.'"46 The fact that Neal was born and raised in Mineral Point, that both men were white and at least aspirationally middle class, and that their business brought paying customers to town all helped to allow the partners to live their lives together in small-town Wisconsin in relative peace and safety.

To modern eyes, however, eyes like those of the Chicago Tribune reporter, or the playwrights Meyer and Kinnebrew, or even the historian Fellows, Neal and Hellum's life within the constraints of the heterosexual-will-to-not-know still appears too hidden, too silenced, too closeted. In other words, the toleration of queerness under this historical model is still far too removed from calls for acceptance and imperatives of visibility inherent in Gay Liberation models of sexuality that come to the fore during and after the 1970s. The Gay Liberation model of sexuality implores queer folks to come "out of the closets and into the streets," to publicly, visibly, and openly proclaim one's sexual identity to the world, and to seek not only toleration but acceptance and equality.47 To be a good gay after 1970, then, was to be an out gay.

Neal and Hellum were never "out" in this sense. They never publicly proclaimed their sexuality or clamored for equality. Moreover, by 1970, they were old men and it is unclear how aware or how approving of the new gay and lesbian political movements the partners were—or, even if they identified with them at all. So how accurate or how useful is such a perspective when thinking about how to interpret Neal and Hellum's life at the Pendarvis Historic Site? Historically [End Page 86] speaking, the tour guide who responded to questions of Bob and Edgar's private life with "I don't know and I don't care" was actually being more accurate in her interpretation of the site than the Chicago Tribune writer's insistence that the partners be openly avowed as gay men. But is that an appropriate interpretation for a twenty-first century audience? Indeed, is that something marketable to a general audience? It likely won't satisfy visitors that come to the Pendarvis site looking for more explicit discussions of Neal and Hellum's sexuality and their relationship, nor will it help visitors who, even after the introduction of the new interpretative plan, miss the queerer story of the site. What follows, then, is a discussion of a handful of suggestions for integrating the history of sexuality into the interpretation of the Pendarvis in a way that makes the partners' queerness explicit, understandable, relatable, but yet historically accurate.

"Opening Up the Shop"

One way to approach this task of integrating the history of sexuality into the interpretation of the Pendarvis site is to follow the advice of historian Hilary Iris Lowe. In a recent essay, Lowe examined the place of narrative and storytelling in the interpretation of house museums not unlike the Pendarvis Historic Site. Lowe is particularly interested in thinking about tensions between academic historical scholarship and the storytelling that is a part of interpreting literary house museums like the homes of Mark Twain and Emily Dickinson. The tension between literary scholars and historians traced by Lowe and the tensions I have identified over interpretations of Neal and Hellum's story at Pendarvis are not dissimilar. In response to this tension Lowe suggests that historians "open up the shop," that is, "to share with visitors precisely those conversations about method and historiography that sustain intellectual vitality."48

At the Pendarvis Historic Site, such an opening of the historical shop would entail engaging with the very questions about the history of sexuality addressed in this essay. Moreover, it would entail challenging visitors to think outside of their present-day, Gay-Liberationist perspective where visibility and public declarations of sexual identity mark progressive and fulfilled queer lives. In other words, such an interpretative effort would have to ask visitors to discard notions of history as a narrative of progress, where, in this case, queer individuals have moved from a position of silence and oppression to one of openness and (at least tacit) acceptance.

Placing Neal and Hellum's story within the context of early-to-mid twentieth century queer history is one way to get visitors to think outside of these more dominant, contemporary perspectives. Utilizing George Chauncey's work on the pansy craze of the 1920s, or Vito Russo's discovery of queer film characters before [End Page 87] the Hollywood production code of the 1930s, or, indeed, introducing visitors to the "live-and-let-live" ethos of Howard's heterosexual-will-to-not-know would all help visitors to understand the visible and very present nature of queerness in the first half of the twentieth century.49

While perhaps fascinating to some, simply presenting contextual histories to visitors would not make for a very engaging tour. Following the lead of house museums featured in The Anarchist's Guide to Historic House Museums might offer a solution. A number of the house museums authors Franklin Vagnone and Deborah Ryan feature in their book utilize video installations, art exhibits, and even performance to challenge audiences to think about broader historical, political, and theoretical issues encapsulated at house museums.50 When asking students to challenge linear progress narratives of history and think instead of the history of sexuality as ebb and flow over time, I inevitably present these two ways of thinking about the past graphically. As such, the possibilities for an engaging visual representation of this concept at the Pendarvis site seems ripe, and whether conveyed through video, visual art, or performance, such representations would help frame the site's interpretation and visitors' understandings of the historical complexity behind Neal and Hellum's queerness.

Challenging narratives of progress is one thing but getting visitors to understand that over time our scientific, psychological, governmental, and cultural understandings and definitions of sexuality change drastically is another. To help visitors understand this complicated idea, historians and guides at the Pendarvis site might turn to the sociology of sexuality. In their book, The Organization of Sexuality, sociologists Edward Laumann, John Gagnon, Robert Michael, and Stuart Michaels divide sexuality into three component parts: desire, behavior, and identity.51 While not intended as a model for thinking sexuality historically, it actually provides a handy and accessible way to explain changing understandings of sexuality across time. We know, of course, that most people experience some kind of sexual desire during their lifetime. That desire may shift, or ebb and flow, and which bodies, features, objects, or sexual acts one finds desirous may change. Based on a whole host of social, cultural, economic, and physical factors, people may or may not chose to act on those desires. Although desire and behavior are not immune from historical shifts, sexual identity—the way in which a given culture at a given time organizes sexual desires and behaviors into categories of approved or not approved—is far more prone to historical change. Understanding the role of society and culture in defining sexual identities will help visitors understand that different [End Page 88] models of sexuality exist at different times and in different places and that the model Neal and Hellum operated under for most of their lives is not the model we are most familiar with today. As with questions of historic narrative, this model for thinking about sexuality can be demonstrated visually. When I teach this model in the classroom I ask students to think about the three components of sexuality as boxes, boxes whose contents are constantly being rearranged over time. These boxes could perhaps be rendered physically as an interactive exhibit where visitors play the role of cultural arbiters, shifting the contents around to create new combinations of desire, behavior, and identity.

Having this contextual framework would allow visitors to more fully engage primary documents from Neal and Hellum's archives that represent their queerness. Displaying such documents would allow guests to do the analytical work of historians, by seeing how Neal and Hellum navigated sexual identities and worlds very different from our own. Newspaper articles describing the partners and their queer supporters as fairies and pixies, for example, would demonstrate the importance of euphemism, allusion, and the pretense to ignorance at the heart of Howard's notion of the heterosexual-will-to-not-know. Likewise, a display of a selection of the many love letters or holiday cards that the partners exchanged while apart during the Second World War would demonstrate the intimacy the two men shared and rid any visitor of doubt that Neal and Hellum were partners both in business and in life. Whereas the contextual background seems to lend itself to engaging visuals, presenting sources like these might best be done using audio voiceovers. Moreover, to underscore the public nature of newspaper articles and the intimacy of letter writing, the former might best be presented to the tour group as a whole while the latter could be listened to individually, by way of headphones or a private listening station.

Additionally, if the Pendarvis Historic Site wants to really emphasize the personal lives of Neal and Hellum, it might be best to start not at Pendarvis and the Pendarvis House restaurant, but in Trelawny, Neal and Hellum's home. And to further emphasize the partners' private lives the partitions that keep visitors out of the men's parlor and away from the bedrooms could be removed. According to The Anarchist's Guide, such access to denied spaces helps to "Transcend the Object and present an environment of habitation."52 In this way, rather than a tableau of inanimate objects and absent bedrooms, allowing guests into the parlor and upstairs would help them more fully experience Trelawny as a lived-in space, occupied by two queer men.

After visiting the private space of Trelawny, visitors could then move onto Pendarvis to see the public side of Neal and Hellum, as represented by the recently added Pendarvis House Restaurant display. Here I might suggest bringing back part of the previous interpretative model that used the Pendarvis cottage to tell the story of Cornish immigration to Mineral Point. I suggest this because, as [End Page 89] I argue elsewhere, the Cornish immigrant history that Neal and Hellum curated, amplified, and in some cases fabricated as a part of their restaurant business had an important queer twist to it.53 Moreover, as the Cornish history that Neal and Hellum championed starting in the 1930s was taken up by city-wide efforts at historical preservation starting in the 1960s, that larger city-wide effort has queer roots as well.54

The immigration of Cornish miners and their families to Mineral Point in the first half of the nineteenth century is a notable part of the history of the region. Cornish miners began coming to Mineral Point in the 1830s and 1840s to mine lead. They brought with them an important skill set: underground, hard-rock mining methods. The surface diggings—dubbed badger holes—used by the earliest Anglo miners in the early nineteenth century quickly gave up their limited supplies of ore, and high-water tables in the limestone bedrock meant that digging deeper than a few feet often required skills and machinery of specialist miners. The Cornish also brought with them skills and aesthetics in stonework and masonry, giving Mineral Point a distinctive collection of stone cottages and commercial buildings that bear resemblance to similar structures in the British Isles. As architectural historian Audrey Stewart Parkinson has noted, however, stone patterns on the homes and commercial buildings in Mineral Point demonstrate a wide variety of styles and techniques from a number of European countries, not just Cornwall.55

Despite this, the Cornish are celebrated today in Mineral Point in large part because of the way Neal and Hellum latched onto the region's Cornish history and utilized it in their work. Rather than a masculine history of working the mines, the partners celebrated a feminine history of domestic labor. This allowed Neal and Hellum to focus the attention of guests on the cottages they restored, the interiors they designed, the antiques they sold, and the meals they prepared and served. To put it another way, by using this domestic history to underwrite their project, Neal and Hellum were able to perform the role of Cornish housewives in a gender transgressive move that visitors found compelling. In this way, the Cornish history of Mineral Point and the queerness of Neal and Hellum are, in many ways, inextricable.56 This is one reason why it is so important to fully integrate the story of Neal and Hellum's queerness into the site. [End Page 90]

In presenting this side of Neal and Hellum's story and situating that story within the broader context of the history of sexuality, historians and guides at the Pendarvis site will inevitably also have to deal with questions of language. Throughout this piece, I have deployed the word queer rather than gay or homosexual to describe Neal and Hellum's relationship. Homosexual is a medical term first used in the nineteenth century, and it is a term that has always carried with it connotations of deviance, abnormality, and pathology.57 Such a term would not be useful or appropriate for the Pendarvis site. The choice between gay and queer is a less clear-cut. As historian George Chauncey uncovered in his seminal study of early-twentieth century queer life in New York City, the term gay did not come into common use until after WWII.58 Even then, that shift would not be complete until after the rise of the Gay Liberation Movement in the 1970s and the notion of gay as a politicized, public, self-proclaimed sexual identity. In this way, Neal and Hellum were not gay men. They belonged to the prewar era Chauncey describes, not the era that eventually gives rise to the term gay and the liberation movement that solidified that term's meaning. Moreover, there is no evidence that the partners ever used the label gay—let alone any label—to define themselves.

Even more to the point, when we apply the term gay to historic figures or communities, the action often has the effect of collapsing or flattening the nuance and texture that the history of sexuality tries to reveal. Using the word gay at the Pendarvis site would not do the important work of challenging visitors to think outside a Gay Liberationist framework. Yet queer, too, has its own history as a term of identification, and it is often dark one. To date, the only real pushback to the interpretation of Neal and Hellum as queer men is the use of the term queer, and tellingly, the resistance is from the LGBTQ community. For many older lesbians and gay men, the term retains its stinging, pejorative use.59 For younger audiences, the negative connotations of the word have largely been erased by the way in which queer was reclaimed in the 1990s by activists and academics. These individuals sought to understand non-normative forms of gender and sexuality more intersectionally and outside the confines of identities like gay or lesbian. That is, these activists and academics—with varying degrees of success—sought to articulate gender and sexual otherness alongside of and in conjunction with other forms of marginalization in the United States and beyond. As a result, the term took on a sometimes-intentional ambiguity, where queer could at the same time act as an umbrella term for LGBT individuals, serve as a political rallying point for activists of various stripes, or signal an attempt to think outside of Gay Liberation era identities like lesbian or gay.60 [End Page 91]

The tension between these generational camps underscores the need to carefully delineate why the term queer is preferable to the term gay at a site like Pendarvis. Ultimately, its usefulness comes in its ambiguity. At the Pendarvis site, it would simultaneously act as an umbrella term and allow guides and interpretative material to underscore the need to think outside of Gay Liberation-era identity categories. In this way, queer serves as a placeholder for historical understandings and embodiments of same-sex desire unfamiliar to us today. Because these understandings and embodiments were generally not spoken directly, but through euphemism and allusion, the term queer allows us to articulate a historic sexuality that intentionally sought to be inarticulable. Indeed, Neal and Hellum never named their sexuality but if we are to present that aspect of their story we need a term and one that is as open and flexible as possible.

Making clear why queer is the optimal term for interpreting the lives of Neal and Hellum is one way of opening up the shop for visitors at the Pendarvis site. So, too, is developing interpretive material that provides important historical context. The display and interpretation of primary sources would give life to that context, and using sociological models of sexuality to better translate the complicated ways that our culture has come to define sexuality across time would all help to shift visitor perspectives and allow them to engage with the nuance of the history of sexuality. Undertaking such a project would not be an easy endeavor but it would provide a more accurate and more complete view of Neal and Hellum's life to visitors. Perhaps equally as important, opening up the shop and sharing with guests at the Pendarvis site the questions, tools, and materials of historical inquiry would provide visitors with the opportunity to actively engage with the historical process. In an increasingly conservative age that includes the devaluing of historical inquiry and the rise of anti-intellectualism generally, such engagement might prove to be the most valuable takeaway from a visit to the Pendarvis Historic Site.

If the ghosts of Neal and Hellum had peered out the front window of the tiny stone house on Jail Alley during Mineral Point's first annual Pride celebration, it is hard to imagine what the two would have thought about the spectacle of drag queens and rainbow flags mere feet from Neal's home. What we can imagine, though, is the difficulty of trying to understand such a scene outside of one's own historic framework. Such a task is not easy, but by actively engaging with the history of sexuality at a site like Pendarvis, scholars and visitors alike will gain a broader and fuller understanding of the nuances of the queer past and, by extension, the lives of Neal and Hellum. Understanding the queerness of Neal and Hellum is crucial to understanding the success of their project and the success of historic preservation efforts in all of Mineral Point. It is equally important that visitors to the Pendarvis site engage with the queer story of Neal and Hellum and the way it challenges us to rethink assumptions about where queer people can live fully realized lives, both historically and in the present. Indeed, beyond getting the history right, telling Neal and Hellum's story is perhaps most important for what it means in the present. As historian Patricia West argues, historic house museums are [End Page 92] "agents of American cultural politics, not the politically aloof, neutral institutions received knowledge has supposed them to be."61 In other words, we owe it to ourselves—to everyone under the tent at Pride 53565 but especially to those outside—to tell this story to the best of our ability. [End Page 93]

Christopher Hommerding

Christopher Hommerding recently received his PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Program in Gender and Women's History. His dissertation, The Pixies of Pendarvis, examines the way two men in small-town Wisconsin leveraged their queerness to build a nationally renowned restaurant and turn the small town of Mineral Point, Wisconsin into a destination for tourists, artists, and historic architecture buffs. He currently works as a public historian for a private firm in Minneapolis.


1. John Gjerde on "Mineral Point," Around the Corner with John McGivern, Wisconsin Public Broadcasting, episode 202 (originally aired January 17, 2013).

2. The event took place on the traditional Pride weekend in the US—the last weekend in June. The timing is intended to commemorate the Stonewall uprising of 1969, although various Pride festivals are held throughout the year. Mineral Point's festival was organized by the Tequila Point restaurant, the owner of which dubbed it the "first annual Pride festival" for Mineral Point. That ambition turned out to be well-placed, as Mineral Point held a second annual Pride 53565 event in 2018. Author participation, Pride 53565, Held in Mineral Point, Wisconsin, June 25, 2017; "Tequila Point hosts PRIDE," The Democrat Tribune, June 28, 2018.

3. "Bob Neal," Mineral Point Democrat-Tribune, July 28, 1983.

4. See, for example, Susan Ferentinos, Interpreting LGBT History at Museums and Historic Sites (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2015); Megan E. Springate, ed., LGBTQ America: A Theme Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer History (Washington, DC: National Park Service, 2016).

5. The concept of metronormativity was developed by the queer theorist J. Jack Halberstam. Halberstam sees metronormativity not only as the "conflation of 'urban' and 'visible' in many normalizing narratives of gay/lesbian subjectivities," but also as a geographic narrative, where to come out as gay necessitates a migration out of rural space and into the city. Much of the "rural turn" in queer studies has taken Halberstam's critique of metronormativity as a starting point. Judith Halberstam, In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives (New York: New York University Press, 2005), 36. On the rural turn in queer studies see, Colin R. Johnson, Just Queer Folks: Gender and Sexuality in Rural America (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2013), 8–10.

6. Edgar Hellum, interview with Will Fellows, December 17, 1997, Mineral Point. Special thanks to Will Fellows for sharing the transcript of this interview with me.

7. Mineral Point Tribune, December 20, 1923.

8. Neal and Hellum's story as queer men was first told by historian Will Fellows in 2004. Fellows includes the story of Neal and Hellum in his work on gay men as preservationists, but sees the work of individuals like Neal and Hellum as a part of an essential gay identity. In addition to expanding upon Fellows' work on Neal and Hellum, I also challenge his essentialism by focusing greater attention on the importance of bringing the history of sexuality to bear on the partners' story. Will Fellows, A Passion to Preserve: Gay Men as Keepers of Culture (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2004), 192.

9. Robert Neal to William Gundry, September 8, 1933, Robert M. Neal Papers, Mineral Point Public Library, Mineral Point, Wisconsin (hereafter Robert M. Neal Papers).

10. Fellows, A Passion to Preserve, 193.

11. Tracing their comings and goings through local newspaper accounts, Neal and Hellum spent nearly two of the first three months of 1935 in each other's company. Iowa County Democrat, January 24, 1935 and March 21, 1935; and Wisconsin State Journal March 15, 1935.

12. Neal to Gundry, September 8, 1933, Robert M. Neal Papers.

13. For the history of early Mineral Point, see Marie G. Dieter, Writers Program of the Work Projects Administration, The Story of Mineral Point, 1827–1941 (1941; repr., Mineral Point: Mineral Point Historical Society, 1979); George Fiedler, Mineral Point: A History (Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1973).

14. Ray Wearing to Robert Neal, May 4, 1935, Robert M. Neal Papers.

15. Betty Cass, "Madison Day by Day," Wisconsin State Journal, June 25, 1939.

16. Fellows, A Passion to Preserve, 194.

17. Mark H. Knipping and Korinne K. Oberle, eds., On The Shake Rag: Mineral Point's Pendarvis House, 1935–1970 (Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1990), 12.

18. Ibid., 13.

19. Fellows, A Passion to Preserve, 196.

20. Gordon McCormick to Robert Neal, April 22, 1942, Robert M. Neal Papers.

21. Gerald McKnight, The Scandal of Syrie Maugham (London: W.H. Allen, 1980).

22. The work of historian Nicholas Syrett offers insight into the importance of networks connecting queer men across urban and rural spaces. See Nicholas L. Syrett, "A Busman's Holiday in the Not-So-Lonely Crowd: Business Culture, Epistolary Networks, and Itinerant Homosexuality in Mid-Twentieth-Century America," Journal of the History of Sexuality 21, no. 1 (January 2012): 121–4; Syrett, "Mobility, Circulation, and Correspondance: Queer White Men in the Midcentury Midwest," GLQ 20, no. 1–2 (2014): 75–94.

23. Hellum interview.

24. Roughly fifty of these letters exist in the papers of Edgar Hellum, currently housed at the Pendarvis Historic Site, Mineral Point, Wisconsin.

25. Fellows, A Passion to Preserve, 198.

26. See, for instance: "Midwestern Cornwall," Holiday (July 1949); Herbert Kaddy, "Autumn in Wisconsin," Holiday (October 1958); August Derleth, "Wisconsin's Gentle Wilderness," Holiday (July 1962); "A Guide to Fine Dining in America," Holiday Magazine Booklet, 1963; "Turn Back the Years with a Visit to Quaint, Century-old Pendarvis House," Gas News (July 1952); "Pendarvis House and Shake Rag," Let's See: Resorts and Restaurants (June 1960); "Unusual Buildings," Travel (September 1958); "Off-Beat Vacations for Fall," Cosmopolitan (August 1956); "The Romance of Staying 'Home,'" Glamour (May 1962); "Excerpts from Two Answers to the Prix Question, 'Outline a Travel Feature for Vogue," Vogue (August 1955); "A World of Good Eats from Wisconsin," Country Gentleman (October 1946). All Clippings in box 4, Edgar G. Hellum Papers; On the Shake Rag, 33.

27. "Duncan Hines Fifth-of-a-Century Club Member Certificate," presented to Robert Neal, 1957, Pendarvis Photos Box, Robert M. Neal Papers.

28. On the Shake Rag, 33; "Notable People Visit Pendarvis," Mineral Point Democrat-Tribune, 1947.

29. In 1963, for example, the Mineral Point Chamber of Commerce introduced the cartoon figure of Cousin Jack. Cousin Jack, a colloquial term for a Cornishman, was part of a larger promotional campaign to draw tourists to Mineral Point. Charles House, "Mineral Point Will Use Cousin Jack Symbol to Publicize Its Historic Sites," Appleton Post-Crescent, June 9, 1963.

30. Fellows, A Passion to Preserve, 199.

31. "Edgar Hellum," Mineral Point Democrat-Tribune, March 23, 2000.

32. The following description of the Pendarvis Historic Site is based upon numerous visits and information contained in the site's guided tour brochure: Pendarvis Self-Guided Tour Pamphlet, 2013, 2015, and 2016.

33. The refurbishment of both Polperro and Trelawny are detailed in letters exchanged between McCormick, Neal, and McCormick's architect, Walter C. Heimbeck. See, for example, Neal to McCormick, September 12, 1941; and Neal to Heimbeck, August 7, 1941, Robert M. Neal Papers.

34. Chris Jones, "The Hidden History of Mineral Point," Chicago Tribune, August 29, 2003.

35. Fellows, A Passion to Preserve, 191–99.

36. This idea is expressed by Korinne Oberle, former curator at the Pendarvis Historic Site in Eve Studnicka, Of Some Fair Place, independent film, 2013.

37. Rick Kinnebrew and Martha Meyer, Ten Dollar House, Broom Street Theater, Madison, Wisconsin, April 11, 2015 and Mineral Point Opera House, May 15, 2016.

38. Rachel Erika Lewis, phone conversation with author, October 24, 2017.

39. Pendarvis Historic Site Tour, July 29, 2018.

40. Ibid.

41. Ibid.

42. John Howard, Men Like That: A Southern Queer History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999), xvi.

43. Ibid., xi.

44. "Neal Names Committees for Society," Mineral Point Democrat-Tribune, August 31, 1939; and "Historical Society Meets October 6th for Lecture by State Leader," Mineral Point Democrat-Tribune, September 28, 1939.

45. City Council Business Cards, 1965–1968, Robert Neal Box, Robert M. Neal Papers. Neal was also elected to the City Planning Commission from 1980–1983. Official Notice of Election to City Planning Committee, April 16, 1980, Robert M. Neal Papers, Mineral Point Public Library, Mineral Point, Wisconsin.

46. Johnson, Just Queer Folks, 128.

47. Howard, Men Like That, 193; Johnson, Just Queer Folks, 109.

48. Hilary Iris Lowe, "Dwelling in Possibility: Revisiting Narrative in the Historic House Museum," The Public Historian vol. 37, no. 2 (May 2015): 42–60, 44.

49. George Chuancey, Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890–1940 (New York: Basic Books, 1994); Vitto Russo, The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies (New York: Harpers Collins, 1987); Howard, Men Like That.

50. Franklin D. Vagnone and Deborah E. Ryan, The Anarchist's Guide to Historic House Museums (New York: Routledge, 2016).

51. Edward Laumann et al., The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994).

52. Vagnone and Ryan, The Anarchist's Guide, 45.

53. Christopher Hommerding, "'This is your Pasty: The Performance of Queer Domesticity in Small-Town Wisconsin," Notches: (Re)Marks on the History of Sexuality, October 8, 2015,

54. On Cornish themes in Mineral Point's historic preservation efforts in the 1960s and 1970s, see, for example Charles House, "Mineral Point Will Use Cousin Jack Symbol to Publicize Its Historic Sites," Appleton Post-Crescent, June 9, 1963; Robert L. Franzmann, "Mineral Point Looks to Past for Its Future," Wisconsin State Journal, May 9, 1971.

55. Audrey Stewart Parkinson, Stone by Stone: Early Mineral Point Buildings (Mineral Point, Wisconsin: Preservation Works, 2000).

56. Hommerding, "This is your Pasty."

57. See, for example: Leila J. Rupp, A Desired Past: A Short History of Same-Sex Love in America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999), 79–85.

58. Chauncey, Gay New York, 23.

59. Lewis, phone conversation.

60. For an early analysis of the term queer see Annamarie Jagose, Queer Theory: An Introduction (New York: New York University Press, 1996).

61. Patricia West, Domesticating History: The Political Origins of America's House Museums (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1999), xii.

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