For all these years, the birthplace home of Green Bay Packers legend, Earl Louis "Curly" Lambeau, was unknown. But now, thanks to some history detective work, it's been identified by a father and son team who are avid Packers fans.
Not only have Ken and John Calewarts uncovered a piece of Packers history, they also discovered a piece of Green Bay history. The house, located at 615 North Irwin Street in Green Bay, was built in 1868, making it one of the oldest standing homes in Green Bay.
The journey of discovery began in the summer of 2003. After reading a book about Lambeau, Green Bay native Ken Calewarts and his 17 year old son, John, were curious about Lambeau's early childhood home because it was reportedly near Ken's office.
But when they went to the Brown County Register of Deed's office to learn more about the address - 1205 Cherry Street, they found the Lambeau family didn't live there at the time of Curly's birth in 1898. So they began what they thought would be a quick project: looking through the City of Green Bay archives to find Curly Lambeau's home at the time of his birth.
"That's where it started to get interesting," John said. "Brown County Library records showed that Curly's family lived at 615 North 12th Street when he was born. But that street doesn't exist anymore. We were stumped, but didn't want to give up."
They turned to librarian and local historian Mary Jane Herber for help.
"They literally went through every kind of land record and map relating to the Lambeaus," Herber explained. "They searched our archives, as well as records at the UW-Green Bay Library and the County Assessor's office."
"Unfortunately, we kept coming up with leads that just didn't pan out," John said. "We realized we had to find out today's equivalent of 615 North 12th Street."
Their break came when a friend of the family mentioned that streets on the East side of Green Bay were numbered at the turn of the century. They found out where the numbering started (Washington Street) and then worked their way up to North 12th Street.
"What we found was that the current Irwin Street was 12th Street more than 100 years ago," said the younger Calewarts. "My dad and I immediately went to 615 North Irwin Street to see what was there and, sure enough, there was a house and it looked old."
A trip to the City Assessor's office confirmed the house was built in 1868. Plus, the City Directory showed the Lambeau family had lived at this address in 1898, the year Curly was born.
"In addition to locating the birthplace home of Curly Lambeau," said Herber, "they also discovered one of the oldest homes in Green Bay that is still standing on its original foundation, with the same exterior walls as when it was built."
But finding the home wasn't the end of this story.
"We knew we wanted to make sure that the home was brought back up to code, staying at its current location," said Rudy Hanamann. "So, the Hanamann, Olson, Calewarts and Ronk families became investors to purchase the home."
Hanamann says they will renovate the exterior of the home, "including putting up a plaque commemorating the location and its significance. Long term, our plans are to sell the house to either a die hard Packers fan or to someone interested in Green Bay history."
The group hired Mike McMahon of SLaM Architecture in Little Chute, Wisconsin to handle the renovations.
And what will happen to the proceeds from the sale? "That may be one of the best parts of this," said Hanamann. "We're going to use Green Bay's past to help its future."
A non-profit, 501(c)3 organization, Friends of Nicolet School, is being established. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the home, not to be less than $50,000 regardless of what the home sells for, will be put into the foundation to benefit the students and teachers at Nicolet School. The school is located directly across the street from Curly Lambeau's home.
"This has been a great and fun project and it just keeps getting better," said Hanamann. "We hope others are as excited about our find as we are."