Simple, almost severe, this clapboard building seems to speak of moral resolve. And rightly so: the people who built Stowell House were evangelical Baptist reformers, members of the Delavan Temperance Colony, precursor to the town of Delavan. Colony founders Henry and Samuel Phoenix came from upstate New York, a region swept by enthusiastic religious revivals in the early 1830s as migration from New York to Wisconsin began. The Phoenix brothers saw Wisconsin as a place to build a new society free from the evils of alcohol and slavery. They selected a four-thousand-acre tract where a road from Racine crossed Turtle Creek, marked its boundaries by painting “Temperance Colony” on the trees, and christened it “Delavan” after a fellow temperance activist.
In 1840, the brothers helped one of their colonists, Israel Stowell, capitalize and build a temperance house, or alcohol-free tavern. Side-gabled and five bays long, the building is made of oak and walnut timbers joined by mortise-and-tenon joints. Built in the classic saltbox form, the rear eaves slope down, making the inn two stories tall in front and one at the rear. Two of the original twelve-over-eight windows survive upstairs. Soon after finishing the inn, Stowell added a three-bay wing to the east, identical to the original in profile and design. Later additions included a front-gable section on the inn’s far west end, a section with a doorway on the east end, and a bay window in front, attached about 1900. The temperance house operated for less than a decade. By the late 1840s, the Phoenix brothers had died, reform fervor cooled, and non-temperance colonists began settling in Delavan. The secularization of the community was certain when the Stowell House’s new owner began serving alcohol.