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  • Writer's pictureLawrence Lore

The Dunseth House

Many readers have asked about the history of the Dunseth House which has recently been demolished. You may remember it was the stately mansion that set at the intersection with West Haven Street and State Street on the west side of town for 100 years.

In September 1920, James Groff of Bridgeport purchased the Ed Martin property at the forks of the road west of Lawrenceville. There were 80 acres in the tract and the purchase price was well over $20,000. Mr. Groff intended to build “a modern palace on the ground as soon as conditions in the building material line permitted” according to one gossip columnist of the time.

March 29, 1922 the Lawrence County News reported that James M Groff of Bridgeport, through the firm of Osterhage and Sutton, Architects of Vincennes, had last week awarded the contract for the erection of a magnificent residence on the 83-acre tract of land he purchased from Ed Martin at the forks of the road west of Lawrenceville last summer. The general contract was let to Thomas J. Edwards & Son of Vincennes, the wiring contract to Cannon & Fields, of Vincennes, and the heating and plumbing to the Olney Heating and Plumbing Co.

"The residence will be two stories and basement. The first story will be of brick and the second of stucco. It will have an imperial Spanish tile roof and will contain twelve rooms including a billiard room. The plans and specifications call for terraces, porches and porte cochére. The 83-acres on which the handsome residence will be located will be beautified by landscape gardeners. Work on the project was commenced last Thursday and the residence is to be complete by October 1. The contract price is $35,000. Mr. and Mrs. Groff will occupy the resident as soon as it is completed.

. . . .and under Bridgeport Items in the Daily Record, the Bridgeport correspondent said on October 18, 1922, “Everybody thinks Jim Groff’s big bungalow is the finest in the land but we think he has it facing the wrong town."

Jim, or James M. Groff, was an attorney with an office over the 1st Natl Bank in Bridgeport.

(February 8, 1923 Daily Record) Another article was written when the house was completed describing more details. "Prof. J. H. Hunsucker of Champaign, the celebrated landscape gardener has charge of the outside decorations. A full basement with furnace, laundry, and other conveniences underlays the big house. A large terrace porch extends across the entire front and partly across one end, which with its tile floor makes it a thing of beauty. A double garage is of the same material as the house. The living room is 16 feet wide by 38 ½ feet long with a sun parlor with tile floor and a beautiful mantle of Italian marble. There is also a dining room, breakfast room and kitchen on the first floor. The first floor woodwork is walnut. The upper floor woodwork is enameled in white and ivory. Mr Groff has a den on the mezzanine balcony which is fitted with pool and billiard tables. There are four bedrooms on the upper floor and two complete baths. The floors are all made of hard wood, those on the lower story being oak and the upper maple. The furniture for this beautiful home was furnished by Spencer and Tipsword of Lawrenceville.

The impressive Dunseth home was a remarkable part of Lawrence County architecture history. In today's dollars it would have cost approximately $540,350 to build. Elizabeth,(Libbie Ann), daughter of James and Laura Bell Groff, moved into the new home 1923 when she was about five years old. She married Richard Dunseth in 1944, and after her father died in 1950, the couple eventually returned to Lawrenceville and made the house their home.



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