Demo planned for home known as site of murder

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Neil Johnson
Thursday, September 21, 2017

JANESVILLE—It appears to be curtains for a historic home that was built on the site of Janesville's first-ever murder.

The historic, 19th century Spaulding home at 3941 Milton Ave. stands with its facade peeled away, piles of brick and wood rubble surrounding the house and a gaping hole in its roof. The interior has been gutted, and demolition vehicles have been parked at the property on the city's far north end for the last few weeks.

According to a city demolition permit, the Spaulding house is being torn down.

That's about the extent of city staff's knowledge of what might be in store for the parcel where in June 1855, lumberman Andrew Alger was beaten and stabbed to death by David F. Mayberry, a horse thief who wanted Alger's cash, according to Gazette news reports.

It was the first recorded murder in Janesville's history, according to a Gazette article from 1855, and it happened about 15 years before residents Joseph and Lydia Spaulding built the stately, two-story Italianate brick home known as the Spaulding home—a house now surrounded by modern, commercial developments along the west side of Janesville's Milton Avenue business corridor.

Tom Clippert, director of city Building and Development Services, said a demolition contractor working for the Spaulding home's owner, Park Place Development, had applied for and was granted a city demolition permit.

Park Place Development, which is operated out of Milton, owns several local storage unit complexes in Janesville, according to the company's website.

The Spaulding home in more recent years had been used as an antique shop, but the property has been up for sale for more than a year by its owner. As of this week, a commercial for sale sign remained posted at the site.

The Gazette was not able to reach Park Place Development for comment on the demolition of the property where 162 years ago, David Mayberry bludgeoned Andrew Alger with a hatchet and then stabbed him to death in the throat with Alger's own pocket knife, according to Gazette archives.

The killing came after Mayberry had hitched a ride on Alger's horse and buggy. Mayberry was later lynched outside of the courthouse in Janesville by a group of angry townspeople after he was sentenced to prison for Alger's murder, a crime that the 1855 Gazette report called “almost unparalleled anywhere in brutality and atrocity.”

Clippert said he did not know what plans are in store for the Spaulding property, and he said he hasn't spoken with the owner about about what might be built on the land that was once woods well-known locally as the site of Alger's bloody murder.

Clippert confirmed a contractor planned to tear down 3,800-square-foot Spaulding house and remove it.

It would close the book on a home claimed to be haunted by one Wisconsin paranormal research group and some business operators who in the past ran shops in the house, according to a 2016 Gazette story.

The land the house occupies is one of the few parcels on the far north end of Milton Avenue that has not been developed with a large, commercial property.

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