How this couple found their dream home: The historic mansion of paper magnate D.C. Everest

Keith Uhlig
Wausau Daily Herald
Courtney Olson and Felix Gallo have purchased the D.C. Everest house, a historic property on Wausau's East Side.

WAUSAU - After she saw the story how a central Wisconsin business titan's historic estate was up for sale, Courtney Olson was intrigued.

The story, about the mansion built by paper industry magnate D.C. Everest, ran in USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin newspapers across the state. Olson, the director of the Rainbow House, a domestic violence agency located in Marinette and Oconto and who works on domestic violence issues at a state level, reads dozens of newspapers. A long-time lover of old, large homes, her interest was piqued.

"I made the mistake of clicking on (the article). I just thought, 'Wow, that's a fascinating house,'" Olson said. She showed the story to her fiancé Felix Gallo, and said, "Hey Felix, just for fun, let's go look at it this weekend."

That first visit led to two more, each more serious than the last. Gallo, a computer executive with Amazon, and Olson were living together in Port Washington at the time. They ended up putting on an offer on the home, which is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places and a crown jewel of Wausau's Highland Park Historic District. Finally, they purchased the Everest estate on Valentine's Day, for $729,000, $70,000 lower than the asking price of $799,000.

"A person should never look at houses or puppies just for fun," Olson jokes.

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There have been issues, Olson said, since they have moved into the home, but "all homes that haven't been lived in for a few years have their issues."

They had an extensive radon mitigation system put in ‒"which was quite an undertaking," Olson said ‒ and are having the home's hardwood floors resurfaced.

The three-story mansion is a Mediterranean-style villa with arched doorways, tiled roof and a courtyard that features a fountain and magnolia trees. It was designed by one of Wisconsin's top architecture firms of the early 20th century, the Eschweiler & Eschweiler architectural firm of Milwaukee.  Alexander Eschweiler founded the firm in 1892, and it would go on to become one of the prolific firms in the city's history.

"I'm in love with the architecture of it," Olson said. "Having lived in Milwaukee, the Eschweiler mansions down on Lakeshore are very prominent and well-known. I didn't realize there were some of them sprinkled elsewhere around the state."

Olson has been delving into the history of D.C. Everest, who moved to the Wausau area as a young man after being recruited to manage Marathon Paper Mills Co., a Rothchild pulp and paper production mill. He was extremely successful. Everest widened his scope and became involved with several banks and other financial institutions, Wausau Insurance Cos. and Masonite Co. He also supported the State Conservation Commission, the Marathon County Historical Society, the Wisconsin Historical Society, the American Forestry Association and co-founded Trees for Tomorrow.

The Wisconsin Historical Society has hundreds of boxes of Everest's papers, Olson said. She's ordered copies of documents that relate to the house, and looks forward to digging in deeper.

Gallo said Olson was the driving force behind the purchase, but he's fully on board, too.

"There's so much life in this building. So much obvious love," he said. "It's very harmonious. It's completely ridiculous in the sense that it's a Mediterranean villa that's been teleported from Spain/England, and kind of dropped in the middle of Wisconsin. But of itself it is completely harmonious."

Olson and Gallo say they plan to get married in their new home, and as they begin to settle in Wausau, they see themselves sharing it with the community.

"It seems like a perfect house for entertaining, doesn't it?" Olson said. She added that she and Gallo are not especially extroverted, but she sees them "using the house for the benefit of the community, whether that's community fundraisers, or something like a yoga event, which would be perfect for this huge space. ... I think the house lends itself to a lot of entertainment possibilities."

Features reporter Keith Uhlig is based in Wausau. Contact him at 715-845-0651 or kuhlig@gannett.com. Follow him at @UhligK on Twitter and Instagram or on Facebook.