Engford or Circus House
The Engford/Barnsdale House or locally known as the "Circus" House was moved to Heritage Park on Dec. 7, 2000. Several Circus families have owned this house over the years.
The house was built in 1850 by Miner Strope, a pioneer attorney and judge. It is the county's oldest house for which the age can be verified. Strope bought the property in 1850 and the deed verifies the age of the house, mentioning that the structure was under construction at the time. He lived in it until his death in 1880.
He set up one of the early law practices in the county and Plover was the Portage County seat when he moved here from New York in 1850. He eventually served as district attorney as well as county judge. Later in life he was known as "Judge Strope." His widow eventually sold the house in 1888 and it went through a progression of owners until Robert Engford purchased it in 1923.
Engford was a pioneer in the motorized circus equipment industry and was one of the first to tour Wisconsin with that motorized equipment in 1920. He died in 1967, but his daughter, Florence, continued to live in it until recently.
The house will serve three purposes. Obviously, we will tell the story of the circus and its role in this county. Secondly, the house will allow the society to place some of its displays on the 1920’s and 1930’s into public view. Finally, we hope to use some of the area for much needed storage.
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