Know Your Neighbors: Barb Kummerfeldt

Meet Barb Kummerfeldt, the owner of a cozy bed-and-breakfast in New Glarus.

When Barb Kummerfeldt first saw the Hoch Haus in New Glarus, Wis., she knew she’d stumbled upon something extraordinary in this tourist town.
“It’s a very special house,” says Kummerfeldt. “It’s on a historic register of the village. It’s been acclaimed as a very historic and extremely well-built house.”
What’s now a cozy bed-and-breakfast was simply an old house before Kummerfeldt bought it in 1996. Everything in the 1910 building is original, from its woodwork to its hardwood floors to its metal, interlocking window weather stripping.
From what Kummerfeldt could tell, the only thing that had been changed was the addition of oval openings between the reception room and the parlor and betwen the parlor and the dining room. Replacing those openings with the original pocket doors and columns was easy when her husband, Steve Wisdom, discovered the original woodwork in the attic. Local woodworker Mike Rahberger painstakingly restored these details.
“The building is really a lost art that couldn’t be done today,” Kummerfeldt says.
New Glarus has long been a special place for Kummerfeldt. As a child, she often traveled here with her father to buy milk for the family’s Freeport-based ice cream business.
When a realtor friend showed her Hoch House, Kummerfeldt felt an irresistable pull. At the time, she was serving as executive director of the Egyptian Theatre in DeKalb, Ill. She rented out the home at first, but in 1998, ready to live a quieter life, she took up residence in the house and opened her bed-and-breakfast.
For the past 14 years, Kummerfeldt also owned Maple Leaf Cheese and Chocolate Haus, in New Glarus. She sold that business this past winter.
The name she gave her cozy home, Hoch Haus, recognizes the family name that Kummerfeldt’s ancestors brought from Switzerland nine generations ago. It’s a fitting tribute to the strong Swiss heritage of New Glarus.
“There’s a lot to see and do and eat in New Glarus, and it’s all very Swiss. You get this feeling,” Kummerfeldt says. “Visitors come from Europe and even they know it and feel it. It’s relaxing, everybody’s friendly, and it’s just a great place to be.”