A lifetime labor of patient love
Meet Frank Wenger.
Wenger has lived in the Dr. William Kennard house for 52 years, since 1959.
Wenger and his late wife, Maxine, raised three children there and he talks about 536 West Bell just like it’s one of the family.
And it is. Wenger took on a lifelong project when the family moved in. It’s been a half- century-plus of adding, subtracting, re-working, restoring and, above all, caring for every square inch of one of Rockdale’s most historic structures.
“When we moved in it had been conver ted into about seven apartments,” Wenger said. “It was always my dream to restore this place to like it was in 1900, the year it was built.”
But it was constructed by another Rockdale legend.
Dr. William R. Kennard was an Alabama native, and Civil War veteran, who came to Cameron in 1871, then moved on to Rockdale, where he also became mayor.
“You could still tell where he saw patients, on the first floor, the rooms in the southwest corner,” Wenger said.
CHANGES—The home has undergone a number of changes.
But the home’s most famous room—in disrepair for decades—and one that residents of the 1920s and 1930s would have remembered, was its third floor ballroom.
“ Back years ago people would tell me they remembered going to balls and big events up there,” Wenger said.
The Wenger/Meyer/Kennard house has gone down in local history for another reason. Its third floor and roof was where residents of the Central Rockdale bottomland fled for refuge during devastating floods in 1921 and 1936.
The 500 block of West Bell is between the two forks of Ham Branch.
Christmases were especially memorable.
“We’d wake my parents up probably about 3 a.m. each Christmas and then we’d all come down that big staircase together as a family, to have our Christmas,” Doss said.
She remembers something else, too. “Daddy working on something in the house, just about all the time,” she said. “It’s always been his dream.”
Not many people get to live in their dreams. But Frank Wenger has been doing exactly that for the past 52 years.