The Monkey Hollow Bistro and the Wollenmann House

I killed two birds with one stone—trying out the Monkey Hollow wines at their bistro in Ferdinand AND checking out the historic Wollenmann House.

Monkey Hollow is one of the many small wineries that dot Indiana. The winery is located on back roads near St. Meinrad. In October 2014, the winery opened a satellite location with a bistro in downtown Ferdinand. And they did so in style, occupying the historic Wollenmann House that was renovated for adaptive reuse.

The Wollenmann House is quite distinctive, a house built in the Swiss cottage style with Craftsman detailing. The house was built in 1903 for Dr. Aloysius “Alois” Wollenmann, a Swiss native.

Dr. Wollenmann studied medicine in Switzerland and Germany, and then came to the Indiana to be a doctor for the monks of St. Meinrad, a community founded by Benedictine monks from Switzerland. He continued his study of medicine at the University of Louisville, where he met Dr. Paul Kempf who taught at the university. Dr. Kempf introduced Alois to his daughter Fidelia…and you can guess what happened next. In 1893, the two were married and moved into Dr. Kemp’s house in Ferdinand.

Dr. Wollenmann operated an eclectic mix of enterprises on the property—his medical practice, a pharmacy, a post office, and a watch repair business. Dr. Wollenmann was well-known for his kind and equal treatment of all, including African Americans and Native Americans. In fact, he employed the first female African American postmistress in the state of Indiana, Ida Hagen. (More about Ida in future blog posts.)

Sadly, the same year that the Wollenmann House was built (1903), Dr. Wollenmann lost his wife and newborn daughter. After his death in 1912, one of his two sons, Werner, lived in the house, where he and his wife raised 11 (!) children. One of his daughters occupied the Wollenmann House until 2010.

A group of seven locales, who saw the historical significance of the house, bought it and agreed to donate the house to the Ferdinand Historical Society, if a grant for renovation could be found. Happily, a grant was found and the house was renovated.

Monkey Hollow currently leases the house from the Historical Society as a bistro and winery. The bistro business was new to Monkey Hollow; they hired chef Rebecca Fields to develop a menu. (I spoke with a Rebecca who worked there…not sure if it was THE Rebecca. She did seem quite knowledgeable…)

When I visited, the bistro was busy. Their menu offers a good selection and the food was quite tasty. The food seems to have a German bent to it (or maybe that is just an Indiana bent)—heavy on the meat. Heavy-on-the-meat menus are not necessarily my friend, but to my delight, the menu included a turkey version of a Reuben sandwich (called a Rachel). (Reubens, let alone turkey Reubens, were rare in California where I lived for years, so now when I encounter turkey Reubens, I get more excited than probably the average person would.)

The bistro also offers wine tastings and sells wine on site. I thought their Pasture Limit Reloaded, a bourbon-barrel aged Catawba wine, was divine. But when I went back to purchase a bottle before leaving town, to my chagrin, I discovered that they were sold out. (Clearly, others found it divine too.)

Because the place was so busy, I had plenty of time to take in my surroundings before I was waited on. The rooms had a very open and expansive feel to them with lots of woodwork. An old photograph hung over the fireplace. Perhaps of Dr. Alois Wollenmann and his clan? Or more likely that of his son Werner and his plethora of offspring.

I was intrigued by the windows. The windows consisted of two panes. One window was different from the others. The top pane had its own latch, as if the top pane could be opened separately or both panes could be opened together. This setup reminded me of a Dutch door where the top panel of the door opens separately from the entire door. I have never seen a window like that. I haven’t had any success in discovering the name or providence of this type of window.

If you find yourself meandering through southern Indiana, stop by for a Rachel. And pick up a bottle or two of the Pasture Limit Reloaded—if they aren’t sold out.

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