Set in Stone: Svoboda

Stone house stays in Svoboda family for 130-year history

Tucked behind a hill in a rural Cuba cattle pasture stands a stone house built in about 1885. The house, located several hundred yards off the road, has remained in the Svoboda family since it was built about 130 years ago. Trees have grown up around the stucco-covered stone house, and the windows are missing their glass. Owner Les Svoboda, of Lincoln, Neb., has no plans for the property, which is rented by a local farmer, except to keep it in the family as long as possible, he said.

The house, located about two-and-a-half miles southeast of Cuba, was built by Paul Svoboda for Les Svoboda’s grandparents, Frank and Mary (Novak) Svoboda. The date of construction is unknown. Paul Svoboda also built the stone house located in the same section over the hill to the east. That house was featured in The Belleville Telescope on Feb. 11, 2016. Les Svoboda, who now owns both stone houses and their tracts of land, said the properties were originally two separate 80-acre pieces

Svoboda builds with stone

Paul Svoboda came to the United States from Czechoslovakia in 1879 and built several stone houses and barns in the area. He built the house on the 80-acre piece over the hill in 1885 when he was 48 years old, according to family history. That house featured a carved stone above the door with the construction date.

The stone house belonging to his grandparents, though, has no date carved in stone. Les Svoboda said he suspects it was built in the 1880s, though.

According to land records, there was a dwelling on each 80 in the approximate location of of the current stone houses, although it is unknown whether those dwellings are the stone houses that stand today

There used to be several wooden buildings on his grandparents’ farmstead, Les Svoboda said, and they all had stone foundations. There was also a cattle shed made partially of stone, he said, but all traces of the outbuildings have been dozed into a dug pit and the land reclaimed.

Visiting history

Les Svoboda’s family has owned the land since the patent was issued, he said.

According to land records, the patent for the southeast quarter – both stone houses are in the southeast quarter – was issued to Pavel “Paul” Svoboda on Aug. 3, 1886. He sold the west half of the quarter to Frank Svoboda on Dec. 9, 1890, and the east half of the quarter – the land the 1884-built house is on – to Charles Svoboda on July 27, 1899.

“My father, Charles J. Svoboda, and his older brother, Frank F. Svoboda, were born and raised [on the west half of the quarter] and attended Thomas rural school,” Les Svoboda said of the stone house. “My father later became a carpenter and built the wooden addition [on the east side] as a dining and living room for his parents. My uncle Frank F., unmarried, continued farming and living there until his passing [in 1973.]”

The house has been empty since.

“As a young kid I always enjoyed going there,” Les Svoboda said. “After the place was vacant, [my wife] LaVon and I and our young son and twin daughters would still return there in the summer like camping trips. Now those days are gone, too.”

Click below to view other ‘Set in Stone’ features.