Hard as it might be to imagine, dairy farms existed in Whitehall as late as the 1940s, on which dozens of cattle could be found grazing in the countryside.

Look no further than 4040 E. Broad St. -- formerly known as Granville Pike -- for the site of one, where a tiny hint of the city's agrarian past may be spotted on the structure.

Maryellen Dehner Theaumont was born in the 1800s house that still exists, and which is well preserved inside a modern building at the site.

The house has served in numerous roles, including as a home, a banquet facility and, currently, as an office building. Readers might remember it as the location of Ilonka's Provincial House, which operated for more than three decades before it was expanded and remodeled into its current form as the Empire Building.

However, on the west facade of the building, a small outline of one of the original gables of the house can be seen above the second floor.

In today's photo, we see Theaumont's father, Wendelin C. Dehner, to the left, and four of his five sisters: Gertie (in the stroller), Dorothy, Helen and Mildred.

The house could be described as a front-gabled, L-shaped, vernacular farmhouse -- a style that was popular from the mid-19th century until World War I, said Doreen Uhas Sauer of the Columbus Landmarks Foundation.

The family's presence in the area stretches back to the mid 1800s, when Theaumont's great-grandfather, also named Wendelin C. Dehner, emigrated from the Alsace-Lorraine region of Germany in 1860 at age 17.

His unusually tall stature helped him to lie about his age so he could enlist in the Union Army soon thereafter, Theaumont said.

After the war, he settled on what was called "Dehner's Ninety Acres" along present-day North Hamilton Road, where he built a log cabin and raised seven children.

A son, also named Wendelin, died at age 17 when horses darted from a barn and toppled a load of hay onto him.

Another son, Charles, settled with his wife and six children at the Broad Street house, one of whom also was named Wendelin C. Dehner. Charles and Wendelin operated a dairy farm there, with some 60 head of cattle and the Dehner Specialized Meat Market. The market and its adjoining slaughterhouse were just to the right of the house in the photo.

Eventually, some of the acreage was sold to expand what now is called Defense Supply Center Columbus.

Theaumont recalled that a large barrel sat in the center of the market, from which she enjoyed the delicious sauerkraut it contained.

She and four of her seven siblings lived on the farm, and she was born in the living room of the house. A doctor was unable to get to the home in time when her mother went into labor, and the next-door neighbor, Betty Regners, delivered her, she said.

Theaumont said Regners lived in a modern-looking stucco house with large rooms, and she spent time with her in later years.

"She and I would make dinner mints in her kitchen, and they'd melt in your mouth," Theaumont said. "When it came off the stove, we had to butter our hands to handle it. Then we'd quickly pass it from one person to the next because it was hot.

"After pulling and stretching it, we'd carefully cut it into small pieces, and then Betty would put them into large tins that she gave as presents to family and friends."

The family remained at the house until 1944 when the farm was sold, then moved across the street to a 2.5-acre property at 4241 E. Broad St.

It included an outbuilding that was slightly above ground, where the family prepared and stored canned goods in the cool temperatures provided by the shelter.

The property now is the site of the Eastway Village Apartments.

In 1948, the house at 4040 E. Broad St. was sold to Helen "Ilonka" Conti, who needed space for her expanding catering business. Conti added elegant dining rooms to all sides of the house, establishing her legendary Ilonka's Provincial House banquet facility.

It enjoyed for decades a reputation in the area, and beyond, as the premier location for wedding, bridal and other formal receptions and dinners.

Just prior to her wedding at Holy Spirit Parish's second church on Duchene Lane -- which later was converted to classrooms -- Theaumont recalled meeting with Conti to plan her wedding reception and recounted to her how she'd been born in what had been the house's living room, which had become part of the front dining space.

Heartened by this unusual circumstance, she offered to move another planned event from the front room to a smaller one so that Theaumont could celebrate her wedding in that special space.

By the early 1980s, Ilonka's had served its last events and the business closed.

The Rossman and Co. collection agency then purchased, expanded and remodeled the building.

In the 1990s, it was updated into today's Empire Building -- but still contained within its walls is the stately old home that Theaumont fondly recalls from her early years.

"I feel very blessed to have lived in Whitehall and have these kinds of memories," she said. "It was a wonderful time and place to grow up."

Steve McLoughlin is past president of the Whitehall Historical Society.