Tip Line: 414-777-5808 | newsdesk@cbs58.com

"The Starbucks of 100 years ago": WI Historical Society acquires Dodge Co. tavern items

Think of items you might see in a museum. Dinosaur bones, ancient pottery...

...a bar from Dodge County?

That's right - the Wisconsin Historical Society has acquired what they're calling a perfect example of old Wisconsin tavern culture.

The items go back 110 years and weredonated by a family in Old Ashippun (just North of Oconomowoc). Wisconsin historians call it all a stunning reminder of a bar experience that you really just can't get anymore.

"I remember this 7 oz glass of beer went for a dime," Barbara Lund said. Lund remembers working at Wittnebel's Tavern when she was as young as 9-years-old.

After all, her father was the regular bartender. And the tavern was her home.

"The customers were the local farmers on their way to the feed mill," Lund said.

"It was our home so it was no different than anyone elses. And the idea that it was a tavern wasn't the foremost in our mind," Lund said.

The youngest sibling - Thomas Wittnebel - shows off the walk-in beer cooler once chilled with ice cut from a nearby river.

"And certain nights of the week you'd have certain guys who come down and play sheeps head," Wittnebel said.

"There were other events like a chili dinner. Or someone, like a relative, would hunt for coons. and so I remember coon roasts," Lund said.

But now - 30 years after closing - the stools, the bar, the back bar, and the walk-in beer cooler are all going to the Wisconsin Historical Society.

a group that really wants it.

"Really the only thing they did to modernize this building over the years was to put in bathrooms, they put tile floors on the floor when they opened up after prohibition," Jim Draeger, state historic preservation officer, said.

"You can point out how the top of the bar is nicked by the thousands of hits it got from the dice cup banging on the top," Draeger said.

Historians say the goal is to showcase the items by making it a function bar as part of a future exhibit. Details of the plan have not been worked out yet.

"Taverns are social spaces. That's why they exist. people could drink at their home but they choose to drink at a tavern because it's a social space. And I like to think of this as the Starbucks of 100 years ago," Draeger said.

Share this article: