Disrupted Dreams

As we drive around the state, we see lots of evidence of dreams tried and broken or disrupted, mostly businesses. On the one hand it is sad to know that people's dreams have been disrupted. On the other, it is worth trying to imagine what their dreams were, what might have happened, and perhaps more important, what can be done to rebuild something in their place. Wouldn't it be neat if we could bring these places back to life?

"Old factories and abandoned properties are prime real estate to recharge and energize downtowns."

(And I would add, all our communities.)

Andrew Savagian
Natural Resources Specialist
DNR Remediation and Redevelopment Program
Excerpted from "Back in business,"
Wisconsin Natural Resources, August 2008


This is a tough one to call. It surely looks like a dream disrupted to me, but I have to say there is activity around this "dream."


When I first saw this from Hwy 10 east of Durand, on the corner of Hwy 10 and CH BB in southern Pepin County, I thought it was a haunted house! My photography makes it look better than it looked through my eyes. I'll acknowledge it was a dreary day. The house is clearly dilapidated, as are all the buildings around it.


The compound is on the lower right of this Google Earth shot. You can see there is cultivating on the land around it.


In this view from the corner, you can see a modern trailer hitch with fresh hay bundled and stacked. There is also some farm machinery there that looks fairly new.


From the rear, again you can see more farm machinery that, I suppose, might be out of commission, but on the other hand looked operable to me.


And in this final shot, you can see two trucks parked in the driveway, the blue pickup with active Wisconsin plates. So there are some people who have been using the area. My conclusion is that the buildings may not be inhabitable, but they are useful for storage, a place to park machinery, and a place from which workers can work nearby fields. In that case, perhaps it's not completely a dream disrupted, unless you remember someone lived in that home, used the barn and other buildings at some time when it was all ship-shape.

Here's another tough one to call, this time in Marathon County.


I was driving north on Hwy 34 just a tad west of Knowlton, Marathon County, and spotted this beauty. From Google Earth, it looks like quite a complex. There are a few points of note. Back in the day, in the late 1880s, the town of Knowlton was a mill village. Also note that there is a railroad line on the west side of the building complex.


She sure looks in sad shape to me at present. I could find no indication of what it was just by looking at the photos. I did see an address on a mailbox of "162." The white at the bottom of the photo is ice cover over Lake Du Bay.


The Genealogy Trails History Group has posted an article from "The History of Northern Wisconsin" (1881)." This article among other things said "Knowlton Station is on the Wisconsin Valley Road, one mile west of the village. C.E.&A Guenther at this point are building a planing and feed mill, all to be first class in every respect, with ample steam power. A fine village must spring cup here." I do not know where the village was when this was written, but I will note that this complex is one mile west of what is now the town of Knowlton. Leonard Guenther was born in 1828 and was one of the pioneer settlers of this area. His eldest son was named Charles. He was engaged in the lumber business here and by 1913 he owned a saw mill that did custom sawing, a grist mill, and with his sons a general merchandise store. My guess is given its location next to the those tracks, this building complex was at one time a planing and feed mill owned by the Guenther family. Please correct me if I'm wrong or add to the story if you can.


My guess is this is an auto repair shop that fell on hard times. She's on the corner of CH B and Kempster Rd. in the community of Kempster and the town of Neva, in Langlade County, about 10 miles north of Antigo.


Officially, you are in the town of Bloomville, which is abut 1.8 miles southwest of Gleason on Hwy 17 in Lincoln County. She looks like another old auto repair garage that lost business to better made cars. The garage is on the corner of Hwy 17 and CH J.

This is interesting.



While driving along Hwy 10 I spotted these two old-time buildings, located adjacent to each other. They are in the village of Grant, just east of Neillsville in Clark County. Grant's population is about 900. The top photo is of a Standard Oil Products, Ford Accessories Repairing building and the bottom photo shows the Roy Suckow & Son feed building. It's hard to see unless you blow up the top photo, but you look carefully at the right rear, you'll notice someone is probably living back there as were is a grill outside with a modern propane tack and a small but nice blooming flower bed. I'm normal very careful that no one is living in buildings which I label as "Disrupted Dreams." I did learn from the Good Old Days Clark County Press that both buildings were mentioned in August 1945. It seems that with WWII over, and no more gas rationing, people in the region were advertising their gasoline and oil products. I noted in the June 1935 edition that Roy Suckow was one of many guests invited to the 50th Anniversary of George and Caroline (Lichte) Howard.

As an aside, I find a lot of "Disrupted Dreams" buildings that once were auto repair and/or gas stations out in the rural areas of the state. My theory is that modern automobiles did not need such care as much any more, and that superhighways and new roads caused people either not to see these places or not to even notice them.


I imagine there is a story behind this building. I found it on CH O and CH C in Silver Cliff, Marinette County, population about 530. Not sure of its history, but outside there is a sign that says it is the Silver Cliff Weather Station No. 2. It has some advice: "If the rock is wet, it is raining. If the rock is swaying it's windy. If the rock is cool it is overcast. If the rock is white it's snowing. If the rock is blue, it is cold. If the rock is hot, it's sunny. If the rock is gone to Canada, have a nice day."


This is the Bank of Downing, in St. Croix Falls, Polk County. Downing is a town to the east of St. Croix Falls, and is neighboring Dunn County. The Bank of Downing was organized in 1903. Previous to that it had existed for about two years as a private bank, having been started as such by Dana C. and Marshall H. Coolidge. Dana remained the president. The bank was an important factor in the business life of the village of Downing and the territory surrounding it. As of October 31, 1914 it had almost $150,000 in resources. It looked abandoned to me.


Saw this barn on Hwy 133 in Potosi in Grant County. She looks like she's seen her better days, but the setting was marvelous! I might remark that I see a lot of barns that look down and out, but then after a close look I see the farmers are still using them. Saw no evidence of that here.


Old gas station outside Grantsburg


As far as I can tell, this was a former Land O' Lakes Feed operation in a township of Forest …



… Now simply a junk yard of some sort on Hwy 64 east of New Richmond before the intersection of Hwy 128


The building is at 9501 High Street (CH SS) in Nelsonville. I took this photo on October 11, 2013 and the building was for sale by owner. I think there were people living in it. She looks like she's been through it all.


This is a marvelous building, which once housed a brewery operated by a master brewer who moved to Princeton, Green Lake County, from Prussia in the 1850s. Barbara Mullaly wrote this: "He struggled to stayed in business. Apparently he enlisted in the Civil War and left his wife to run the business. It didn't make it. She didn't know how to keep the hops and sprouts from spoiling. It had several owners over the years, but reopened in 1934 with a new image. Tiger Beer began and it was marketed as the "Beer with a Purr". After the business closed in the late 1930's, the building was used for many things. It was a soda factory, a cheese business, a storage company, a mushroom growing facility, an antique store and even was used for a haunted house every Halloween for years. It is empty now which is a shame. Maybe with the popularity of small breweries, someone will come to town and reopen it. Although I'm sure the equipment is long gone and all that remains is the beautiful logo on the side of the building."


I am amazed I found this place. Quickly speaking, south of Tomahawk and on the south side of the Spirit Flowage is CH O, which runs parallel to the flowage. I took it to the west. In typical “get lost ride” fashion, I turned to the left, to the south on Swamp Rd, a gravel road with plenty of pot holes and ruts! I took Swamp Rd. until she merged with Camp Rd. and then stayed on Camp Rd. But this unfinished piece of architecture was somewhere on Swamp Rd. I took this in March 2012 so the area was clear of leaf foliage. She might be hard to find in the summer. And I am not sure whether someone intends to finish her. It sure did not look like that to me when I was there.


While I am in this area, I have got to show you this place. It’s not really a totally disrupted dream, but ... On the northern end of Swamp Rd., on CH O toward the east, I saw a very nice home, but one with this old guy close to the road. I asked the owner if I could photo it and he agreed. He told me it was built in the 1840s. He uses it as a storage area. So at one time, it was someone’s home. I think it’s neat!


Spotted this on US 11 in southwest Lafayette County, near Benton. In fairness, there is a newer farm complex off to the right off the photo, so this might be a disrupted dream that was reinvigorated, or not.


I was on Langlade CH C heading west very close to the Lincoln County border, just east of Peterson Road and west of Bluebird Lane when I spotted this old school, known as the Forest View School. It was built in 1912 and went out of use in the 1960s. There was a man mowing the lawn. His father bought the school and converted it into a home. The family lived in it until “the bricks started falling.” The son, fearing the grandkids might get hurt, bought a trailer. It is situated out of this photo to the left. That’s where they live, but the man keeps the ground cut and neat.


This is an old, abandoned home and farm on Rock Falls Drive, between CH KK and Eggert Drive, southwest of Irma in Lincoln County. It was in a marvelous setting.


Remnants of the barn. You can see the silo to the right.


Sort of as a fantasy, I wondered if she almost could be a “fixer-upper.”


The setting here was beautiful, on Hwy 13 out of Ashland, near High Bridge, but this house has seen its better days. Wouldn’t you love to know the history behind this home?


Marytown Farm Supply has had her better days. She is still standing in the Town of Marytown at CH G and HH, Fond du Lac County. She stands at the heart of the town!


This was St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church (Kirche auf Deutsch), built in 1897 by German settlers. I do not know when this facility fell into disrepair. It is no longer used. Interestingly, right across the street is a beautifully kept cemetery, still in use, which has a fabulous view of the landscape. I talked to a lady visiting her husband’s grave and she told me she had been baptized in this church. She explained what happened to it but frankly I could not follow the conversation ---- my fault. She was there visiting her husband so I did not want to belabor the matter.


This once must have been a wonderful home. Spotted her on Hwy 52 and Kent St. in Langlade County. I took note of the fresh tire tracks and wondered whether there might be a new home back in the woods, with this old guy being kept up for preservation purposes, or perhaps even to sell the stone. I was not game to try to drive through the snow, and I worried about trespassing issues. But look at this next photo where I zoom through the left window.


Isn’t that stone you see through the window marvelous? I love it.

This one hurts. I was recently in Oconto County to visit the Chase Stone Barn, and largely because of my Polish heritage, decided to visit Krakow on Hwy 32. I was very saddened by what I saw. The small town center was a desolate ghost town.


This was the home of Seifert’s Farm & Hardware, which I guess included Purina Chow and True Value.


This used to be a cheese factory. It was hard for me to tell whether there might be some modest used furniture operation going on inside. The front door looked fairly new and there was a mirror and I think a lamp in the window. Beyond that, she looked locked-down from the outside.


Amongst other things, perhaps, this was a supermarket.

The 2000 census said that town had a population of about 354. I talked to a couple of residents and they said all the knew was that all the business just moved out or closed. They said there were no jobs in the town. What I found curious, however, is that when you drive around the dilapidated town center, you see quite nice and very well kept homes. And when you drive around the countryside, you see what appear to be thriving farms. While driving out, I was just wishing to myself that I had a lot of money or was a lot younger and aggressive in order to find a way to bring back the town center. It’s heart wrenching to see this happen to towns in our state.

This is a tough one. On the surface, this looks like an abandoned farm and home complex, but....


We were driving north on CH G in Adams County just north of Hwy 21 when I saw this old foreign sports car. I owned several old MGs back in the 70s so it attracted my attention. The area was overgrown and beat up.


It had a barn complex which also looked like it had been through the mill, but there was an electric meter attached and I suppose could have been usable.


There is a home on the land that also looked like she had seen her better days. But here’s the kicker. That was fairly new siding on the wall facing you in this photo, though I saw no evidence of people living here. Either someone is trying slow by each to fix her up or they tried and just ran out of luck.


Cloverland is located on Hwy 13 in northeast Douglas County. This once was the Cloverland Garage.


Ma & Emily's Bar, Pray Ave., just north of Hwy 54 and near the town of Pray in northeast Jackson County.


The Cloverland Community Club and King School stand on Highway 13 in Cloverland, Wisconsin, due east of Superior in Douglas County. The school, founded in 1916 and apparently closed in 1948, was a one room school house. I wish I would have gone inside. Several photographers have, including Shawn Thompson and Justin Sinks, Nate Lindstrom and "wainosunrise." I commend their photography of the interior to you.




This is a tough one to figure out for one who does not live here. South Range is just to the southeast of Superior in Douglas County, and Olson's is close to the corner of CH C and Staples Ave. We found a gasoline pump inside, along with shelves and coolers, so our assumption is this was an old time "Kwik Trip" type place.


This once was The Ark of the Lord, a place of worship. It is located on Hwy 64 in the Town of Evergreen in Langlade County. I believe the Apostolic Worship Center in Bryant now has some connection with the Ark of the Lord's parishioners, and am checking.


I suspect there is an interesting story that goes with the Farmers Merchant State Bank in Argonne, Forest County. I have found only a little of that story. It is clearly no longer an operational bank. Argonne was founded in the late 19th century, the Soo Line came through, the town was relocated a bit to ease the grade problems for loaded trains, and it grew until it had two large hotels, two large grocery stores, one clothing store, a meat market, a post office, a printing shop, two newspapers, a large livery stable, seven saloons, two doctors, a few other businesses and this bank, said to be the first bank in the State of Wisconsin. At present, it seems to serve as some kind of low rental housing. The town has only 532 people.


This was once a public school that served the town of Evergreen in Langlade County on Hwy 64 near CH P. At some point, someone tried to adapt it to be Antigo Christ Gospel Church. The Antigo Chamber of Commerce lists the Christ Gospel Church of Antigo as active on 7th Street in town. Not sure what happened here. It looks like someone tried to Tyvek the place but had to stop. On the surface, it looks like a great building, it's in a very rural area, and I've seen many old public schools turned into homes.


This old weathered home on Pine Drive, east of Wausau in Marathon County, has seen its better days. It stands amidst productive farmland and one wonders why it's been left to stand there.


It's hard for a rookie like me to say what happened here. Three pictures go with this set. Here are the other two.



As a guess, the first photo is of what was once a home. Oddly, there is a wagon out front fully stacked with cut wood for logs. The second photo looks like it is of a small barn, as there are still some rolls of hay on the floor. The roof collapsed here. Finally stands what looks like a garage, still holding together. All this is located on Crestwood in the town of Norwood, southeast of Antigo, Langlade County.



Driving on Hwy 73 N just south of the junction with US 12-18, near Hillcrest Dr., south of Deerfield, Dane County, were the foundations of a home and next to it this old barn. The setting was splendid. Someone is storing equipment in the basement of the home. It was easy to get a vision of how to reincarnate all this, but, of course, not so easy to hear the cash register ringing.


This used to be Mad Dawg's Hideaway, on Park Rd. off Eland Rd just east of Eland in Shawano County. As one who still dreams of owning an Irish Pub, it always hurts to see a brewski place fail. This looks like it was once quite a big operation.


This old barn sits on CH D, very close to its intersection with Mondeaux Dr. in Taylor County. She is a big one, on a wonderful piece of land. Ya just want to bring her back to life.


There are several old boats on display at Cornucopia, Bayfield County, along the edge of Lake Superior. Knowing of the neighboring Halvorsen's Fishery, their two ships, and their history, one can just imagine the seas this old fellow has seen and tales she has to tell.