Old, idled Birnamwood hotel razed|
|Mike Poskie, whose family has been associated with the big hotel in downtown Birnamwood, at least until it was sold in July, 2010, watched as a big excavator tore away at the back of the building Monday afternoon.|
A demolition firm from Eden was the successful bidder for the salvage of the structure, and the project got started this week and is moving ahead rapidly.
“I’m not as sad as I thought I would be,” Poskie said.
He explained that his family has owned the hotel since 1953, when he was a grade school student. Poskie now resides in Madison.
The hotel, which dates back about to the arrival of the 20th Century, had been an anchor in the community. It offered a tavern, dining and dozens of rooms for travelers, many of them arriving on the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad before roads were constructed, and even later perfected.
The building was sold by Poskie on July 24, 2010 at an auction, but the new owner died. Then the property was sold again, but plans for it stalled and eventually, a community decision was made to raze it.
The building has a colorful past.
An Antigo Daily Journal article from 2010 details that history.
The hotel was constructed in 1901 by Fred Gueller, who came to the community to flee the bereavement caused by the death of his wife.
With children, he actually arrived in Birnamwood in 1894 and operated a tavern with the help of his sister, Marie. After she married, another sister, Amelia, arrived to take over the housekeeping and child-rearing duties.
In time Amelia caught the eye of a local guy, but by then Fred had found a bride of his own, and together they were ready to establish his new hotel. It was constructed with two stories, with 14 guest rooms, a dining hall and lobby.
In her 1980 monograph for the Birnamwood centennial, Ellen Lyons, the local newspaper editor, painted a idyllic picture of the business.
“Mrs. Gueller was an excellent cook and served good meals in the large dining room,” Lyons wrote. “Her one o’clock dinners were famous in the entire area.”
It was the era of itinerant salesmen, lumber barons and travelers, and hotels sprang up all along the rail lines to serve the public who needed overnight respite.
The Birnamwood establishment, known as Hotel Gueller, was by most accounts better than most. Fred was behind the bar and his wife managing the kitchen and entertaining at card parties. Maids kept the rooms clean and local civic clubs used the meeting facilities.
These were prosperous years. In quick succession, the Guellers added a third floor, in about 1909, and the bar and an annex a couple years later.
Fred died in about 1930 and already things were changing. The Great Depression had the nation firmly in its grip and Mrs. Gueller was tiring after having been in the hotel business over three decades. She continued to work until 1938, certainly under difficult circumstances, until she fractured her hip and retired.
The hotel was managed for a time by Mr. and Mrs. William “Cottontail” Lemke and then sold to Henry Kliner. Other owners in successive years included George Barsch and Felix Zahn and then Mr. and Mrs. Mike Jozwiak entered the scene.
Mike was retired from International Harvester, where he had worked for 24 years, and made several changes to the building, known then as Birnamwood Hotel.
He converted a portion of the sleeping rooms into apartments, but soon found other interests and sold the business to Ted Poskie in 1953.
The family had the business until 2010, when Ted’s son, Mike, became weary of driving on weekends to work on the giant building.
At the 2010 auction it was sold to Ron Schlueter of Hatley. It all came to an end this week when the demolition crew moved in, and the buildings were unceremoniously razed and the massive stocks of wood, and plenty more, were trucked from the site to the firm’s Eden base for sorting and recycling.
The rear of the Birnamwood Hotel was falling to the blows from an excavator Monday afternoon.
Material on this web site has a
copyright by Antigo Daily Journal.
All rights reserved.