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Fountain Inn’s century-old bar needs new home, again

June 12, 2018 GMT

History is repeating itself for a local landmark.

The century-old, centerpiece bar from the former Fountain Inn in Beaver Dam, 203 Front St., is in need of a second new home due to a redevelopment project in Madison. The bar was moved down to a new establishment in Madison in 2011 before the Front Street building was demolished. (The building was one of 11 removed in downtown Beaver Dam after flooding in 2008.)

The Madison establishment, called The Fountain at 122 State St., is steps away from the state Capitol. It closed in December and is set to be demolished and replaced with a boutique hotel. The Fountain Inn bar still sits behind locked doors, unlit and visible through the building’s windows.

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The quarter-sawn oak bar from 1911 has an unusual Art Nouveau style, with organic ornamentation on its columns. It also also has a strip of neon lights that was added later on the arch over the back bar. A pair of stuffed deer used to be locked in a fight under the arch in the era of spittoons and gas lights.

“I do know that it’s not going to be discarded,” said Eric Nordeen, a co-founder of Ascendant Holdings Real Estate, the lead developer on the hotel project.

The bar is under the care of Harold Langhammer, a Madison landlord and developer, who has owned the 122 State St. building for decades and whose company is also involved with the hotel project.

“It’s unknown whether that specific bar will work with the specific design for that particular hotel project,” Nordeen said. “If it can be used, we will.”

Otherwise, he said, the developers will find another use and home for the bar.

“We’re certainly sensitive to its existence and trying to figure out what its next life will be,” Nordeen said.

The Fountain Inn building was demolished after a years-long dispute between the city and its owner, Jay Hoeft, over compensation. The city purchased and demolished buildings after the 2008 flood to open up the river channel.

Hoeft held out for years before accepting an offer from the city in 2013 and his building on Front Street was the last in the floodway to be demolished.

In Madison, the six-story 122 State St. building was built a century ago as the city’s original YWCA. It has undergone several renovations since then, and the original stone facade was covered in stucco. The developers found the stonework underneath to be damaged.

The hotel project will take up four existing properties on State Street with 122 and 124 State St. to be demolished, while 118 and 126 State St. will be partially retained.

The boutique hotel will rise up to nine stories and include a restaurant, bar and lounge and a terrace overlooking the street. It will be operated by Provenance Hotels of Portland, Oregon.

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