It was supposed to be a routine Sunday lunch but my reporter’s nose began to twitch as soon as we walked through the door at Richard’s Pub & Grill in Maplewood, Wis..
The brick building was old, the typical Belgian style of this area of Door County. The bar looked old, too, with dark wood and a lingering haze of old conversations and forgotten laughter. We chose to sit in the room we saw through the doorway behind the bar, and once seated, I looked around at the cupboards, the sink in the countertop, the wainscoting around the walls.
“This looks like someone’s kitchen,” I told George.
Two more small rooms off the kitchen also said “former house,” so when the waiter, an older man, came to take our order, I asked. Turns out he was the owner and he knew all about the place. He talked, and I drank in every word. Local history is like nectar to me.
The building, he said, was 110 years old. The bar section had always been a bar, but the family had lived in the rest of the first floor. We were indeed sitting in what had been the kitchen, and the other two rooms, now filled with individual tables, had been a living room and bedroom.
Upstairs had held 11 rooms and acted as a hotel. Farmers, who brought their grain to the feed mill across the street, spent the night in one of those rooms before heading back to their farms. They housed their horses and buggies in the small barn behind the bar/hotel.
The current owner told us the second floor is now his living quarters. The feed mill is idle, ‘though still standing, and the railroad that once ran between them is now the Ahnnapee biking and hiking trail.
George and I plowed through our fried chicken and twice-baked potatoes that were mouth-wateringly good and then headed outside, where I immediately gravitated toward the old feed mill across the street. It was a long, narrow building, its paint faded, its edges tattered and bedraggled. A lot of junk–maybe antiques to the discriminating eye–littered the side yard, but was mostly screened from view by a tall wooden fence next to the trail. I didn’t see anyone, so I raised my camera to take a shot. Right at that moment, a man in a noisy, dilapidated car drove up and parked in front, and a woman
came out the door of the building.
I snapped my photo, hoping they didn’t mind, then walked farther down the road to where an abandoned home, barn and other outbuildings sat. Snapped a few photos there, then glanced across the road to where another, smaller feed mill sat, also abandoned. There were ghosts in the air, and stories in my mind’s ear as I visualized what this place might once have looked like.
A person can’t be a reporter and be shy, so I finally walked over to the man from the old car, and the woman who seemed very at home in the former feed mill. Trying not to sound too nosy–since after all, I no longer have those reporter’s credentials–I asked them what they knew of the place.
I learned that the smaller feed mill was the older one, and is used for storage by whoever lives next door. The “new” mill was built in 1910 because a bigger facility was
needed–so that tells me that the old one probably dates back to the late 1800s. The woman did indeed live in the abandoned mill, and seemed very proud of being surrounded by so much history.
Maplewood, I’m told, was once a busier community than it is now. It’s bisected by the state highway, and it does still have a few stores and a vibrant little Catholic church–to say nothing of Richard’s Pub & Grill, where beer and good food continues to serve the surrounding farm families and people like George and me who live in a nearby town. Others, who were obviously tourists, walked in while we were there, displaying the same fascination we had for this historical place.
Conversations and laughter still fill the rooms, swirling comfortably amid the echoes of the past. This is a place with personality AND good food. I’ll take it over some fast-food restaurant or upstart newbie eating place any day.