Chamber Concert Series, 2018 Season

Third Coast Baroque

Mixed Ensemble

July 29th, 4 PM in the Theater

Re-framing Early Music. Ruben Dubrovsky, Artistic Director.  More info coming soon.  Also join the artists for a free wine reception afterwards on the Main level.

Summer Solstice Patio Potluck

Member Event: Summer Solstice Patio Potluck
Saturday, June 16th, 5 PM to 10 PM

Bring a dish or dessert to share; beer, soda & chips will be provided.  Enjoy what we hope will be a beautiful evening on our Patio, as well as bowling & other games. A bonfire and live music are also possibilities!  Members may bring a Guest.  Hope to see you there!


FACtalks Spring lecture Series 2018

The Fort Atkinson Club Community Center presents…

FACTalks /fak täks/ (pl. noun) our Spring Lecture Series. Informative and wide-ranging talks given by local experts in their fields. Q&A will follow. Every other Tuesday at 7:30pm at The Fort Atkinson Club, 211 S. Water St. East. Free and open to the public!


Tuesday, May 8: Making Bows, Making Arrows, and the Challenges of Putting Meat in the Freezer

Maurizio Murru with special guests  (Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design)



Tuesday, May 22: The History of Cheesemaking in Wisconsin

Gina Mode  (Center for Dairy Research, UW-Madison)

Come to our 2nd Contra Dance

in the beautiful air-conditioned  Fort Atkinson Club, overlooking the Rock River

211 South Water Street East, Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin 53538

The Fort Atkinson Club from the Rock River

 OCTOBER 28    8:00 pm until 10:00 pm

Contra dancing is traditional folk dancing set to the music of a live, fiddle-based string band. It’s lively, social, and fun!

  • It’s danced in pairs, and long lines but you don’t need to bring a partner
  • A caller guides the dancers with instructions before each dance
  • No special dress required. Wear comfortable, non-marking shoes

Caller: Dot Kent and Band: Three Thin Dimes

Advance tickets are $8 for adults, $7 for college students; $10 at the door. Purchase tickets in person at the Fort Atkinson Club, or online:

Buy Tickets Online

Bowling Alley Repair Fund

The Fort Atkinson Club Community Center’s historic, wooden bowling alleys provided wonderful recreation for many people and leagues for over 100 years! Since the club’s renovation in 2015, families and community groups, like class reunions and boy scouts, have enjoyed bowling and using the old manual pin-setters. We want to provide this fun, nostalgic experience for many years to come!

Now, these historic lanes need some TLC and repair!

We have begun raising funds to begin repair of the undergirding and gutters and have raised about $6,000 so far! Please help us reach our goal of $12,000 more to completely remove and restore the support structure beneath the lanes and the wooden gutters. An expert in bowling alley repair has found us some of the last remaining wooden gutters in the region to replace the originals.

Come Bowl with us at a celebration party once the lanes are ready again!

To donate please click on the donate button on this page or print out the PDF below and mail to FAC, 211 South Water Street East, Fort Atkinson, WI 53538.

Bowling Alley Fund Donation Form_PDF

The Fort Atkinson Club front side

2017 Free Lecture Series


Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin 



The Fort Atkinson Club   Community Center presents…

2017 Spring Lecture Series


Informative and wide-ranging talks given by local experts in their fields. Q&A will follow. Every other Tuesday at 7:30pm at The Fort Atkinson Club, 211 S. Water St. East.

Free and open to the public!


Tuesday, March 14:

American Indian Treaties of the Upper Great Lakes – How
We Know What We Know

Anthony Gulig (History, UW-Whitewater)

Tuesday, March 28:

Bicycling in Jefferson County- Best places to Bike, Safety, Advocacy and Expanding Opportunities

Ben Weiss (2 Rivers Bicycle and Outdoor)

Tuesday, April 11th:

All the News That’s Fit to Post? Fake News, Clickbait, and
Disinformation on the Web

Diana Shull (Reference and Instructional Technology Librarian, UW-Whitewater)

Tuesday, April 25:

Building Bridges – A Filmmaker’s Journey

Chip Duncan (The Duncan Entertainment Group)

Tuesday, May 9:

Does Executive Power Threaten American Democracy?

Jonah Ralston (Political Science, UW-Whitewater)

Tuesday, May 23rd:

Local Food as an Economic Engine: Research from the Farm to Institution Supply Chain Project

Marlie Wilson (Department of Agriculture, UW-Madison)

Something Borrowed Bridal Delight Show

We will be attending the Bridal Delight bridal show that is being hosted by Something Borrowed of Fort Atkinson.  Please come join us at this event where there will be a variety of different vendors and possibly a giveaway.

Member Hours for February and March

The Fort Atkinson Club Members are always invited to attend Member Drop-in Hours. Bring a book, your laptop,  friends to converse with, and some cards, board games, sewing… The next member hours for February are scheduled for:

  • Thursday, February 16th from 9am-1pm
  • Saturday, February 25th from 10am-2pm
  • Tuesday, March 14th from 5:30pm-7:30 prior to the Lecture Series
  • Saturday, March 25th from 10am-2pm
  • Tuesday, March 28th from 5:30pm-7:30pm


Daily Union Jan. 17, 2017

Fort Club Membership, Programs ‘on the grow’

This article appeared in The Daily Jefferson County Union on Tuesday, January 17, 2017 by Christine Spangler.

It’s the “chicken and the egg” thing.

The Fort Atkinson Club needs members to help draw up programs and programs to help draw in members.

Encouraging community involvement by imagining new ways to interact, enhancing membership benefits and embracing volunteerism are important goals as the nonprofit community center enters its third year.

What actually came first was the nonprofit Rock River Heritage’s $2.3 million restoration of the former businessmen’s club and Masonic Lodge built in 1912. Now, after two years in operation, the beautifully renovated historic structure overlooking the Rock River in downtown Fort Atkinson is poised for growth.

“The first year-and-a-half we focused on developing policies and procedures, welcoming initial events and getting programs under way,” said Renae Mitchell, who has served as the club’s director since July 2016. “This year, I want to work with members to plan new programs, host more member hours, reach out to the broader community and build our partnerships.”

Plans call for more marketing to “get the word out that we are here, as a lovely venue for gatherings, as well as reaching out to businesses with package deals to encourage more weekday and week-night use,” she said. “We are very lucky to have kitchens on two levels and a variety of lighting and audio-visual capabilities for presentations and PowerPoints.”

Discounted rates are available for members.

Last year, the club was the site of more than 160 family and office gatherings, including 21 showers, 10 graduation parties, 26 birthday parties, 25 business meetings, 14 weddings, 18 holiday parties, five retirements, seven funeral lunches/memorials and other family gatherings.

“Already as the new year has begun, we have had quite a few people calling to book events, from graduation parties and weddings to anniversaries and showers,” Mitchell said. “But we still need to fill the calendar in more, especially on weekdays.”

Mitchell noted that the Fort Atkinson Club has two identities: first, as a community center and, second, as an event venue.

“The Fort Atkinson Club can be what the members want it to be, if they are willing to help it grow,” Mitchell said. “We are open to all kinds of ideas and suggestions. We appreciate member support because it allows us to provide the base from which we can host community groups and other nonprofit organizations and offer programming to area residents of all ages. Event usage alone does not cover our costs for the building, so we rely on donations and memberships to help us provide these programs.”

The Fort Atkinson Club community center logged a very busy 2016. It was the site for the Lorine Niedecker Wisconsin Poetry Festival, Rock River Theatre and Fort Atkinson Community Theatre plays, candidate forums, Rotary Club meetings, Tai Chi classes, music lessons, book discussions, maple syrup making, paint party therapy, family movie nights, Fort Atkinson Winter Farmers and Art Markets and Fort HealthCare events such as a healthy joints camp.

The popular fall and spring lectures have brought local professors and other experts in their fields to give talks on a variety of topics. This spring, talks will take place every other Tuesday from March 14-May 23. They are free and open to the public.

In addition, the Fort Atkinson Boys and Girls Club and Wisconsin Makers makerspace have partnered with the club to provide arts and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) programs for middle school students. Volunteer instructors are needed to help continue the program in 2017.

“The Fort Atkinson Club also is seeking instructors to hold fitness and other types of classes or workshops here,” Mitchell said.

Members of Fort Atkinson Club committees currently are busy planning a euchre tournament, magic event and community dances. Mitchell said that if members take an interest in helping set them up, the club would like to host dances of all varieties, such as polkas, salsa, line dancing and a contra dance.

Contra is sort of a cross between bluegrass and square dancing in which there is a caller.

“Contra is done in lines and sometimes squares. It doesn’t usually involve frilly skirts. People can dress however they want,” Mitchell said with a smile, adding that adults and children age 12 and up would enjoy this. “You don’t have to know anything. The caller leads you through the dance steps and participants help each other with a gentle nudge and a laugh. It’s a lot of fun. I first met my husband at a summer contra dance!”

Other ideas include “hot Latin music on a cold winter’s night,” an intergenerational dance and a dance for adult care participants and their caregivers.

“We could try any type of dance,” Mitchell said. “We have the location; all we need is a few people to help find the deejays or musical groups, invite others and help host.”

Also planned for this year is restoration of the understructure supporting the original two-lane bowling alley on the river level. The Fort Atkinson Club is seeking a $7,500 challenge grant from the Fort Atkinson Community Foundation to match $7,500 that would be raised publicly.

Starting in March, the work will repair dry rot under the historic alleys. A Milwaukee restoration expert has located wooden gutters to replace the club’s damaged ones. When the restoration is complete, the alleys will be ready to use. Of course, there will be a reopening celebration Mitchell said.

Another thing the Fort Atkinson Club plans to renovate this year are member hours, times set aside for members to simply relax and enjoy this beautiful building.

Member hours could be spent simply reading a book in the solarium, playing cards in the Club Room, holding a sing-along around the piano or having a conversation by the Lodge Room fireplace.

“We can be a place where people can come talk to each other face to face and discuss the issues of the day,” Mitchell suggested. “We’re looking for people willing to facilitate discussion groups or casual conversations.

“Some members will want to use it as a quiet place to relax. Others might want to organize and attend activities, like quilting, game days, computer classes and the like,” Mitchell continued. “We can have more if we have volunteer hosts willing to lead activities. The key is commitment, so we can schedule times and dates then let others know about them.”

Now that the holidays are over, Mitchell said, the club will be contacting several members who have expressed an interest in volunteering.

Right now, the Fort Atkinson Club has 340 members, along with nine corporate memberships and several nonprofit members. Yearly memberships cost $25 for individuals, $40 for families, $250 for corporations, $150 for small businesses and $100 for nonprofit organizations and community groups.

“I think of us as a do-it-yourself location where the community can develop the best ways to interact,” Mitchell said. “We value our members. They are the energy force behind the community center.”

A Member Appreciation Night is slated for Sunday, Jan. 29, from 4 to 7 p.m. Club members are invited to stop in to enjoy refreshments, music and conversation. Nonmembers who would like to sign up are welcome, as well.

Meanwhile, Mitchell said that word continues to spread about the beautiful Arts and Crafts-style building and riverfront locale, which recently was listed on the Wisconsin State Register of Historic Places.

“People like coming here,” she said. “The cost for usage is reasonable because we’re mainly just providing the building, tables and chairs and letting folks do things on their own within reason.

“We encourage people to stop by and tour the building,” Mitchell continued. “We always are happy to show guests the history and future possibilities.”

Drop-in hours are from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday or anytime by appointment.

Proceeds from event use currently cover only about half of the costs to maintain and operate the building. That is why, as with the “chicken and the egg,” the Fort Atkinson Club depends on new memberships and volunteers to grow its main mission as a community center.

Members and nonmembers alike are encouraged to visit and sign up for the monthly newsletter, as well as “like” the Fort Atkinson Club on Facebook and follow what’s happening in the 6,000 square feet of space.

Membership and donation forms are available at the club or online at Checks may be made payable to the FAC and sent to or dropped off at: The Fort Atkinson Club, 211 S. Water St. East, Fort Atkinson, WI, 53538. All donations are tax-deductible.

Persons may contribute toward the club’s fledgling Partners for the Arts program, youth programming or sponsorship of an activity, room or theater seat.

For more information about these opportunities or the Fort Atkinson Club itself, email or call Renae Mitchell at (920) 568-1720.

Daily Union Dec. 20, 2016

Fort Atkinson Club on State Historic Register

This article appeared in The Daily Jefferson County Union on  Tuesday, December 20, 2016 by Christine Spangler.

The Fort Atkinson Club reached a major milestone earlier this month when it was listed on the State Register of Historic Places.

The Wisconsin Historical Society placed the Fort Atkinson community center on its register Dec. 2.

The State Register is Wisconsin’s official list of state properties determined to be significant to Wisconsin’s heritage. The Division of Historic Preservation and Public History at the Wisconsin Historical Society administers both the State Register and National Register in Wisconsin.

“We are very excited to be on the State Register of Historic Places,” said Renae Mitchell, director of The Fort Atkinson Club, located at 211 S. Water St. East. “It was a several-year process.

“This honor truly rewards the vision of the Rock River Heritage Inc., as well as all the volunteers, community members and businesses that helped bring the historic building back to life,” Mitchell added.

She particularly thanked the Fort Atkinson Historical Society; Carol Cartwright, who wrote the application; Joan Jones, who spearheaded the restoration effort, and Rachel Nelan, Rock River Heritage Board of Directors president, “for the research and shepherding it through the application process.”

Mitchell said it is her understanding that the State Historical Society will forward the Fort Atkinson Club’s application to the National Register of Historic Places, and the club should know in four months or so whether it will be placed on that list.

Daily Union Dec. 20, 2016“It’s recognizing of the historic influence and importance of this building, as well as the high-quality restoration,” Mitchell said of the designation. “The (state) Review Board was just thrilled with the way the restoration had been done, and the fact that it was brought back to life and is now being used again.”

Built in 1912-13, the building overlooking the Rock River long was home to two important social organizations — the original Fort Atkinson Club and Billings Lodge 139, Free and Accepted Masons — reflecting the importance local social clubs and fraternal organizations played in the history of communities. Calling it “a fine example of the Craftsman style and one of the best examples in Fort Atkinson,” the Wisconsin State Historical Society lauded the renovation of this important landmark for being returned to public use for the benefit of the community.

The restored Fort Atkinson Club opened its doors for its first event on Jan. 24, 2015, after being purchased by Jones and then donated to the newly formed Rock River Heritage Inc., a nonprofit organization charged with returning the structure to its glory. Those glory days date back to March 29, 1912, when the Fort Atkinson Club was incorporated “to provide a businessmen’s clubhouse and home that shall be complete in all appointments.” The then-weekly Jefferson County Union reported, “The directors intend to push the building of the clubhouse with all possible speed.”

Designated as “purely social,” the club was paid for through 200 shares at $100 each. The local businessmen used it primarily as a men’s club, although women could visit on Wednesdays. According to an article in the Jefferson County Union dated May 31, 1912, the Fort Atkinson Club had 110 members at the time bids were being considered for the construction of the clubhouse. With members from nearly every trade, from cleaners and shop owners to lawyers and doctors, the Fort Atkinson Club met at W.D. Hoard & Sons Co. until the building was finished in 1913.

A peek at the membership roster read like a who’s who of Fort Atkinson. There were Arthur Hoard, publisher and owner of Hoard’s Creameries and, later, Bettersox Knitting Mills, on whose land the club was built; his brother, Frank Hoard, who was the first chairman of the Fort Atkinson Club, and his other brother, Halbert Hoard, and his father, William Dempster Hoard. Also among the members were David Curtis, Milo C. Jones, Oscar Cornish, Charles B. Rogers, A.J. Glover and W.F. Haumerson, among others.

Inspired by the Wisconsin Building at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, Mo., the club was designed by Milwaukee’s Charles Fitzgerald, one of four architects who bid on the project. It was built by J.O. Hughes & Son in 1912-13 for $10,376.35.

A housewarming party was held on Oct. 31, 1913, and the Jefferson County Union reported on Nov. 7 that it was “the most dazzling function ever given in Fort Atkinson.”

The article stated that “beautiful women and beautiful decorations were added to beauty in design and beauty of furnishings of the new Fort Atkinson Club last Friday night and together made a most brilliant scene, in fact, one never before equaled in this city. It was a crowning glory that will be in the memory of all club members ‘til earthly things pass from view.”

Greeting attendees at the “big front entrance” were Dr. W.H. Weld, Judge Charles B. Rogers, N.M. Hopkins and A.L. Stengel.

“Hats and coats were placed in spacious lockers in the hallway, while the ladies were given possession of the entire second floor. In the main lounging room and elsewhere, groups of ladies and gentlemen dallied until the banquet was ready and then went below,” the newspaper reported.

The grand opening ball drew around 200 guests, who enjoyed a five-course dinner and music by The Imperial, an orchestra from Madison.

The newspaper reporter gushed about the steward, Fred Barnes, “whose ability as a chef was far famed before he entered the portals of the Fort Atkinson Club.” It added that “exquisite music ran the gamut from Chopin and Verdi to the tango and lulled the senses or inspired small talk as the meal progressed.”

The Union reported that tables were set over the entire ballroom floor and bowling alley in the lower level of the building.

“Festoons of colored paper and Mother Goose designs had changed the place into a fairy grotto. At each plate was a delicate rose and a papier maché mammalian favor containing nuts. The waitresses were some of the most beautiful young ladies of the city and these remained and added brilliancy to the ball,” according to the Union.

The article stated that while the tables were being cleared, the gentlemen smoked and the ladies “satisfied their curiosity” while waiting for the ball.

“The floor after the wax worked in was as good as any floor, but few thought of the floor,” the reporter wrote of the floating dance floor. “On every side were beautiful gowns and exquisite arms and shoulders moving to music. It gave one an artistic elevation of the soul. It was a symphony for both eyes and ear. Occasionally, the lights dimmed and brought into prominence a weird sky with Mother Goose and two felines in silhouette, lit up by colored lamps — as stars.”

Meanwhile, upstairs in the main lounge, card-playing and socializing were under way.

“Great credit is due Capt. R.J. Parks and his able lieutenants, Fred Dieckhoff and Arthur Hrobsky, for the success of the housewarming party. There are more parties to follow,” the article concluded.

Indeed, there were more parties to follow, not to mention many discussions in front of the brick fireplace by cigar-smoking members and other gatherings.

And there was bowling … Two lanes in the lower level that were opened in 1915.
Club rules allowed the building to be open from 9 a.m. to midnight daily, with no members allowed to bring no more than one guest at a time. Wagering and soliciting were not allowed.

Old menus detail items sold such as wines, liquors, mixed drinks, salads, beer, cigars and sandwiches. The annual dues were $18. “This club is for the social enjoyment and play, if you please, of a lot of very intensely worked, young men,” the Jefferson County Union wrote. “They are not partial to the saloon as a meeting place for social converse. In one corner, we see a few cronies enjoying their rubber whist, whilst in another corner, a cue artist explaining the wonderful game he played at Pinger’s some five years ago. Down the stairs, we see the brawny arm sweep back, shoot forward with a slow, sure swing and lo, we hear a cry “strike” as the ball drops all the pins.”

The Fort Atkinson Club owned the building through Prohibition and into the Great Depression. Some of the chairs the club left behind remain in the building and might be nearly 100 years old.

It was in 1931 that the Fort Atkinson Club sold the building to the Masons for about $2,500 less than the members wanted.

Formed in 1862, the Fort Atkinson Masons had met in a variety of venues, most recently Petit Hall over the Wigdale Building, when they acquired the Fort Atkinson Club.

“Brother Paul Case, master during 1927, started a movement to accumulate a building fund for the lodge,” according to a history of Billings Lodge 129, F&AM, written for the organization’s 75th year in 1938. “This was just getting started when Brother Ben Walker, worshipful master, electrified the members with the news that the lodge had been offered the beautiful building and contents of the Fort Atkinson Club, standing on the bank of the river, and at a very low figure, as the club wished only to pass out of existence free of debt.”

The history noted that many Masons were Fort Atkinson Club members and owned stock in the structure.

On Jan. 7, 1930, the Masons voted that the trustees be empowered to subscribe $2,000 to complete the $30,000 necessary to close the deal for the clubhouse. “Nearly all of it was turned over to the lodge, a campaign for funds was put under way, and the property bought,” the Masons’ booklet reads. “It was then mortgaged for $15,000 and the mortgaged bonds sold for the money required to remodel it into the splendid temple we now own, among other things turning an unfinished attic into the handsome lodge room so suitable in size to all our Masonic activities.”

The Masons received the deed and abstract on Jan. 20 and they were moved in by Oct. 2, 1931, when they held a “special” at which the worshipful master welcomed members to their new home.

“Mention was made of gifts toward furnishing the rooms. The clock in the lower hall, picture of George Washington in the Tyler Room, electric clock in the lodge room, Bible on the altar, lighten emblems in the east wall, officer jewels and many others,” the lodge’s history noted. Among the lodge provisions was that there be no smoking in the lodge room, anteroom or restrooms on the third floor, “and one of the brethren stated that it would mean the downfall of the lodge.”

But it did not. The Masons dedicated their new temple Nov. 24, 1931, with Most Worshipful Grand Master W.R. Graves and members of the Grand Lodge, including Fort Atkinson’s own Joseph Morris acting as grand chaplain; Franklin Sweet, worshipful master, and Past Master Ben Walker as architect.

“The day ended with a banquet attended by many Masons from this and neighboring towns,” the history reads.

Meanwhile, a new fund had been started — from member pledges given in five annual installments — with interest on the unpaid balance. However, the nation was entering into a deep Depression.

“The well-known, but not highly thought of, Depression came on at this time and many did not pay on the principal or keep up the interest,” according to the history. “The building was neglected that interest on the bonds might be met, and but few bonds could be retired.”

About a dozen years later, the Masons decided they should get out of debt, so a committee was formed to take on this challenge. Members included Ben Zaffke, Herbert Wagenknecht, Sheldon Vance, Harvey Asmus and Fred Hadinger. They raised the necessary funds and the Masons burned their $11,000 mortgage Jan. 24, 1948, during the lodge’s 85th anniversary program and dinner served by members of the Eastern Star.

Through the ensuing decades, the Masons made updates to the building. In the 1970s during the nation’s energy crisis, it covered the exterior stucco with siding, including many of the more than 100 original windows.

The Billings Lodge eventually joined with Jefferson’s Masonic lodge and, in 1990, it sold the building to local developer Doug Erdman. It sat empty until Jones acquired it in 2011 for Rock River Heritage.

The organization undertook a multiyear, $2.3 million project paid for by donations and a $750,000 grant from the Fort Atkinson Community Foundation, with the Fort Atkinson Club opening its doors in January 2015. Dimension IV of Madison was the lead architect, Cold Spring Design and Bungalow Pros were consultants and Maas Brothers Construction Co. of Watertown was the construction manager.

The building encompasses about 6,000 square feet of occupied space. It has three floors, a solarium, two kitchens, a dumbwaiter, hardwood floors, a gas fireplace and two regulation bowling lanes. The lower level has a floating dance floor, and what used to be the Masonic ceremonial room on the second floor sports a barrel-vault ceiling and cove lighting.

Modern technology was added to the building, including two 80-inch television monitors that can be connected to laptop computers, microphones and a speaker system throughout the lower level and theater area, and a large projector and screen in the theater.

Today, the Fort Atkinson Club is a community center with programs such as spring and fall lecture series, wellness classes, youth programming and member hours, as well as a venue for weddings, business meetings and private parties. It is home to the Fort Atkinson Rotary Club’s weekly meetings.

A member appreciation reception is slated for Sunday, Jan. 29. Plans for 2017 include public dance gatherings and more.

Membership and donation forms are available at the club or online at www.f­ortatk­in­son­clu­ Checks may be made payable to the FAC and sent or dropped off at: The Fort Atkinson Club, 211 S. Water St. East, Fort Atkinson, WI, 53538.

For more information about the Fort Atkinson Club, call (920) 568-1720 or email info­­@fo­

The club also has a Facebook page.