Fort Atkinson Club Progresses

July 12, 2012
For Immediate Release
Contact: Joan Jones 920-563-2976, Ann Engelman 920-563-0416

Progress on the preservation and restoration of the original Fort Atkinson Club, 211 S. Water Street, formerly the Masonic Lodge, is steady. The community has been invited to tour and offer suggestions for its use, grants have been written and acquired, exterior and interior studies are underway and work to stabilize the building from severe weather have been completed.

On a chilly Saturday last fall (November 12) the board of the Rock River Heritage Inc. held a planning charette at the Legion Dugout to capture comments, suggestions and ideas. Several priorities rose straight to the top of most everyone’s list: maintain the integrity of the building as much as possible, create a state certified kitchen, provide an elevator to comply with federal accessibility requirements and provide opportunities for community partnerships including for-profit and non-profit. Other ideas included: insuring a sustainable financial plan that may include space rental, taking advantage of river access of the Rock River as a National Riverway designation, be a model for energy conservation and sustainability in building systems and landscaping, provide a technologically enabled facility, identify partnerships that will provide programming needs for all generations. A number of organizations have expressed interest in the space. The complete list was captured and will be available on a Web site which is currently under construction.

On March 22, 2012 an Oral History gathering took place at the Hoard Historical Museum capturing memories and stories that have helped fill in some of the historical background of the building. Those at the meeting had fond memories of good time at the Lodge – dances, bowling, playing pool and billiards, card parties, luncheons, strawberry socials and style shows. “Pictures confirm that in its day, the building was glorious,” noted Rock River Heritage Board member and architect Rachel Nelan who has done significant research on the history of the building. Newly found pictures of the building have been posted to the Fort Atkinson Club Facebook page and will eventually be posted to the Web site.

Cynthia Holt, Rock River Heritage Board member reports, “Frank Butterfield from the Wisconsin Field Office for the National Trust has been incredibly helpful. He supported our work in applying for our first grant to the National Trust for Historic Preservation for a study of the exterior envelope which was awarded in January. We entertained several bids and were delighted to commission Charles Quagliana, architect. Charles brings more than 28 years of experience and expertise focused on rehabilitation and restoration work on significant buildings throughout the Midwest.” His envelope study was completed in May. “His conclusions confirmed that the building was sound but immediate concerns included a roof, downspouts and air circulation. Other future exterior needs will include improving the foundation, stucco, entry and chimney. Of course the exciting part will be to take off the siding and open the original windows which are still in there. Imagine what the view to the Rock River will be!”

Stabilizing repairs have been made. A roof patch was completed and thanks to a donation by Southgate Gutters, the downspouts will capture and carry water away from the building. Architectural cad drawings were completed, thanks to Cold Spring Designs and the building will be nominated for Local Landmark status. The Fort Atkinson Preservation Commission is the temporary fiscal agent for the Rock River Heritage Inc. grants until the IRS approves the 501c3. We have been very busy.”

A grant for the interior study has been submitted to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. If it is awarded, Charles Quagliana will conduct the survey. Once the interior study is completed there will be an overview of the needs of the building and how much it will cost. Strategic Planning for partnerships, space and programming will follow. Fundraising efforts will get underway in late 2012. Rock River Heritage has established a fund at the Fort Atkinson Community Foundation and has been designated a charitable organization by the State of Wisconsin.

“This is a building that is close to the hearts of many Fort Atkinson residents,” said Rock River Heritage Board Chair, Joan Jones. “We have watched it with anticipation over the years and can now look forward to having a part of our history returned to us as a unique community resource.”