Piece of Hortonville history emerges
By John Faucher
A small crowd gathered across the street in Hortonville on Saturday, April 23 as crews from Guelig’s Waste Removal began demolition of the former village library.
Remnants of the building’s interior were exposed as heavy equipment tore into the layers of brick, steel and wood. Nearly every passing motorist turned to see the half-demolished building as they passed through the intersection at the corner of Nash and West Main streets.
Village Librarian Carolyn Habeck watched from a lawn chair across the street as the old building came down.
Habeck began working in the 1,799-square foot building in April 1984, where she worked full time until moving into the new 4,400-square foot library in June 2014.
Since opening the new library Habeck reported circulation number were up 20,000 from the prior year in the old building. According to the State Department of Public Instruction’s annual report, the new library had 42,388 visitors in 2015.
When asked if it was a sad day to see the old building go, she said, “Not really.”
“I recalled all the cold winters when I would freeze because the circulation desk was right by the door and every time it was opened, cold air would come rushing in,” said Habeck. “The windows rattled every time a truck would go by, the roof leaked and had to be repaired often.”
There was no elevator up to the second floor where the children’s materials were located. “There were a lot of books carried up and down that stairway,” said Habeck.
She also thought of the leaky roof as the crews worked on demolishing the building. “I did notice a pail of tar that was still up in the attic. We had to keep it on hand so the leaks could be patched,” said Habeck.
“It was interesting to see how the building came down, and the expertise of the workers operating the equipment,” she said.
Habeck did not know the exact date of the construction for the building.
“I remember as a child it was Dorn’s gas station, but that was a long time ago back in the 50s. We would travel from New London through Hortonville and it was a Sinclair Station and there was a dinosaur out front,” said Habeck.
Neighboring business owner Carl Mann, who owns Studio Lounge, said the business’s Facebook page lit up over the weekend after demolition crews exposed a 60-plus-year-old Blatz beer sign on the wall of his establishment, which had been covered all these years from the library wall.
“I was surprised that old sign was in as good as shape as it was after all those years,” said Mann. Some folks posted old black and white photos of the gas station with the beer sign in the background from many years ago.
The bottom of the sign was painted with the name McHugh’s Tap, as it still reads today.
In one of the old photos, Mann pointed out a door on the side of the bar that once led to the tavern’s bathroom. Gas station customers once used that restroom on the honor system.
“I thought that was kind of an interesting tidbit,” said Mann. “You don’t see that kind of trust today,” he added with a smile.
As of Monday, Mann did not discuss any plans for restoring the sign. He said he was unsure if any damage occurred to his wall during demolition, or if the village would offer any solutions for the wall, which was once, covered by the library building.