Wisconsin Historical Society Event: Supper Clubs at Hudson Brewing Co.

The third time's a charm, right? I'm once again giving a presentation on the state's supper club history for the Wisconsin Historical Society, Saturday, Nov. 2 from Noon to 2 p.m. at the Hudson Brewing Company, 1510 Swasey St., Hudson, WI. Cost is $10 for WHS members and $15 for public. RSVP ASAP to 1-888-748-7479.

Plan to lunch a little, quaff Hudson's new brew and tour the brewery, and learn a little history of St. Croix Valley Supper Clubs on the Wisconsin/Minnesota border.

My special guests will be John Warling and his father Wayne Warling of St. Paul. Vern Warling, John's grandfather and Wayne's dad, built the Country House supper club near the Hilltop Supper Club strip in Houlton, Wis., in 1955. It was designed by noted Art Deco designer Werner Wittkamp and was the swankiest joint around until it burned down in 1974 (and that's a great story John and Wayne will tell).

In addition I'll talk a little supper club architecture, including Wittkamps's other work in the Twin Cities, like the Lexington, and also talk about architect Al Svenson, who designed a remodel of the Dalles House in St. Croix Falls (still there, and still a great supper club) plus his bygone supper clubs from the London House in Duluth to the Shakopee House in Shakopee.

If that's not enough, I'll also talk about how I got interested in this topic: the frog leg "legacy" that this area was known for back then. This area, the St. Croix Watershed, had once had two turtle/frog "farming" operations for lack of a better term in Houlton and Somerset, Wis., that supplied "fresh Wisconsin frog legs" ("grenouilles" for fancy folk) to supper clubs from Chicago and Milwaukee to St. Paul and Minneapolis.

And of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't talk about booze! I'll cover how Prohibition caused the start up the urban night clubs and supper clubs across the country, why supper clubs survived in the Upper Great Lakes and specifically Wisconsin, and how a difference in liquor laws between the two states (Minnesota banned on-sale liquor in restaurants on Sundays) created this vibrant border supper club strip until Minnesota changed its law in 1967, in effect 1968.

Plus many more interesting tidbits and tales. See you there!
My tome on supper club history that appeared in the Summer 2009 edition of Wisconsin People & Ideas Magazine, published by the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters. Available online at PortalWisconsin.com

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