By LeAnn R. Ralph
ELK MOUND — What a difference a year makes.
Last March, the Elk Mound Village Board agreed to buy the old Laundromat and beauty shop building in Elk Mound for $10,000 with the understanding that the Elk Mound Community Center and Library Committee would pay back the village.
On Saturday, March 15, volunteers began moving furniture and supplies into the newly remodeled building at the corner of Menomonie Street and South Holly in Elk Mound.
A group of volunteers has worked tirelessly over the last year to clean out the building — and to clean in between — so that demolition and construction crews could do their work.
“It looks a lot different, doesn’t it,” said Andy Peterson, village president and a member of the community center and library committee.
At the construction kick-off last August, the interior of the building was like a dark cave with a cement floor and cement block walls.
Today, a person would be hard-pressed to say it is even the same building with its brand new walls, brand new floor, brand new windows, brand new carpeting and brand new paint.
“It’s warm and inviting in here,” said Ted Stark, director of the Menomonie Public Library.
The Elk Mound library is a satellite of the Menomonie library, and because it is a satellite branch, the Menomonie library is providing the desks, tables, chairs, shelving, computers, books and periodicals.
One of the new physical features of the library is a lovely wooden arch in the middle of the room.
“The (ceiling) supports needed to be there, so they decided to enclose them with wood and build the arch,” Peterson explained.
Roger Hainstock/Hainstock Construction out of Elk Mound has been doing the remodeling work.
Rays Metal Works out of Colfax installed the heating system.
The west side of the building is the library, and the east side of the building has been turned into a meeting room/community center complete with a kitchenette so that food and beverages can be served during events.
The unofficial opening day of Elk Mound’s new library will be March 31.
“I want to get pictures of people’s faces when they see what it looks like inside now,” said Kathy Peterson, also a member of the library and community center committee.
The Elk Mound library currently is operating out of the village hall.
Last year, the Elk Mound library incurred $16,500 in annual costs for the circulation clerk and courier service and had an average circulation of 325 to 350 per month.
Patrons of the Elk Mound satellite library can order materials from the Menomonie Public Library, and the turn-around time to receive materials that have been ordered is usually a couple of days.
A number of people from the Elk Mound area use the library in Eau Claire, and Dunn County has been paying Eau Claire about $80,000 a year for those users.
The Menomonie Public Library Board and the Dunn County Board are hoping to reduce the amount of money paid to Eau Claire through people using the Elk Mound library.
Last August, the Otto Bremer Foundation gave $130,000 toward the new library and community center in Elk Mound.
The total project cost for remodeling the Laundromat building for a library and community center is $195,000.
Although no one really seems to know when the building at the corner of Menomonie and South Holly was originally built, according to the “History of Elk Mound, WI” by Marvin and Charlotte Cartwright (2004), Herbert G. Flick bought out the stock of the W.H. Kackman garage in 1922 and established the Elk Mound Auto Company.
The 40-foot by 60-foot building included an office, salesroom, storage room and repair shop. The auto company, which sold Paige, Jewett, Dodge and Chevrolet cars, also carried a full line of accessories, including a variety of tires, such as Springfield, Miller and Oldfield.
Three Bradshaw brothers rented the building after that and repaired cars, but also did body work and sold gasoline.
The east end of the building, at the time the Bradshaws were operating their business, housed a blacksmith shop owned by Herman Tilleson. Herman, a bachelor, lived in an apartment above the blacksmith shop.
William Moltzan purchased the building in 1946 from Tilleson and operated Bill’s Garage until he sold the building in 1956 to Ed Brown, who operated “The Brown Jug” museum for several years and then sold the building to Victor Jenson in the early 1960s.
Jenson sold the building to Clarence Gruber in 1966. Gruber used the building to store tires and oil and parked his bulk gasoline truck inside.
In more recent years, the building was used for a beauty shop, Laundromat, and an apartment.
The Elk Mound library is planning a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house sometime in June.
“After the snow melts, we will get the building painted, and then we will also get landscaping done and have new blacktop put down,” Peterson said.
“We want to be completely finished with the outside, too, before we have an open house,” he said.