ONLY ON 13: A look at Wisconsin's longest running tavern

By  | 

FOUNTAIN CITY, Wis (WEAU)--Every town in Western Wisconsin is filled with treasures, places, people and things that tell the story of how it was built, grown, and has lasted through the years.

“I hardly recognize it anymore,” said Gordon Abts.

Nestled in the bluffs of the Mississippi River, sits a piece of state history.

Since 1894, the Monarch Tavern has never closed its doors. That makes the Pub the longest running tavern in Wisconsin.

“The building was built in 1894 by the ‘Old Fellows’ it was a very large philanthropic organization that has been replaced by the Lions Club and they had their meeting hall and kitchen upstairs and rented out this side as the monarch,” said Monarch Owner John Harrington.

For generations the monarch has welcomed guests like Gordon Abts.

“Every night after work we'd come here and the bar was full. We had four or five businesses in this town at one time and everyone ganged up after work and told their stories,” said Abts.

Gordon's memories of yester-year are part of the foundation of the pub.

"These rocks are stones they were quarried right out of where the boat yard is now and they brought them down on big carts,” said Abts.

One of Gordon's first jobs was to haul coal to the building to heat the Monarch and grocery store next door.

"We stacked it up right up to the rafters (coal)," said Abts.

Gordon watched as the stacks of coal disappeared and owners changed.

"I came over here to look at hunting land. I came downtown and there was a light on and a Schlitz sign and I thought, ‘Schlitz, I will be comfortable here.’ Long story short, I ended up staying up stairs," said Harrington.

Six months later, John Harrington and his wife bought the Monarch.

"I said I’d save it and restore it," said Harrington.

The Harrington’s have poured beer, 19 years, and their heart and souls into the tavern.

"The bar came up the Mississippi as they were building,” said Harrington.

They turned the old grocery store into a parlor and the coal room into a new pub, called the Rock Bottom Pub.

“The ceilings, the chairs and tables, everything is from the 1890's,” Harrington said.

John says the bar tells the story of the Fountain City. He says scattered throughout the tavern are mementos from who lived in town.

“We very much feel that we are the keepers of history,” said Harrington.

Memories Gordon and John now share together over beer every Sunday.

"I love all the antiques that I remember that a lot of people don't," said Abts.

"It's a very unique historic place and hopefully after 19 years of work it will be here for another hundred years," said Harrington.

Another part of city history preserved in the Monarch is the Fountain City Brewery. The Brewery opened in 1864 and closed in the 1960’s. John was able to get the rights to the recipes for the beer and started brewing it again. The Monarch is the only place you can find the Fountain City brews on tap.