Spooner is home to some incredible architecture. One of the coolest spots to check out is Downtown Spooner. You'll find seventeen buildings with their original tin ceilings from the early 1900's. There is so much history to explore when walking around the downtown area. Follow along on this tour of the Spooner Tin Ceilings or download the brochure to follow along as you wander Walnut Street. This project was produced by Washburn County Tourism Association, the Spooner Business Improvement District and the Spooner Area Chamber of Commerce with assistance from Sharon Tarr, Emily Vanda, Don Love, & Mary Benson. Photos by Bill LaPorte.
Tin ceilings became a popular trend in the late 1800's and early 1900's. Businesses used them as an inexpensive substitute for the more labor-intensive fancy plaster. The tin was also a fire barrier between the first floor businesses and the second floor apartments. At one time there were about 45 companies in America making tin ceiling tiles. The tiles became obsolete during the depression. Unless otherwise noted, most of the two story brick buildings in Spooner were built in either late 1904 or 1905 after a fire in the summer of 1904 destroyed most of the business buildings on the south east side of Walnut Street.
1. Buckhorn Bar
105 Walnut Street
During prohibition the building's main floor served as a "card room." The story goes that near beer (less than 1% ABV) was still legal so there were several tap handles and which one you were served from was dependent on whether the tender knew you or not. The building has housed a bar since the end of the Prohibition in 1933. The Buckhorn name has held through various owners, Trudell's Buckhorn, Lloyd's Buckhorn, Johnson's Buckhorn and since 2003 Big Dick's Buckhorn. Look for the ceiling's ornate center medallions. Fun fact: A plaque in the men's room notes its historic use by John F. Kennedy on March 18, 1960.
2. Copper Horse
113 Walnut Street
A general store operated here between 1897 and 1902. It housed a dry goods store in 1904. After the fire, the rebuilt building housed a grocery store in 1909. It then housed the Rex Movie Theater and has been a bowling alley. The red ceiling tile provides a dynamic presence in the building.
3. Antiques Associates
121 Walnut Street
One of the earliest businesses housed here was E.L. Ganske's clothing store. In 1933, the Costello family opened the Spooner Liquor Store here just as prohibition was repealed. The liquor store operated until roughly 1999 when the building was transformed into the current antique shop. The pale yellow tin ceiling is the same design as the 110 Walnut Street building. Fun Fact: The original "Spooner Liquor Store" sign can now be seen in the garden at The Potter's Shed in Shell Lake.
4. Gypsy & The Frog Studio (Formerly: The Rusty Bucket)
125 Walnut Street
Built in 1914, this building housed Mike Rich's Smoke Shop in the 1930's. Mike also sold ice cream and had a billiards parlor. This building was also home to Ken's Carpets and then Mike's Bar. This location became the home of the Railroad Memories Bar. The bar had an expansive collection of unique railroad memorabilia. In the summer of 1990 the collection went on display in the depot of the Railroad Memories Museum in Spooner. A rustic shabby-chic silver tin ceiling enhances the atmosphere of this eclectic gallery.
5. Gallery Hygge (Formerly: Hedlund HVAC)
129 Walnut Street
For many years the building served as a bar, eventually becoming Sam's Silver Dollar Saloon with go-go dancers. It has been the home to the Main Street Cafe and the Sweet Dreams Ice Cream Shop. For a few years it was a Mexican Restaurant that featured live Jazz, and in the early 2000's it was a youth center and coffee shop named Zeke's. 129 and 133 Walnut have the same tin ceiling design.
6. First & Vine (Formerly: The Wandering Dog Emporium)
133 Walnut Street
In 1901 this location was the home to a drug store named The Pharmacy. In 1935 Harry Wilson took ownership and changed the name to Wilson's Blue Cross Drug. Wilson, aka "Wiggy", always wanted to have the store stocked with anything you could ask for. Rumor has it that if he didn't have what you wanted, he would ask you to hold on a second, run out the backdoor, purchase the item from another business so that he could sell it to you. In the '90's the building housed a pet store and later a vitamin store. In 2014 the original tin ceiling was restored and painted a tiffany blue to highlight the ornate cornice, border and center field tiles.
7. Purple Pelican Gallery
137 Walnut Street
For over 40 years, the building housed the Topper Cafe; after that it was a toys and games store. In 2005, it was renovated to expose the original tin ceiling and restore the 1904 maple floor.
8. Spooner Mercantile
145 Walnut Street
The original building located at this spot survived the 1904 fire only to burn down in 1914. Guy Benson moved his mercantile business into the rebuilt building in 1915. In 1972 the Mercantile aquired the adjoining building which had previously housed a shoe store and before that a meat market. The Mercantile is now a fourth-generation enterprise. Both sides of The Mercantile building have tin ceilings, see if you can locate all six patterns. Fun Fact: There was once a tunnel from the basement of The Mercantile to the Masonic Lodge building across the street that ran under Highway 63.
9. Northwind Book & Fiber
205 Walnut Street
Built in 1915, the Masonic Lodge, a doctor and attorney offices were located upstairs. The Spooner State Bank held the corner location with a hardware store filling the rest of the building. In 1931 the Bank of Spooner took over the location of the failed Spooner State Bank. In 1968, the Bank of Spooner moved out and an insurance agency took over the space. In 2000, the Northwind Book & Fiber took over. Symbols of the Freemasons decorate the exterior of the building. A burnt-orange, tin ceiling with four different patterns graces the front portion of the store. A matching, smaller scale tin ceiling is in the restroom toward the back of the building.
10. Wobblin Duck Saloon
214 Walnut Street
This location has been a bar under a number of owners since the 1950's. For many years it was Northwoods Bar. The current owners have been operating the Wobblin Duck since 2011. The black shiny tin ceiling with its raised squares within squares, raised dot design, provides a nice glow in the evening.
11. Original Skin Tattoo Parlor
212 Walnut Street
The building has housed many different businesses. It has been part of an A&P store, a hair salon, a novelty business, a shoe store, a music shop, Spooner TV Sales and Service and a bookstore. The upstairs was once used as a boarding house for railroad workers. The tin ceiling design is the same as 214 Walnut.
12. Arts in Hand Gallery
210 Walnut Street
The Bank of Spooner was housed in the building from approximately 1904 to 1931 at which time it moved across the street to 203 Walnut Street. In 1937 the E.J. Walls Tavern took over and one tavern after another occupied the building until 2015 when the building was remodeled for the Arts in Hand Gallery. The copper colored tin ceiling is very ornate and delicate with five different designs.
13. Staupe Computers
134 Walnut Street
The building was home to several businesses, including Arrow Appliances, Coast to Coast Hardware Store and Montgomery Ward's. The second story of the building was once home to a dentist office and Dr. Augustus Edmund Costello. A hand powered freight elevator still exists in the building. The tin ceiling has been restored with a shiny tin paint.
14. Sather's Jewelry
126 Walnut Street
The second brick building built in Spooner and one of the oldest continuous operating business buildings. The building not only has its original tin ceiling, but also has the original tile floor, oak cabinets, brass National Cash Register made in 1906, original clock from 1920 which stands outside of the building and the original walk-in vault. In 1902 Spooner State Bank moved in and the Masonic Lodge was upstairs. In 1910 Arthur Sather started his jewelry store across the street and in 1916, he moved into this location. The jewelry store was operated by three generations of Sather's and it now has its second non-family owner.
15. New Business Coming Soon! (Formerly: Spooner Market & Grill)
110 Walnut Street
The building has housed a billiards hall, a plumbing store, the WK Appliance store and even a toy store. In 2002 the building was refurbished into a cafe. The orange tin ceiling has a square with subtle flower design. The same tin design is shared with 121 Walnut.
16. Cobblestone Custom Framing & Christian Gifts
106 Walnut Street
Former businesses include a grocery store, the Chatterbox Laundromat, a pool hall, the Black Iris Gallery, an ice cream parlor, and a golf supply store before the Cobblestone located here in 2011. Painted green, the tin ceiling has a a merging torch design with convex edge molding.
17. Corner House Pub
102 Walnut Street
There has been a bar at this location for a majority of the building's life. At one time there was a barbership housed in the basement with an outside entrance. In the mid-60's the Sportsman's Bar held free fish fries on Friday nights with fish from the Yellow River. It was refurbished in the the Corner House Pub in 2016. The current back bar was installed in the 1930's. The building has the original floor and a very unusual raised pattern design tin ceiling. Tin is also used as a wainscoting in the pub. Fun Fact: The mural in the back courtyard was painted by local artist, Mary Kay Latzka from Gypsy & The Frog Studio.