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Chamber renovation keeps depot history intact

Chamber renovation keeps depot history intact

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Chamber Building

Phil Fritsche, executive director of the Beaver Dam Chamber of Commerce, said the renovations have made access to certain area – like in the basement – more user-friendly for guests and chamber members.

It may look as if nothing has changed from the outside, but take a step inside the Beaver Dam Chamber of Commerce building, 127 S. Spring St., and you’ll be hit with the musky scent of stained wood and feel the layer of sawdust settling in the air.

Volunteers and chamber members have been hard at work since May 2012 to tear out the guts of their recently purchased building in preparation of the chamber’s 100th anniversary on July 2.

Executive director of the Beaver Dam Chamber Phil Fritsche looks calm as he projects that his team will likely finish in May and complete the landscaping in June.

It hasn’t been a cheap project. Fritsche said the renovations have cost around $155,000. However, the chamber has been able to keep the cost low by having chamber members and volunteers do the labor. The chamber has been paying for the cost of the supplies.

“We’ve been able to pretty much stay on the budget that we set,” Fritsche said. “We’re still doing some fundraising in hopes that we don’t have to borrow more money to finish the project.”

So far, the money shows.

A large room branching off the main lobby has a freshly stained floor with a gold colored ceiling above. The room is to-be-fixed with what Fritsche said are “all the high tech commodities” chamber members will need. The main room is an example of the style that extends throughout the chamber building.

The finalized chamber building will include Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant bathrooms, a large members’ room that includes a projector, Wi-Fi, fireplace, screen, kitchen, refrigerator and a dishwasher.

The main lobby will still serve as a community center with plenty of local information. Aesthetically, the lobby is being designed to hark back to the late 1800s and early 1900s when the building was first built.

“We want to make it look like an old fashioned train ticket window and bring some charm to the building,” Fritsche said.

Charles Sumner Frost and Alfred Hoyt Granger designed the building, which was built in 1882. It served as a train depot for Milwaukee Railroad Depot between Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul.

For the exterior, the chamber plans to do some light landscaping and possibly include a flowerbed.

In addition to the landscaping, behind the building a wood patio and brick fire pit will be installed.

The planning for the renovations started about five years ago. During that time, the chamber was leasing the building from the city. In order to complete the level of renovations the chamber wanted, they opted to buy the building from the city, which the city was happy to allow.

“When we talked about doing some minor upgrades the board of directors felt it would be imprudent to put that kind of money into a building we were renting,” Fritsche said.

He said the renovations started simple and then became bigger and bigger.

Fritsche said the chamber building will be open to the public once renovation is complete, so citizens may inspect the changes.


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