MAYVILLE — A downtown Mayville landmark sits vacant once again.
The Audubon Inn, 45 N. Main St., has closed. So has the adjacent NOLA North Grille restaurant. Both are still furnished on the inside, but the doors are locked tight. The hotel’s website says that the location is “temporarily closed” and to check back for updates. Its online reservation service is shut down.
About five years ago, Keith and Amanda Hill took over the hotel, which was built in 1896 and has served as everything from a boarding house to a biker bar. The hotel fell into disrepair and restoration work began in the 1990s, with the Hills continuing to transform the space. However, public court records show, the hotel faced financial woes as various vendors and government agencies accused the Audubon of not making good on payments. The Hills could not be reached via phone Monday.
“It’s a shame that the previous owners couldn’t make it,” Mayville Mayor Rob Boelk said. “It’s a staple of our community. We’ll be looking out to find anyone would would be able to occupy it.”
Horicon Bank filed the most recent civil case, with documents showing $412,286 owed on the mortgage note and a $75,474 lien as of April 10. The business received $315,000 loan from a Dodge County revolving fund as part of a program that has drawn to a close, according to Nate Olson, the economic development administrator for the county.
The bank and the county are arguing that their interest in the property should be the one that takes priority, pitting their claims against each other. Dodge County Corporation Counsel Kim Nass said she would not comment on the active case. According to county records, Horicon Bank paid back property taxes on the property June 24.
Amy Brandt, the director of Main Street Mayville, said she couldn’t imagine pouring your heart and soul into something only to fail. She said there’s not much anyone can do until an appropriate buyer comes around.
“I hate doing that whole wait-and-see thing, but that’s all we can really do,” Brandt said.
Brandt said that she has reached out to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, the state’s public-private agency that provides grant funding to businesses, and has made some contacts she can’t disclose yet about the future of the building. She also learned there was a hotel group that was interested a few years ago. She said that it’s ultimately up to the owners to market the space, and that she’s had a difficult time reaching them.
“It’s the pinnacle of downtown,” Brandt said, adding that it breaks her heart that it won’t be open with all the events coming up in Mayville.
The Hills bought the hotel in 2015 for $585,000 from the Shewey family, which bought the Audubon in 2008, and had grand visions of their own. The hotel was put up for sale last summer for $1.25 million, though the price was slashed in later listings.
Keith Hill told the Daily Citizen last summer that his goal was to raise money to renovate the guest rooms, and he was prepared for the possibility that the couple might not be involved in the business after a sale.
The hotel was first opened as the Beaumont by Jacob and Anna Mueller, editors of a German-language newspaper that lives on as the Dodge County Pionier. It was renamed in the 1980s after John James Audubon, a 19th-century scientist known for detailed paintings of birds in their national habitat. The Audubon is on the National Register of Historic Places.