Arch could make comebackA century ago, an arch honoring local Civil War veterans stood 90 feet above Tower Avenue and Broadway Street.
By: Kristen Vake/Wisconsin Public Radio and Shelley Nelson/Superior Telegram, Superior Telegram
A century ago, an arch honoring local Civil War veterans stood 90 feet above Tower Avenue and Broadway Street. Built in 1900, a decorative arch with four gracefully curved steel shafts and an ornate top was placed at the corner to welcome members of the Grand Army of the Republic to the city.
By 1920, the arch was showing its age and the city’s mayor decided to tear it down because “it served no purpose” and was “out of date as a decoration,” according to information provided to Dwell Magazine by the Douglas County Historical Society.
The focal point for Superior’s central business district — a centerpiece for parades and celebrations, and anchor point for a thermometer to gauge fundraising efforts for World War I — was taken down.
Now another Superior mayor hopes to restore that focal point — three of them, in fact, eventually — to replace the long lost historic landmark.
Hagen told the Superior Telegram he would like to see them at the intersections of Belknap, North 12th and Broadway streets along Tower Avenue.
“It holds a long memory in the community so the thought is, and I hope to see it happen, to put the arch back in its similar nature, form and design when we redo Tower Avenue. So it defines the central business district but it also gives it a little gateway and a little bit of nostalgia and excitement,” Hagen told Wisconsin Public Radio.
At will cost between $140,000-150,000. Hagen says part of the arch would be paid for from the city’s capital improvement program. But he would like to see the business district and people of the community come together to help raise funds for the rest.
Teddie Meronek of the Douglas County Historical Society has already taken steps in that direction. She entered the project in Dwell Magazine’s rethinking preservation contest, giving the project a chance to win $10,000 toward the project costs. While voting has closed on the competition, Superior Business Improvement District staff encouraged members to vote for the project before the deadline Monday.
There’s not many opportunities to bring back pieces of the city’s history once they are gone, Meronek said. She said this is an opportunity to do just that, and fits well with the beautiful renovation of the Washington and New York buildings.
“I just think it is a part of the history of Superior and part of the tribute that Superior had to the Civil War and it was widely known and viewed and it was part of our community, part of our history,” Hagen said
University of Wisconsin-Superior history professor emeritus Ronald Mershart is an author of Superior’s history.
“The building was aroused by the fact that we had men serving in the Spanish American War. In fact we had some outstanding figures who served in the Philippines, Cuba and Puerto Rico and wanting to honor those veterans and the Civil War veterans led to the building of the arch.”
Mershart is enthusiastic about the possibility of bringing the arch back. He recalls instances when important pieces of history have fallen into disrepair and forgotten.
“In the past, there has been a notable absence of enthusiasm on the part of civic leaders for matters of history. I am really pleased to see that Mayor Hagen has taken a part in reviving the possibility of reestablishing the old archway which honored America’s military veterans,” Mershart said.
Mershart remembers a well-known businessman in Superior, the late Henry Kari of Kari Motors. He was a big booster for the arch.
“As long as he lived he kept trying to remind the people of the community and the business community that, that was kind of a civic sin that it was torn down and not maintained,” Mershart said. “I think it would be a mark of respect to his civic mindedness as well as the service of local people in the wars in the country.”
Mershart believes this is an opportunity for the community to show their respect for the past and honor citizens of the past.