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Superior residents sound off on historic projects

A standing-room-only crowd attended a public meeting Thursday, April 7, to weigh in on where the city should invest $3.5 million in historic rehabilitation funding.

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Superior Mayor Jim Paine, center, provides details for some proposed historic preservation and restoration projects the city is considering funding during a public meeting at Thirsty Pagan Brewing Thursday, April 7, 2022. The Superior City Council approved setting $3.5 million in federal coronavirus relief funds into historic rehabilitation and is seeking direction on how to prioritize projects.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram

SUPERIOR — Preservation-minded people packed into the back room at Thirsty Pagan Brewing Thursday, April 7, to throw support behind projects that ranged from restoring the water fountain at Hammond Park to preserving the remaining facade of the Bayside Warehouse, which was destroyed by fire in January.

Opened in 1913 as the Theatre Princess, Frankie's Tavern downtown could see new life with the right project.

At stake was $3.5 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars that the city of Superior has earmarked for historic rehabilitation.

Mayor Jim Paine gave a brief description of proposals the city is currently eyeing — five large projects with the capacity to change the city and 12 smaller ones — then gave each attendee three stickers to vote with.

“You’re going to love more than three projects,” Paine said, urging them to spend time lobbying for their favorites before voting.

Additional projects were introduced by those who attended the event. Mary Houk, state historian for the Wisconsin Daughters of the American Revolution, sought support for placing a state historic marker and some benches where the city’s first log cabin was built along 31st Avenue East. The log hut was erected in 1853 and served as the starting point for cutting the Old Military Road to the St. Croix River. The nonprofit placed a plaque at the site in 1927, but Houk said a larger state marker would catch the eye of passers-by and raise awareness.

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From left, Superior Public Museums executive director Megan Meyer and Superior Public Museums Board President Katelyn Baumann weigh their choices before casting votes at a public meeting on historic preservation priorities held at Thirsty Pagan Brewing Thursday, April 7, 2022.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram

Repairs and roof work for the city’s Old Firehouse and Police Museum in the city’s East End was already listed as one of the possible projects. Retired firefighter David Johnson lobbied to expand the project by adding a third bay back onto the building. The new section would sport a historic facade but be modern inside and include an elevator for accessibility.

JoAnn Jardine was there to raise awareness of the old M&C Gas building on the University of Wisconsin-Superior campus. The former gas station at 702 Belknap St. across from A&W Restaurant is currently the home of Enterprise Rental. Jardine, whose father Edward Cismoski was the C in the title, said the building holds a wealth of memories for former employees and those who frequented it. She urged members of the public to keep their eye on it.

Paul Freer remembered purchasing gas for 23.9 cents a gallon from that M&C station. The Superior man said he was torn about which projects to vote for, as he has a close connection to many of them. Freer’s nephew owns the Carnegie library on Hammond Avenue; his father Lloyd was one of the city leaders who brought the SS Meteor to Superior; he even played in the Hammond Park fountain pool as a young child.

Two of the youngest attendees were Jacob Olson, 8, and his brother Zac, 15. They looked over the projects carefully before voting.

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From left, the Olson family, Zac, Jacob, Suzi and Jesse, speak with Superior Mayor Jim Paine during a public meeting on how to spend $3.5 million in historic preservation funding Thursday, April 7, 2022 at Thirsty Pagan Brewing.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram

Jacob’s three stickers went to rebuilding the historic arch at the intersection of Tower Avenue and Broadway Street, restoring the Princess Theatre and putting dollars into the Old Firehouse and Police Museum.

“My mom is a firefighter,” he said, and his grandfather worked there.

The picture of the Princess Theatre (formerly Frankie’s Tavern) prompted him to cast a vote there.

“I think it would just be fun for people. It looks all worn down. I really want to make it brighter,” Jacob said.

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His older brother also voted for restoring the theater and bringing back the arch, but opted to put his third vote toward the Carnegie library.

An hour and a half into the voting, the Princess Theatre project appeared to be a front runner. Other large projects had more than a dozen votes each, with most of the smaller ticket items amassing roughly half the number of votes as the larger projects.

Members of the public can still make their vote count. The city has launched an online survey to gauge how these historic projects will be prioritized. A link to the survey can be found on the City of Superior Department of Planning and Development Facebook page.

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Colored stickers indicate votes in support of large-ticket historic preservation projects the city of Superior could pour historic rehabilitation funds into. The votes, intended to help prioritize where to spend $3.5 million in federal dollars, were placed by people who attended a public meeting at Thirsty Pagan Brewing on Thursday, April 7, 2022.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram
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From left, Superior Mayor Jim Paine, Jan Dalbec, Suzi Olson and Jill Johnson listen as retired firefighter David Johnson lobbies for funding an expansion of the city's Old Firehouse and Police Museum during a public meeting on historic preservation at Thirsty Pagan Brewing Thursday, April 7, 2022.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram
Councilors amended the budget to fund child care and set money aside for other ideas.
Two buildings were lost in the fire.

Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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