Business Directory S-Z : Index: Taverns & Saloons

Retrospect: Brook Hotel, livery stable become Clock Tower Park

By Fred Keller

Posted: Oct. 1, 2008, Sussex Sun

Downtown Sussex sports a 1-acre mini park known for its clock tower, though it no longer keeps accurate time.

The park has had various names – Brook Park, Village Square, Clock Tower Park and variations. The village lists it as Old Brooke Park for the nearby Sussex Creek.

The park was once the eastern end of the village, just before Slant Road (today’s Silver Spring Read) veers southeast. Old photos show that Slant Road used to have a marker designating it Milwaukee Avenue. Slant Road’s “valley” east of the corner was also once known as Grogan’s Alley because the first Sussex village president, Frank Grogan, lived in a home there where the BP filling station is today.

In 1891 a Temperance Temple was built on the current Brooke Park land, but in short order it turned 180 degrees and became a saloon-tavern with an attached butcher shop. It then evolved into a hotel, hosting the salesmen who came out to Sussex on the Bug Line Railroad needing room and board for the night.

As it went through those changes, it grew from one story to two, then doubled in size to become a landmark at the increasingly important corner of Main and Silver Spring.

A livery stable was later added between the saloon-hotel and the creek. Lacking enough land to square it off, part of the livery stable’s concrete floor was cantilevered over the edge of the creek. A Waukesha Free Press clipping from April 17, 1901, referred to the establishment as Creek Hotel.

George Weaver was an important early owner of the saloon, but the most important long-term owner was the Otto and Paul Schroeder family. Besides enlarging the hotel-saloon, they were the ones who put in the livery stable and later converted it into a multipurpose garage that fixed motor vehicles and sold gasoline and farm equipment.

The tavern also hosted the first Sussex Lions dinner-meeting in April 1939.

The Hardiman family, headed by Walter Hardiman and his sons, Milo and Ralph, were the next owners, and they called it Hardiman’s at first, then Hardiman’s Oil Co., as they added oil products and an oil heating business to the store.

Besides being an important local businessman, Milo was for decades the elected Sussex village clerk.

When the village widened Main Street in the 1950s, adding a curb to the sidewalks, the Hardiman brothers used the down time to build a new Hardiman’s in the Silver Spring Road valley, two long blocks east of Main Street. That building is now the BP gas station.

When Marion Donkle acquired the saloon and the then vacant Hardiman filling station, he converted it into a variety/sweet shop. Next came Vern Gullickson, who turned it into a true drugstore. Virginia Reicher took it over from him, but just sold patent medicines because she was not a pharmacist.

Bill and Mickey Bierman acquired the saloon and variety/sweet shop in the 1960s. Mickey’s sweet shop, with its old-fashioned soda fountain, attracted the teenage set in Sussex. The railing on the bridge over the nearby creek was their meeting place, with 15-cent ice cream cones, penny pretzel sticks and 35-cent chocolate malts available nearby.

The store lasted until 1974, when the Biermans tired of running it. They rented it out to a succession of small businesses: first a fish and aquarium shop, later a sporting goods shop and then an archery shop.

Then came a custom woodworking shop run by Tom Orth, later a piano tuner and rebuilder. An arts and crafts shop, Country Treasure Chest, took over next. The store’s last incarnation turned it into a mini arcade and T-shirt printing business.

By now Mike Miller owned the place and decided that the hassle of renting out a small business site in an old building was not very profitable. In 1983 he hired local Vietnam War veteran Gero Piel and his cohorts to tear down the converted-livery portion and use it as a parking lot for his Skeet Weed’s Tavern.

The last owner was Chuck Bush, who renamed the tavern Sussex Place. Note: Follow its history here as a new building  Sussex Place

The Village of Sussex, which had been trying to get the owners either to upgrade the site or tear it down completely, finally bought it in the mid-1990s and razed it on the hottest day of 1995, July 13. The village then put in grass and trees and made it the small park it is today.

Mr. H(enry) Boots is erecting a fine hotel which will be an ornament to our village. Mr. B. , being a carpenter himself, is doing the work.

Source: Waukesha Freeman August 13, 1885, page 1 of 8

Editor Note: this must have become the Good Templars' Lodge/Hall.

Sussex Village proceeding with Main St. work

The Milwaukee Journal - Wednesday, February 26, 1992

Plans to upgrade Main St. in Sussex are proceeding, Village Administrator M. Chris Swartz told the Village Board Tuesday night.

Swartz said the Community Development Authority had asked village staff to invite area engineering firms to submit design plans for a pilot project. The project would include installing decorative street lights and brick work on both sides of Main St. between Silver Spring Drive and the west side of the Village Hall.

He said the authority would recommend that the board award the design contract based on the bid and the firm most qualified to do the work.

Swartz said the authority had given approval of a design plan to upgrade Sussex Place, a tavern at N63-W23715 Main St. He said the authority was waiting for the owner to obtain financing to complete the restoration.

In another matter, the board voted unanimously to seek a grant from the state Department of Natural Resources to develop Armory Park, a 40-acre site on the southwest side of the village.

No dollar amount was indicated. However, any grant money received would have to be matched by the village.


Sussex Place

The downtown project would include street improvements, storm sewers and parking improvements.

Sussex officials hope the improvements will work with a few other projects to revitalize downtown. Initial approvals have been given for a new $2.8 million library next to Village Hall and to a housing project for the elderly.

The village also has begun the process of buying and removing Sussex Place, a tavern that has been cited as an eyesore by village trustees and in a survey of residents.

source: excerpt - hearings slated on 2 TIF plans, The Milwaukee Journal - Tuesday, August 9, 1994, Author: JOHN G. SCHUMACHER The Journal staff

Frosted lady and the Brook Hotel Frosted lady and the Brook Hotel

William (Bill) Bierman and his wife Mickey owned the old Brook Hotel in downtown Sussex for six years, 1969-74. They called their tavern establishment the Jolly Bar. In the entrance door to the old Parlor of the hotel, part of the establishment that operated from the 1890s to 1995 was a frosted, etched heavy glass pane with a design of a well-dressed, pre-1920s woman.

Today this Brook Hotel is gone, the Sussex Clock Park is in its place and the framed 34- by 28-inch glass has been donated by the children of the late Bill Bierman and his wife Mickey. Rosanne Fell (daughter) and William Reid Bierman signed the donation slip for this very prominent piece of old Sussex. It is expected that it will be on display this spring.

Meanwhile, Rosanne filled out a small written history of the frosted glass panel and included it with the donation. It had once belonged to the prior owners, Marion and his wife Leona Donkle, but ably goes back to a much earlier owner Paul Schroeder who did extensive remodeling and addition work.

Rosanna said the extended Bierman family decided to have it framed when they remodeled the Jolly Bar, but now a second meeting of the family took it one step further, deciding that the ideal place to save it for the community is through the Sussex-Lisbon Area Historical Society (SLAHS), "so that others can enjoy it."

It is now on display at SLAHS, N63 W23791 Main St., Sussex. For more information or hours of operation, visit Special arrangements can be made, by appointment, by calling (262) 246-3603 for an escorted tour.


Note: Follow its history here as a new building  Sussex Place