Tag Archives: Juneau County

Carl Hanneman Documents Fire of the Century at Mauston

It was the fire of the century in the tiny city of Mauston, Wisconsin. Life may have started normally on Friday, Jan. 5, 1945, but before 9 a.m. a massive fire broke out that threatened to wipe out the city’s downtown. The man called on to document the blaze for local law enforcement was Carl F. Hanneman, the druggist at the Mauston Drug Store. It may have been the most prominent collection of photos he shot, but was just one among many accidents, fires and crime scenes he photographed over the years.

Carl would have been readying himself for the trip to the pharmacy downtown when the fire broke out that January morning. About  8:30 a.m. the fire started in the rear of the Gamble Stores building along the north side of State Street. Within 30 minutes it had spread to four downtown buildings and threatened the entire business district.Mauston Fire 1

As firefighters from Mauston tried in vain to control the blaze in subzero temperatures, reinforcements from fire departments in Lyndon, New Lisbon and Wisconsin Dells raced to help. Carl stood just behind the line of rescue  workers and took photos.

It took five hours to control the huge blaze, which destroyed Gamble’s, Mauston Press Club dry cleaners, Samisch Bakery, the Fred Denzien barber shop and the All-Star restaurant. At one point during the blaze, the brick facade of the All-Star fell onto the street. Nearby businesses, including Vorlo Drug and Coast to Coast, were badly burned. Damage exceeded $80,000 – equivalent to more than $1 million in 2014 dollars. Mauston Fire Chief John Smith said calm winds kept the fire from sweeping through the entire downtown.

The extreme heat from the fire is evident along the roof line.
The extreme heat from the fire is evident along the roof line.

Carl’s efforts that day earned him a page 1 photo in the Wisconsin State Journal, and two additional photos on page 11. He served as a Mauston correspondent for The State Journal for many years, garnering numerous front-page stories and photographs.

Carl dated and signed the prints from the Mauston fire in January 1945.
Carl dated and signed the prints from the Mauston fire in January 1945.

Carl documented many local emergencies in Mauston and surrounding areas. He captured the moment when a semi-trailer plowed into the front of the Tourist Hotel, knocking down the sign and collapsing the awning. Many of these photographs have a custom “CF Hanneman” imprint on the back, so it’s obvious Carl shot a fair number of news  photos. Some photos from the 1945 fire have even shown up on Ebay.

WSJ_MaustonFire_1945_01_07_P11a
One of three of Carl’s photos that appeared in The Wisconsin State Journal on January 7, 1945.
David D. Hanneman stands on State Street in front of the charred ruins from the 1945 Mauston fire.
David D. Hanneman stands on State Street in front of the charred ruins.
David D. Hanneman and his younger sister, Lavonne, survey damage from the 1945 Mauston fire.
David D. Hanneman and his younger sister, Lavonne, survey damage.
By summer 1945, the fire debris was gone and rebuilding was in process.
By summer 1945, the fire debris was gone and rebuilding was in process.

1890s Carriage Stone Serves as a Family Gathering Place

Back in the days when horses were the main mode of transportation, many homes across America had carriage stones near the street to assist those stepping down from horse-drawn carriages.

A fine example of the carriage stone stands in front of the old Hanneman home on Morris Street in Mauston, Wis. The carriage stone no doubt served its time as a platform to access horse-drawn transportation. But for many more decades the large granite stone was a family gathering place for photos and a launch pad for dozens of children at play.

More than 70 years of photographs held by The Hanneman Archive provide ample testimony to the importance of the old carriage stone. The earliest photographic records we have is from 1937, although the stone was likely original equipment when the home was built in the early 1890s. Brewmaster Charles Miller built the home at 22 Morris Street with the finest materials, so it’s no surprise he would have a carriage stone out front.

One photograph from about 1942 shows five people sitting on the stone for a photograph, including Ruby V. Hanneman and children Lavonne M. Hanneman, and David D. Hanneman.  Another image from about 1957 shows Donn G. Hanneman, wife Elaine and children Diane, Caroline, Tom, Jane and Mary Ellen. The photo above shows Carl F. Hanneman and grandson David Carl Hanneman, taken circa 1965.

Lavonne Hanneman (front) and brother David (at right) sit on the carriage stone, circa 1942.
Lavonne Hanneman (front) and brother David (at right) sit on the carriage stone, circa 1942.

For the 15 grandchildren of Carl and Ruby Hanneman, the carriage stone was much more than a cool novelty. Just standing on the stone seemed to give a great vantage to the yard, even though  the stone was just 18 inches high. It was always a race to see who would get first dibs on the stone.

Mary K. Hanneman sits on the carriage stone in 1958. With her is dog Cookie.
Mary K. Hanneman sits on the carriage stone in 1958. With her is dog Cookie.

 

Ruby V. Hanneman with her son Donn and his family in the late 1950s or early 1960s.
Ruby V. Hanneman with her son Donn and his family in the late 1950s or early 1960s.

For many of those old photos, family members sat or stood at the carriage stone in the shade of towering elm trees. The old trees are long gone now, but the stone remains, looking just the same as it did in the 1930s.

In several visits in years prior to his death in 2007, David D. Hanneman stopped at the house and asked the current owners if he could take the carriage stone. Initially they agreed, but later changed their minds. Seems the lady of the house had become attached to the old stone, as evidenced by the flowers lovingly planted around its edge. That’s understandable. Just another generation of folks who’ve come to care for that old carriage stone.

— This post has been updated with a photo gallery

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