BEFORE…. & AFTER. The Wandawega Rathskeller is back!

We’ve been told by the local elders & armchair historians what this room was once used for, and sort of dismissed it as rumor until too much evidence presented itself to deny it.

But as our local sherrif told us: ‘if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, then it’s probably a duck’. … as is the case with our basement rathskellar.

It was once a gambling room used for liquor storage during prohibition (and continuing well into the 40s when house madame would sell unregulated booze, trucked in from Chicago outfit). She also kept a her gambling machines down there.

At Wandawega Lake Resort there is only one way in, and one way out of the property. You would enter the main lodge restaurant, head back to the bar in an attached room, then if you wanted a little more action, you would be escorted behind the bar – through a room overlooking the lake, and would lift a hatch in the floor, revealing a staircase that would lead you down to the cardroom. You would find simply a basement that had been outfitted with a seperate bar & card table, where you could order whiskey & engage in all manner of illegal activity (common in this neck of the woods of Wisco)

Our original post with the before photos, plans & resurrection reference.

This is an actual photo from the State of Wisconsin historical archives of the Madame of Wandawega Lake Resort’s illegal gambling machines. (from the police evidence archives). Running these machines were part of the trifecta of crime that sent her to the women’s prison in 1942. (the other two were ‘running a bawdy house of ill fame’ and ‘distribution of pints of whiskey concealed in a gutted upright piano’).

And- one of the newspaper articles from 1931 reporting on Wandawega Hotel (our first name) as a ‘roadhouse’.

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* replace the water & gaslines, re-routing their path from cutting through the center of the room to snaking along the walls. 


* replaced wiring, junction boxes, added new outlets, lighting throughout.


* david sourced antique equipment: drill press, planer, table saw, radial arm saw, scroll saw, sander, vices, etc. from craigs list to garage sales. ranging from the 1960s to the 1920s


* a decade’s worth of unearthing period fixtures from every god-forsaken yard, garage, barn, tagsale and thrift store in Walworth county has resulted in a respectible stockroom of hardware to continue the restoration process. It’s all found a home in a wall-sized shelving unit salvaged from a 120 year old Hardware store getting demod in chicago.


* we sourced the company that still manufactures pressed tin ceilings 


(Machinery and Booze. two things that dont go well together.)