By Katie TerBeest —
Tina Thompson, executive director of the Tomah Area Chamber of Commerce, describes the location of the new building for the Chamber and Visitors Center as being in the “pulse” of Tomah, connecting the north and south parts of town.
The project, which had been in talks for about the last 10 years, truly came to life when the location at 310 North Superior Avenue was selected in 2014. Since the 1930s, the building had been home to a Department of Natural Resources ranger station, one of only two left in Wisconsin. Thompson said,
“Once the DNR announced they would be vacating, it was a no-brainer for us to choose that location.”
The building, covered in handcarved limestone, was designed to take visitors through a full “tour” of the space. A partial brick-road flooring, mirroring Tomah’s historic brick streets, guides visitors on a walk through Tomah’s past. “Every aspect of the entire planning and design process came back to preserving Tomah’s history and keeping the nature of the building alive,” Thompson explained.
Back in the day, the ranger’s family would have lived in the building. Now, former bedrooms house offices, and the full kitchen was renovated to become a kitchen for use by organizations that might want to use the “Gathering Room” upstairs. With original flooring, plenty of natural light and vaulted wooden ceilings, “the intent of the upper level was to be able to invite others to use this beautiful space—it really is a community project,” Thompson said. The original ladder that was used to go upstairs now adorns the wall, and an opening in the flooring for a pulley system previously used for cold storage is now filled in with wood, but carefully, to preserve where the pulley system once was.
There are three areas of exposed brick in the space, and at 18 inches thick, those spots need no insulation. Paint chosen for the rooms coincidentally was the same color as the grout, and light fixtures were chosen to match the time frame of the structure. Twelve copper downspouts and gutters from the building were repurposed to add decoration, and several items, including extra wood also found in the building, were preserved and upcycled, cutting back on the need to purchase new furniture.
“This was a huge project that took time, but we had to do it right to truly preserve Tomah’s history,” Thompson said.
For more information, visit http://www.tomahwisconsin.com/chamber-and-visitors-center or “like” Tomah Chamber & Visitors Center on Facebook.
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