News: Owen - Woodland Hotel (Joins National Registry - 2016)

Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon

Surnames: Hodnett, Rogers, Owen, Stark, Robinson, Crye, Wade, Crane, Patrie, Tufts, Lehnen, Kestler, Mauel, Calloway, Nikolay, Peterson, Swiggum, Wyeth, Lacey

----Source: The Sentinel & Rural News (Owen, Clark Co., WI) 6/21/2016

Woodland Hotel (Joins National Registry - 21 June 2016)

By Allan Hodnett and Travis Rogers, Jr.

The John S. Owen Lumber Company was the original owner and developer of the Woodland Hotel. Claude and Stark, a premier firm of Madison, Wisconsin, were the architects. More than 20 buildings designed by Claude and Stark are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, a remarkable achievement. William Sutter was the head carpenter during construction, and Joseph Robinson and his nephew Frank Crye were the main painters and decorators. Their work outlived them and the Woodland Hotel in downtown Owen still stands in tribute to their craft and talent.

1906 -1910: James B. Wade, manager of the Galloway House (a premier Eau Claire hotel of that era) was hired to manage the 27-room Woodland Hotel when it first opened. Inaugural ceremonies at Christmas 1906 included a festive dinner of Kansas roast beef, turkey and plum pudding served to dignitaries and guests. The hotel was billed as one of the finest in all of northern Wisconsin. It quickly filled to capacity and was a cornerstone for area travelers and local event, alike. The Owen Post Office operated for a time from the Woodland, as did the Owen Bank. Mr. Wade and hotel owner John S. Owen later hired Howard B. Crane and Howard’s wife Isabelle to manage the Woodland Hotel during the early years.

1910 - 1937: Mr. Clifford H. Patrie, along with his wife, the former Esther A. Tufts, took over management of the Woodland Hotel on June 1, 1910. A large parking garage was constructed in 1911, at the rear of the Woodland, to attract and accommodate automobile travelers.

The Patries would operate the Woodland for nearly 30 years during the peak of the Owen lumber boom, and during Owen’s peak population. The Patrie years at the Woodland included World War I, the Prohibition Era, and the Great Depression. Mr. Patrie was of French heritage, having been born in Quebec, Canada. Mrs. Patrie was a daughter of William S. Tufts, a prominent Withee businessman of the time. The Patries were very popular, and widely known. Declining health forced them to retire from the Woodland in 1937.

Esther Tufts Patrie died in 1938, and her husband Clifford died a few years later in 1942. They are buried at Riverside Cemetery. The “Court of Remembrance” Pavilion at Riverside Cemetery, west of Withee was donated in 1961 to the community by Mrs. Patrie’s Tufts family for use as a ceremonial memorial.

1937 -1965: The Lehnen family took over the Woodland from the Patries in 1937. Nicholas C. Lehnen, of German heritage, and his wife, Barbara Kestler, bought the woodland from the Patrie family as part of the final phase out of the John S. Owen Lumber Company business in Owen. The Owen sawmill had closed in 1932 and the mill assets were sold off. Nick Lehnen had managed the Stanley Hotel for two years before taking over the Woodland Hotel. The Lehnens owned and operated the Woodland for nearly 30 years that followed.

Their Woodland years included the post - John S. Owen years, a gradually declining Owen population, and the end of mail and passenger train service to Owen. The entire Nicholas Lehnen family was active in the Woodland business: son Andrew (who died in World War 2) son Edward, son Herbert, and daughter Agnes. Herbert Lehnen managed the business from about 1946 until 1955, and son Edward Lehnen was the lead manger from 1955 until1965.

Edward was married to the former Irene Mauel. Irene Lehnen operated a beauty shop in the basement of the Woodland for many years. One of the most memorable offerings of the Lehnen’s was their Sunday “Smorgasbord” buffet at the Woodland. The clientele of the Woodland changed dramatically in the early 1960s when daily mail and passenger train service to Owen was discontinued. The last scheduled passenger train stopped in Owen on June 19, 1964. The Lehnen family ended their affiliation with the Woodland in September 1965.

1965 - 1974: The Calloway family took over operation of the Woodland from the Lehnens in late 1965 and operated it until 1974.

1974 - 2015: The Woodland faced challenges in the 1970s, as the Owen community continued to experience extended economic challenges. Longtime local employment anchors such as Master Package Corporation, Teledyne Post and the Owen Dairy closed or significantly reduced employment. Attorney John “Jack” Nikolay and his wife Helen bought the Woodland from Colby Bank in 1974. The Nikolays made a business decision to remodel the Woodland and appeal to long term residency clients. They modified the facilities to include one and two bedroom apartments, while retaining much of the original architectural style. Jack Nikolay died in 2011, and the Nikolay family put the Woodland up for sale. Roger Wallace took over operation of the Woodland in 2012. His brief ownership ended the following year and the Woodland closed completely in 2013. The building sat vacant from 2013 and into 2015. The facility was sold in the first quarter 2015 to a trio of investors consisting of Larry Hodnett, Dick Peterson, and Tim Swiggum.

2015 -to date: The Hodnett, Peterson and Swiggum operating group took over ownership and management of the Woodland Hotel. The new operating group developed a vision to renovate the Woodland and retain as much of the original grandeur and integrity of the original design as would be feasible. As to be expected with a 110-year old building, the renovation and maintenance needs are great. The Woodland’s on-going business model is to provide quality short and long term housing, to provide facilities for meals and refreshments. The facilities will also be available for private events in a historical setting.

In the November 24, 2015, edition of The Sentinel & Rural News, Linda Wyeth wrote: “When Tim Swiggum and his partners Larry Hodnett and Dick Peterson bought the Woodland Hotel last March, one of the first steps they took was to hire Patricia Lacey to help them prepare the applications to place the property on the State and National Registers of Historic Places.

“The first part of the dream was realized on Friday, November 20, 2015, when Swiggum and his wife Karen, her brother Allan Hodnett, and Pat Lacey gathered outside the State Historical Society committee rooms at the Pyle Center on the WU-Madison campus. Allan Hodnett lives in the Milwaukee Area, but he has remained a huge local history and genealogy student, so he was delighted to be part of the excitement of the long-awaited day.”

As of June 17, 2016, the Woodland Hotel was placed on the National Register of Historical Places. The Woodland and the Owen School House are the two buildings listed on the National Registry in Owen.

(Note: Allan Hodnett is interested in receiving more photos of the Woodland Hotel, or any information about it; if anyone has any, he can be contacted via )

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From: Kara O’Keeffe
Wisconsin Historical Society

Friday, June 10, 2016


Owen, Wis. - The Wisconsin Historical Society has announced the listing of the Woodland Hotel in Clark County, in the National Register of Historic Places. National Register designation provides access to certain benefits, including qualification for grants and for rehabilitation income tax credits, while it does not restrict private property owners in the use of their property.

The Woodland Hotel was constructed in 1906 by John S. Owen, lumberman and founder of the city. Designed by prominent Wisconsin architects Claude & Starck, the hotel was a sophisticated addition to the community, offering amenities not often found in small communities. The hotel had a large lobby, restaurant, and a ladies parlor, and on the lower level had a barber shop, public bath, and a salesman sample room; the upper floors contained sleeping rooms and bathrooms for guests. Conveniences we now take for granted such as running water, electricity, heat and telephone were amenities the Woodland Hotel offered guests. The hotel retains its historic features and finishes and continues to reflect the grandeur and history of a sophisticated turn-of-the century hotel in a small logging town.

The register is the official national list of historic properties in America deemed worthy of preservation and is maintained by the National Park Service in the U.S. Department of the Interior. The Wisconsin Historical Society administers the program within Wisconsin. It includes sites, buildings, structures, objects and districts that are significant in national, state or local history, architecture, archaeology, engineering or culture.

To learn more about the State and National Register programs in Wisconsin, visit

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Withee Comes to Withee

By Travis Rogers, Jr.

On Friday, June 17, the offices of The Sentinel & Rural News were visited by surprise guests who were in town for their third attendance at Withee Days. The visitors were led by by Mr. Robert Withee. Yes, that Withee.

Withee and his wife, Ann, and Grandson, Ben Withee, were camping nearby in order to be here for their third trip, the first for 16-year-old Ben. Their first trip was in 1989 and their second in 2002.

Robert (Bob) is a jovial, quick-witted man and Ann is the keeper of the details of the family history. Between the two of them, they were able to recount the complete story. Ben sat politely by and listened to the stories again.

The family had come from Germany in the generation before, and John Withee had come to work in the area as an electrician.

No one is quite certain exactly who founded the village of Withee, was it John Withee or one of his sons? Answers vary according to who one asks. Even Bob is not quite certain.

One thing is sure, the Withee family moved from Withee in 1925 after the founding of Withee by Robert’s forebears. They moved first to Minnesota, then to Baker, Montana on a Land Grant. As a result of the Great Depression of 1929, the Withee family lost the Land Grant and move onto to Bellingham, Washington. Bob’s father, Harold, went on to Vancouver, WA, which is where Bob was born.

Bob and Ann Withee’s children were born in Vancouver as well as their grandchildren. Bob served in the U.S. Navy for 20 years (1960-1980), with a two-year tour of duty in Vietnam as part of the Patrol Boat, River (PBR) units. The stories he had were harrowing. He was the officer in charge of his six-personnel Riverboat and lived to tell the tale. His son also served in the Navy as an Avionics Technician (AT). Ann armed her son with wisdom and encouragement in his critical tasks for the Navy flyers.

They have seven grandchildren and are “working on two great-grandchildren.”

Withee Days was not the end of their trip. On Monday, the Withees left for the next leg of their trip which would take them south to Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, and then to Alabama in their motorhome. From there, they would head to Branson, MO, and then on to Mount Rushmore and the surrounding attractions.

Before leaving, grandson Ben Withee applied for and received a Withee Public Library Card. From one century to the next, the Withees are still a part of the community.




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