Postmarking History: Merrill Post Office celebrates centennial birthdaySubmitted: 04/17/2017
Lane Kimble
Lane Kimble
News Director

Postmarking History: Merrill Post Office celebrates centennial birthday
MERRILL - Pushing 100-year-old light switches, walking up century-old narrow stairwells, and flipping more antique switches, all are part of a fun, daily trip back in time for Merrill Postmaster Joelle Nelson.

"I love old," Nelson said.

Nelson took over in Merrill three years ago, having worked in post offices in Wittenburg, Antigo, Wausau, and beyond. But she thinks this place simply can't be beat.

"This is the best building by far," Nelson said of her current home.

Monday, April 17, Nelson stamped letters and postcards to mark an important date: the 100-year anniversary of the post office opening on East 2nd Street.

"I'm hoping my home looks like this in 100," Nelson said. "It's not going to!"

The plaque on the outside of the building actually says 1915, but that's the year construction started. The post office was finished in 1917. Inside, Nelson knows of many hidden gems she's excited to show off.

A trip to the back rooms reveals locked passageways for postal inspectors to secretly observe employees through fake vents. Upstairs, an empty old safe with a huge iron door stands open. Glass cases in the lobby house pictures and items from 1917, 1967, and years in between. Nelson's favorite feature is a giant glass skylight in the main lobby.

"We've got marble on the walls, we've got old tiled floors, we've got big, thick woodwork--it's just a very neat building," Nelson said.

It's such a neat place, Merrill native Jane Francouer plans to make it a historical focal point this month.

"You don't appreciate the architecture in Merrill until you've been someplace, like out west where everything is new," Francouer said.

The Merrill Historical Society will use the post office as a starting and end point for the annual "History Hunt." This year, contestants will stop at 12 Lincoln County spots mainly in places where rural post offices used to be. But Merrill's post office keeps standing the test of time.

"It's really, really simple to just say, 'Oh this building is old and it needs work; let's tear it down and put something new,'" Francouer said. "When you do that, you lose so much of what our forefathers put into this place."

That's a history lesson not lost on Merrill's postmaster, going to work in a century-old building that is far from showing its age.

"I don't feel that the age of something determines what it's worth," Nelson said. "The older structures, to me, seem more solid.

"This building, by far, is the most beautiful building I have ever worked at."

The US Postal Service operates about 33,000 buildings nationwide. But only about 8,000--including Merrill's--are actually owned by the post office. Nelson says that ownership adds to the care the building gets.

More information about the Merrill History Hunt, including registration forms (which are due by April 27), can be found via the link below.

Related Weblinks:
Merrill Historical Society History Hunt

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RHINELANDER - This time of year, winter activies start to wind down and the summer fun hasn't quite started yet.

That's why Fisher's Resort and Bar on Lake George in Rhinelander enjoys having it's annual ice golf tournament each year.

"In year's past, March is always kind of a slower season up here in the Northwoods so we figured we'd create an event and put efforts towards a local organization," said Fisher's Resort and Bar owner, Russ Fisher.

That local organization they raise money for is the Hodag Sno-trails snowmobile club.

This year, the tournament had it's biggest turn out.

30 teams came to play, including first timer Dennis Herrmann who lives right across the lake.

"This has nothing to do with golf, I can tell you that right now. But it's a challenge for all the obvious reasons. But you do it for the charity, you do it for the fun and it gives everybody the chance to get out," said Herrmann.

This year they cut it down from 18 holes to 13 so people could get inside faster to enjoy the chili and the raffle items after their round of golf.

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WAUSAU - When you think of Wisconsin, two things might come to mind - beer and snow. 

The Granite Peak Ski Area in Wausau decided to combine the two and host an annual brew fest. 

Andy Ledesma is the head brewer at Red Eye Brewing Company in Wausau. The Granite Peak Brew Fest is one of the many perks of his job.

"No other beer fest is like this, that's for sure," said Ledesma.

He definitely wasn't alone serving more than 40 beers on Saturday. 

Jeff Geurink works for South Shore Brewery in Ashland. They've been around for 20 years, but they wanted to make this brew fest a part of their line up.

"Get our name out there and make sure people are enjoying our beer and get as much information as possible out about our brewery so then when they go out and get a beer, they remember us," said Geurink.

Something everyone will remember from the brew fest was the set-up.

"Snow bar?! You can't get that in the summer time," said Roland Bruhnke.

He's right. Most beer festivals are in the summer. But when it's still feeling like winter in March, Granite Peak turns lemons into lemonade, or more appropriately, hops into beer.

"I think it definitely helped that when they get to the bottom of the hill, you see a bunch of beer," said beer salesman Jesse Bartnik.

So even though beer and physical activity isn't the best combination, dozens of people were loving it this weekend.

"The winter, the skiing, the beer, it's all one big package all rolled into one," said Bruhnke.

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The Crandon School Board voted unanimously Friday evening to change the wording of superintendent Dr. Doug Kryder's absence from the district.

Kryder is now on "paid administrative leave." Originally, he had been "suspended with pay."

The board said it made the change based on advice of its lawyer. The board met for two and a half hours in closed session on Friday.

Kryder is under investigation by the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office.

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TOMAHAWK - Two best friends turned into business partners about a year ago.

Bill Eastwood and Blake McMahon own Outboards Bar and Grill in Tomahawk.

The duo's combined restaurant and business experience helped them hit the ground running.

Fish quality comes first at Outboards.

"Friday night is the night that pretty much everyone goes out to eat. So if you don't have a good fish fry, people around here start talking!" say Eastwood.

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RHINELANDER - Kathie Woodford keeps track of each time she donates blood.  Her visit to a Rhinelander blood drive on Friday marked her 26th pint.

"I just recently got my third gallon," Woodford said.

The universal donor (Woodford has O-negative blood) likes to give as often as she can, but Friday's blood drive was one she simply couldn't miss.

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ANTIGO - "It did come as a shock at first, but it's something that you realize it's not the end of the world," said Tracie Quade. 

Quade's 18-month old son, Benny, was diagnosed with Down syndrome when he was born.

"It's actually a really, really awesome thing. People with Down syndrome are wonderful loving people and they are just as capable of doing as much as anybody else," said Quade.

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MADISON - The Conservation Congress plans to ask attendees at its spring hearings whether lawmakers should charge people to use state land and eliminate group hunting.

The congress asks hearing attendees every year for their positions on current outdoors issues. The answers are advisory only.

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