5005 Washington Avenue (Racine, Wisconsin)

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Coordinates: 42°43′06″N 87°50′23″W / 42.71828°N 87.83981°W / 42.71828; -87.83981

Town Bank
General information
TypeBank
Location5005 Washington Avenue
Racine, Wisconsin
OpeningMay 1, 2018

5005 Washington Avenue is a building on the southwest corner of Washington Avenue and Perry Avenue in Racine, Wisconsin, currently home to a Town Bank branch. The address was originally the location of a motel and lounge that opened in 1962, known first as Holleb House, then Clayton House, and finally Apple Valley Lodge. The motel closed in 1989, and was demolished for an expansion of the neighboring Westgate Cinema in 1990. After Westgate Cinema closed in 2006 and was demolished in 2017, the address was revived with the construction of a Town Bank branch on the site in 2018.

History[edit | edit source]

Holleb House (1962–63)
Clayton House (1963–87)
Apple Valley Lodge (1987–89)
General information
TypeMotel
Location5005 Washington Avenue
Racine, Wisconsin
Construction started1961
OpeningDecember 27, 1962
ClosedMarch 12, 1989
Demolished1990
OwnerPapas-Spheeris Company
Design and construction
DeveloperCharles Holleb
An architectural rendering of Holleb House from 1961.

With the construction of the Perry Avenue Water Tower in 1930, the Racine Water Utility acquired what would become the site of 5005 Washington Avenue, Westgate Cinema, and the West Racine Post Office. In March 1961, the Papas-Spheeris Company, owners of the Westgate Outdoor Theatre, announced plans to build Westgate Family Center, a 100,000-square-foot (9,300 m2) discount department store immediately north of the theater. Although Spiro J. Papas owned the land extending north to Washington Avenue from the theater, his plan required purchasing land west of Perry Avenue from the Racine Water Department for part of the store's parking lot.[1] The Water Department agreed to sell the land for $27,750. By July 1961, Papas had come to an agreement with the Chicago-based Jewel Tea Company grocery store chain, which would open its first department store in the new building. The planned store was downsized to 90,000 square feet (8,400 m2), allowing a larger parking lot in front of the store and making the land purchased from the Water Department unnecessary for parking. Instead, Papas announced that this land would be used for a motel, with 65 to 70 units and a possible attached restaurant.[2]

Charles Holleb, an insurance executive from Glencoe, Illinois, took over development of the motel. On October 3, 1961, the motel received approval from the city of Racine, as well as the first tavern license ever granted in West Racine, an area of the city notorious for its opposition to alcohol. The Grange Avenue Methodist Church, whose new building was under construction immediately west of the motel site, attempted to block the tavern license on the grounds that the city of Racine prohibited taverns within 300 feet of a church, but the church was outside of Racine's city limits at the time and the prohibition did not apply to them.[3][4] The Holleb House Motel opened on December 27, 1962.[5] The attached Golden Lantern restaurant and cocktail lounge opened on January 16, 1963,[6] alongside the motel's grand opening ceremony. Holleb House became the first motel in Racine to have a swimming pool.[7]

Holleb sold the motel to Claydon Associates in June 1963 and it was renamed Clayton House, after one of the company's four owners, Clayton Rautbord, president of the American Photocopy Equipment Company in Evanston, Illinois.[8] The building's architect, Leon Brin of Denver, Colorado, sued Holleb in September 1963 over nearly $6,000 in unpaid expenses;[9] they settled out of court in April 1965.[10] Papas announced plans for a two-screen indoor movie theater immediately next to Clayton House on May 22, 1967. The new building, intended to be finished by the end of the year, was designed by William Riseman Associates of Boston, Massachusetts and Camburas & Theodore of Chicago, Illinois.[11] Cinema I and II, later known as Westgate Cinema, opened on May 29, 1968.[12][13] Clayton House became a campaign stop during the 1968 Wisconsin Republican primary, with presidential candidates George Romney visiting the motel in February[14] and Richard Nixon speaking there in March.[15] In August 1969, Clayton House was the site of negotiations between American Motors Company and United Auto Workers Local 72.[16]

Strike negotiations between the city of Racine and American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees Local 67 began at Clayton House on January 27, 1975, and ended without an agreement on February 11 when the city's team walked out.[17] The Racine Unified School District and the local teachers' union, the Racine Education Association, held similar strike negotiations in March 1977.[18][19] In November 1977, the motel announced plans to expand the building, adding another 50 rooms,[20] but this expansion was ultimately never built. In 1979, a partnership headed by Ali Yusuf and based in Oak Brook, Illinois acquired the motel's lease from Claydon Associates and began operating it. The Yusuf partnership took over operation of the attached Golden Lantern restaurant on September 27, 1982.[21]

In June 1983, the city of Racine began collecting a 4% monthly room tax from hotels, but Clayton House failed to pay these taxes for several months, owing about $4,000 by March 1984. Although the Yusuf partnership argued that it was unable to pay the tax because only 20 to 30 percent of its rooms were occupied on a typical night, it began paying the tax in January 1984 and agreed to pay all its overdue taxes by the end of March.[22] The partnership then defaulted on its mortgage to Spiro Papas' widow Constance Bacantain, who retained ownership of the property, and Bacantain's trust filed for foreclosure against the partnership in June 1985.[23] Around 1985, the Golden Lantern restaurant closed and Rumors Lounge took its place. On July 5, 1986, two girls aged 8 and 7 nearly drowned in the swimming pool, and were narrowly saved by a bartender and a bar patron. The older child later died of her injuries on September 3, and the parents of both children filed a lawsuit against the motel management.[24] The families were ultimately awarded damages of $420,000 on January 11, 1988.[25]

Joe Terrell took over management of the motel from the Yusuf partnership on May 11, 1987, and renamed the property Apple Valley Lodge. Terrell promised to renovate the building and raise the motel out of the budget category, allowing it to become profitable.[26] By that time, after under-reporting its tax obligations for several years, the motel owed $14,080 in unpaid room taxes, leading Terrell to consider purchasing the property from the Papas trust.[27] Additionally, the Papas trust owed $55,850 in delinquent property taxes on the motel building to Racine County, making the trust the sixth-largest property tax debtor in the county according to a September 1987 report.[28]

The abandoned Apple Valley Lodge building is seen behind and to the left of Westgate Cinema in 1990, shortly before its demolition.

By 1988, Terrell and the partnership operating the motel owed $400,000 in unpaid taxes to the city and county and unpaid rent to the Papas trust. A legal judgment that year gave the partnership a deadline of March 14, 1989 to repay its debts, after which the Papas trust would repossess the lease. Unable to pay, Terrell began laying off employees in early 1989 and closed the Apple Valley Lodge and Rumors Lounge on March 12.[29] In a Racine Journal Times editorial, Terrell argued that despite the best efforts of himself and his employees, legal problems that prevented his planned renovations made it impossible for the business to survive.[30] Within days, the closed building was heavily vandalized, which was discovered by authorities after a minor fire allegedly caused by teenagers setting off bottle rockets at the building on March 29.[31] The abandoned motel building was purchased by Marcus Corporation, owners of the neighboring Westgate Cinema, in May 1990.[32] Marcus demolished the building by September 1990 to begin construction on an expansion that added three new screens to the theater.[33]

Westgate Cinema closed in 2006 and was demolished during the summer of 2017. The address 5005 Washington Avenue was revived after the demolition, by a branch of Town Bank that opened in a new building on the northeast corner of the site on May 1, 2018.[34]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "Westgate to Build Store Containing 50 Departments", Racine Journal Times, April 6, 1961, page six.
  2. "Plan New Motel of 65-70 Units", Racine Journal Times, July 28, 1961, page 4.
  3. "Grant 1st Bar License for West Racine Motel", Racine Journal Times, October 4, 1961, front page and page fourteen.
  4. O'Brien, James E. "Tavern in West Racine? All Previous Tries Failed to Get Liquor License for Kringleville", Racine Journal Times, October 4, 1961, page eight.
  5. Advertisement, Racine Journal Times, December 26, 1962, page 7B.
  6. Advertisement, Racine Journal Times, January 12, 1963, page 9A.
  7. "Holleb Motel Opens Doors Today; Banks on Use by Business Firms", Racine Journal Times, January 16, 1963, page 6A.
  8. "New Holleb House Owners Rename It 'Clayton House'", Racine Journal Times, June 21, 1963, page 7B.
  9. "Architect Sues for Motel Work", Racine Journal Times, September 4, 1963, page 4A.
  10. "Settle Claim Against Holleb", Racine Journal Times, April 2, 1965, page 4A.
  11. "Twin Indoor Theaters Slated for West Side", Racine Journal Times, May 22, 1967, front page.
  12. "Racine's First New Indoor Theater in 40 Years Opens on Wednesday", Racine Journal Times, May 26, 1968, page 7C.
  13. Westgate Cinemas, Cinema Treasures.
  14. Devlin, Sean. "Romney's Racine Talks Charge Johnson 'Snow Job' on Vietnam", Racine Journal Times, February 9, 1968, front page.
  15. "U.S. in 'Respect Deficit,' Nixon Tells GOP Rally; Nixon Urges Party Workers to Turn Out Vote in Primary", Racine Journal Times, March 3, 1968, page 6A.
  16. Pfankuchen, David. "AMC to Reply Sept. 4 to Union Demands: Equal Big Three's Benefits, UAW Asks", Racine Journal Times, August 20, 1969, page 7A.
  17. "Fact-finding sought by city negotiators", Racine Journal Times, February 12, 1975, front page.
  18. Frahm, Robert A. "Unified-REA talks grind to halt", Racine Journal Times, March 15, 1977, page 3A.
  19. Trower, Ralph. "Clayton House glad it's over, too", Racine Journal Times, March 28, 1977, front page.
  20. "News briefs: Clayton House expanding", Racine Journal Times, November 2, 1977, page 1E.
  21. "Golden Lantern has new operator", Racine Journal Times, October 13, 1982, page 4B.
  22. Donahue, Kelly. "Clayton House: will pay taxes", Racine Journal Times, March 22, 1984, page 1D.
  23. Pfankuchen, David. "Business Bits", Racine Journal Times, June 13, 1985, page 1D.
  24. Blankenburg, Andy. "Lawsuit filed in drowning case", Racine Journal Times, October 3, 1986, page 4A.
  25. Metro, Gary. "Drowning lawsuit settled", Racine Journal Times, January 12, 1988, page 4A.
  26. Schauf, Don. "Clayton House changing", Racine Journal Times, June 19, 1987, page 8A.
  27. Schauf, Don. "Sheraton leads in room taxes", Racine Journal Times, June 25, 1987, page 1D.
  28. Hill, Mike. "Big and small, they all owe taxes", Racine Journal Times, September 27, 1987, page 3A.
  29. Tancill, Karen B. "Apple Valley Lodge checks out of business", Racine Journal Times, March 12, 1989, page 3A.
  30. Terrell, Joe A. "Letters to the Editor: We've come a long way", Racine Journal Times, March 20, 1989, page 6A.
  31. Lamb, Sara and Laura J. Merissio. "Fire, vandals hit old lodge", Racine Journal Times, March 30, 1989, page 4A.
  32. Holley, Paul J. "Marcus buys Apple Valley Lodge: Group plans movie theater complex for site", Racine Journal Times, May 31, 1990, page 10A.
  33. "Expansion will boast 6 screens at Westgate", Racine Journal Times, September 18, 1990, page 8A.
  34. Burke, Michael. "Town Bank opens Racine branch office", Racine Journal Times, May 2, 2018.