Fire destroys Lake Church Inn on Tuesday

Nobody injured but 150 years of history is gone from community founded by Luxembourgers

FIREFIGHTERS WORKED TO control the Lake Church Inn blaze on Tuesday evening (top photo). Adolph and Catherine Schanen (right) owned and operated Lake Church Inn’s tavern and general store for 48 years. The photo was taken when they retired in 1962. Top photo by Sam Arendt Bottom photo courtesy of the Kevin Wester Collection


Ozaukee Press staff

A well-known local landmark is a total loss after a fire on Tuesday night in the Lake Church area of the Town of Belgium.

The 153-year-old Lake Church Inn restaurant at 680 Hwy. D was destroyed.

Belgium Fire Chief Dan Birenbaum said late Tuesday night that the department was called out around 5:30 p.m. for flames in the kitchen that were coming into the bar area.

“We knew it was serious when we arrived. With those old buildings, you never know what to expect. Fire gets into walls,” he said.

Birenbaum said he didn’t know how many people were inside but they all safely got out. No firefighters were injured while putting out the fire, which he said took 90 minutes to two hours to get under control.

The roof collapsed onto the second floor, forcing firefighters to stay outside the building.

“We didn’t want to send anybody in there with the hot spots and everything,” Birenbaum said.

“We go to defensive mode and fight everything from the outside.”

More than 20 fire departments responded from as far as Jackson and Plymouth.

“Everybody pitched in,” Birenbaum said.

Water was transported via pumpers from a fire hydrant near the BP store in the Village of Belgium just west of I-43 and from the corner of Beech Street and Main Street near Community Park, Birenbaum said.

The building is a total loss, and firefighters worked through the night to take it down.

Nearby structures were not damaged.

Local historian Kevin Wester, who wrote extensively on the history of the building in his book “Lake Church, Wisconsin, A Pictorial History” instantly knew what was lost.

“I’m just so devastated by this. So much history went up in smoke and flames tonight,” he said. “I’m sick to my stomach.”

Wester’s book notes that Paul Ronk, who owned the Luxemburger Pier Company, is credited with founding the oldest continually operating business in Lake Church, originally called the Lake House.

Ronk bought the land in 1856 and opened the town’s first general store, saloon and hotel there in 1870.

The Lake House was most popular on Sundays after people attended St. Mary’s Catholic Church across the street. Women would shop in the store while men had a beer in the saloon and waited for them.

Traveling salesmen coming to Lake Church needed a hotel, and eight rooms on the second floor were used for that purpose.

Michael and Mary Catherine Bink bought the business in 1874 and added the west bar portion in 1881. They also added a Brunswick and Balke pool table that was used until 1962. The cue rack was signed by Brunswick.

The business had many owners throughout the years, with members of the Schanen family owning and operating it the longest, from 1893 to 1962. Jacob and Anna Schanen bought it in 1893 and moved their family of nine from their Lake Church farm to the Lake House.

In 1910, Jacob bought a 35-foot-long automatic bowling alley for $240 from the Automatic Bowling Alley Company in Milwaukee.

Adolph and Catherine Schanen owned and operated the Lake House for 48 years, until selling it in 1962 to Donald and Clara (Watry) Schueller of Belgium for $30,000.

A few owners later, Adolph and Mike Ansay bought the Lake House in 1980. They sold it a year later to Dean and Arlene Eger, who discontinued the grocery and liquidated the equipment.

Ron and Celine (Wester) Krizek bought the business in 1983 and renamed it Lake Church Country Inn. They used artificial replica trim to replace parts of the ornate millwork trim on the exterior to maintain the building’s architectural integrity, refinished the wood floors and renovated the interior.

A large kitchen was added, and the restaurant’s Friday night fish fry became a popular attraction.

A new motel was added in 1986 east of the restaurant called the Quarry Inn, honoring the memory of Lake Shore Stone Quarry on  Lake Michigan near the Town of Belgium.

In 2003, the Krizeks agreed to a land contract with current owners Dave Maiman and Annette Friess to operate the restaurant and hotel. The couple bought the businesses in 2007.

They changed the name to Lake Church Inn.

Years later, St. Mary’s Church across the street closed and sold for a private residence. Maiman last year asked the Town of Belgium and Ozaukee County to turn the parallel parking into angled spots along a small portion of Highway D to create more parking for customers who used to use the church parking lot, especially during busy Friday night fish fries.

The Town Board agreed to allow angled parking east of the former church driveway but not west of the driveway.

Before St. Mary’s was sold to Dan Majewski, who lives in a transformed church in Big Bend and wanted to do the same thing with this church, a Bells of St. Mary’s Committee was started to save the church’s three bells and the school bell.

The three bells were put in a memorial in the adjacent cemetery, and the school bell was sent to Tanzania to be part of a school where Father James Weyker was a missionary.

Kevin Wester helped lead that effort, as well as cleaning the gravestones in the cemetery.

“I’m so happy we saved our church bells and renovated our cemetery.  It really is all we have left in Lake Church,” he said.


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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


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