A landmark lost to fire

Owner of 153-year-old Lake Church Inn says he doesn’t know what he’ll do with site of building that was the heart and soul of community founded by Luxembourg immigrants

DAVE MAIMAN WALKED along what is left of his Lake Church Inn bar, restaurant and apartment on Tuesday after a fire destroyed it on May 16. He said he isn’t sure what he will do next. Right, firefighters tried to extinguish the fire before the roof caved in and forced them to battle the blaze from the outside. Photos by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press staff

Lake Church Inn owner Dave Maiman said he isn’t sure of his next step after losing his restaurant in a fire on May 16.

“It’s way too early. Way too much to be done,” Maiman said this week.

The restaurant, a well-known landmark in the Lake Church area of the Town of Belgium, caught fire during the evening while people were dining and working inside.

Maiman said an electrical fire started on the north wall adjacent to the kitchen.

The eight customers in the bar and a couple of employees safely got out of the 153-year-old building at 680 Hwy. D. Maiman said the fire didn’t burn that quickly and nobody was in danger before exiting.

“There’s stuff you can’t replace. But nobody was hurt, and that’s the important thing,” he said.

Belgium Fire Chief Dan Birenbaum said he wasn’t sure what caused the fire but it wasn’t suspicious.

The upstairs of the building housed a large apartment, but nobody had rented it since the pandemic, Maiman said.

When the fire got into the roof and it started collapsing, Birenbaum said firefighters could only safely fight the fire from the outside, called a “defensive mode.”

Fire finds its way into nooks and crannies of old buildings that have had additions built, Birenbaum said, allowing blazes to quickly spread.

“We knew it was serious when we arrived,” Birenbaum said.

The nearest fire hydrant was less than a mile away, and 22 fire departments from as far as Jackson and Plymouth responded, most with tenders to keep delivering water from two hydrants in the Village of Belgium. About 160,000 gallons of water were used.

The wind was calm, and departments contained the fire to the Lake Church Inn, not allowing it to spread to a nearby house to the west.

“The fire department did a great job,” Maiman said.

Many people commented on social media of their memories of the restaurant and bar and how they will miss it.

“It was very, very sad, especially the back bar hand carved from the mid-1800s,” Maiman said.

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  as the fire burned last week. “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 business had many owners throughout the years, with members of the Schanen family owning and operating it the longest, from 1893 to 1962.

Maiman and his wife Annette Friess have run the restaurant and the hotel directly to the east since 2003, and they owned both since 2007.


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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
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