Port Parks’ ARTISAN in residence

The Upper Lake Park beer garden, with its appealing old-world look, is an enduring symbol of Bob Poull’s contributions to the city’s park system

Former city employee Bob Poull designed or remodeled all the buildings in Port Washington’s beer garden, creating a warm and inviting atmosphere. Photo by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press staff

Bob Poull is no stranger to construction.

His father was a carpenter whose craft is memorialized in a woodworkers museum. Using exotic woods, he created lamps and vases and numerous other items.

Poull’s brother Ted wrote a book about construction management and teaches the subject.

“I think it’s all in our blood,” Bob Poull said.

Bob worked in construction until the early 1980s when the industry began to struggle during a recession. Then he joined the City of Port Washington’s street department and years later became the parks foreman.

“I always thought I had one of the best jobs in the city,” said Poull, who is now retired. He loved hearing compliments about the parks from people from out of town.

But it is what he did for a Port Washington park outside of his regular job that may be his lasting legacy.

Poull designed or remodeled all the structures for the city beer garden in Upper Lake Park, which has boomed in popularity the last several years.

It started with the east concession stand, now known as the beer center. Poull stripped it down and specified walls made of fieldstone to give it a more rustic look.

Knowing he had experience in construction, Parks and Recreation Board member Patti Lemkuil asked Poull to design an archway for the beer garden.

While Poull could rely on his construction experience, he couldn’t use research from other communities’ beer gardens.

“I’ve never been to one,” he said.

But he agreed to design and help build the entryway and went with an old-world look.

“You don’t really want anything too contemporary for a beer garden,” he said.

Poull added a professional touch, using his lathe at home to create wooden plugs matching the rest of the structure where the bolts stuck out of the wood.

“I like the extra details when you make a building,” he said. “Anybody can put up a box.”

Around the same time, he gutted the bathrooms and made them look more quaint. He made cedar doors that matched the look of the other structures, added planters to the windows and a cedar cabinet inside the women’s room.

Then the Port Washington Lions Club approached Poull. It wanted a pavilion as part of the beer garden.

Poull drew it up on a Sunday afternoon. It wasn’t difficult, he said, since he already did the Kiwanis pavilion next to Possibility Playground three years earlier.

He drew it up on a Sunday afternoon, from the concrete floor to the top shingle.         The Lions, Parks and Recreation Board, Plan Commission and Common Council all approved his design.

Poull retired in 2016, while the building was still under construction, but he made sure to see it through to completion.

Even then, his work wasn’t done. Lemkuil asked him to design a bandshell, and he agreed.

This one took a few drafts. Poull got approval from his wife Nancy on a design, and the city went to work.

Forty days of rain slowed construction, but bands eventually had a place to play, including access to electricity.

He shot off the hip when determining the size and thought it might be too small, but it turned out big enough for a four-piece band.

Poull’s attention to detail is evident. Each piece of cedar on the bandshell is angled at 45 degrees for a better appearance. The roof angles upward to follow the curvature of the concrete, adding to the unique character of the piece.

“It’s a warm look, more inviting than just a cold concrete block sitting there,” he said.

Location was also important. Poull made sure Port’s landmark, its lighthouse, was still in view.

Some creative thinking allowed Poull to incorporate another element. He redesigned the old retaining wall near the beer center to allow people to sit on it, which comes in handy when the beer garden is packed on Saturday nights.

While Poull, city employees and contractors handled the construction of the beer garden, Poull did all the design work himself.

For free.

“I take a lot of pride in the parks,” he said. “I thought it was part of the job.”

But it wasn’t. Poull saved the city money by doing the work on his own.

His designs, he said, did not look like the fancy color renderings that firms present.

“Mine were just grey. Just paper and pencil — the old-school way. I can envision what I want to do. I’m not good with computers.”

It helped, he said, that he knew many of the city leaders well. Poull has lived in Port his entire life.

He also knew the contractors he hired for the work, people he dealt with for years as a city employee.

Poull said he is happy with how the beer garden turned out.

“It’s a beautiful venue. You’ve got the backdrop of the lighthouse,” he said, adding weddings and graduation parties have been held there.

If he was still working, Poull said, he would love to put a building in the Upper Lake Park overlook with a gable and stagger it vertically so it looks like a sunrise.

With his latest contribution to his beloved city parks now complete, Poull’s attention has turned closer to home. He recently built a shed for his vast colleciton of wookworking tools, where he will continue his hobby.

He will be making wooden bowls and ornaments for his family, and Nancy has requested a new kitchen table and end tables, among other items.

“That list will never end,” Poull said with a laugh.



Click Here to Send a Letter to the Editor

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


User login