..........."Tom's Burn 't Down Cafe " is a unique bar and art gallery located in Wisconsin on Madeline Island. Its the largest and only inhabited island of the Apostle chain on Lake Superior. Its a very isolated place and can be extremely cold in the winter.
.Tom Nelson grew up on Madeline Island, he is a unique character and a collector of stuff ( historical stuff). Over time Tom had developed quite a collection he calls his "broken tool collection" Others would call it a pile of junk, but Tom's calls it "his inventory". Pulleys off an old farm tractor, signs from a old feed store would all qualify to be part of the collection. Parts of that collection can be seen in the decor of Tom's Burnt down cafe'. (Back to the collection later)
........."Tom's Burn 't
Down Cafe " did not
start out as a open air bar with and eclectic verity of chairs and tables,
Not hardly. Tom
and couple of partners moved an old bar named Leona's into the town of
La point. They worked for over a year to renovate Leona's into bar and
restaurant, and then unexpected happened !
........ But first let me tell you about Leona's.....
.........Leona was a independent woman who in 1950 wanted to get as far away as she could and decided to move to Madeline island. She opened a beer bar and dance hall on the Island and named it Leona's. It became very popular with the local Islanders and made the hard cold winters a little bit more bearable. During hunting season the parking lot would be filled with snow mobiles, pickups and on occasion a Dog Sled team waiting for their fortified owners. Leona's had a legendary reputation for being a place to unwind she always seemed to keep the crowd (the boy's) in line and became like a mother to some. In the winter it was mostly Locals that came but In the summer the tourist came to drink beer and hear local bands play. For a bar on a island, deep in the woods it was very busy place. Even In the winter when it was 20 below zero people still came to hang out!.
...........Leona finally closed the place in the late eighties after being in business for almost 40 years. Leona had enough and decided to retire. It was a popular place and for years after it was closed people would come to the Island and want go to Leona's only to find out she had closed.
had a dream to reopen Leona's. The
original bar and dance hall grew in size over the years and the collection
of buildings were still in pretty good shape. The property was bought
by summer people (as they are called ) and the new owners where going
to demolish the building's and build a home.
Tom and his partners decided to save the building's and the legend of leona's and move them. to his property on the Island until they found a right location for the bar. Soon they found a great place on the Island it was in the middle of the town of (La point) and close to the main streets and the ferry line.
.........When all the permits and paper work was completed Tom was ready to move leona's. He and His brother built a huge sled to put under the buildings and they pulled them across the icy roads to their new home in town. For 7 hard long cold months Tom and his friends worked on the bar and the new Leona's was starting to take shape. It was almost completely renovated and only needed minor work, the screen doors needed to painted and the T shirts with menu on the back had just been delivered. The place was ready to open for the season.
..........In the Summer, ferries run between Bayfield (Mainland) and the island, but in the winter the lake freezes so the ferries have to stop. Madilane Island is a cold place in the winter it gets so cold that Lake Superior Freezes. The ice can be 20 inches thick and strong enough for cars and even trucks to drive on. The lake becomes an official highway when it freezes in the winter and is plowed and maintained by the state.
...........Tom had the bar open during the last month of renovation. He went home after long hard day and went to sleep. Hours later the phone rang, and a voice cried out "YOUR BARS ON FIRE" . He quickly jumped into his pickup and drove to the bar. The Firemen had just arrived but had problems with the Fire Truck.........There are no Fire hydrants on the island, So Fire trucks carry their own water. But the trucks had been drained to prevent the water from freezing. The Fireman where trying suck water from the lake, but kept loosing the prime in the pump and could not get presser through the hose's.
............It was a disaster to say the least. The small fire in the back of the building quickly got of control and the place turn into an inferno. The building burned almost to the ground and after the flames where put all that was left was a massive heap of smoldering debris was left. A total loss.
..........The next day the smell of the charred building remands filled the air. The bar was gone and all that hard work and money invested was lost. While Tom stood starring into the smoldering debris, a delivery truck pulled up.The truck had the beer order for the week. Tom with no money and standing in front of the charred remains of his future, Quickly made a decision to open for business. The trunk of a 78 Chevy Impala was now the home for two Beer kegs. The kegs where taped and the Bar was now open! The crowd that gathered to see what happened were the first customers of the new Tom's Burnt Down Cafe.
.......... The lot was cleaned of debris and the remains of the deck that Leona's building was placed on was repaired. Chairs and tables were gathered from the local dump (Recycling Center) and large 40ft trailer was now the new building. With a large Tarp for a roof Tom's Burnt Down Cafe' was ready to be open for business.
..........Tom has and event every year
called "Sculptors Wrestle Steel" When the town officials told
Tom to move the debris off his property at his home. Tom had a pile of
scrap metal and a trailer of stuff that He saved to recycle. Tom had to
move his collection scrap (Broken tool collection) to a commercially zoned
property. So Tom moved the collection to the bar.
This was the beginning of "Sculptors Wrestle Steel"
............. "Sculptors Wrestle Steel" is a Annual event that happens in the summer. Many wonderful artist participate in a 10 day event, anyone who shows up can join the fun! Some interesting works of Art art created from the piles of scrap steel and metal parts. Welding together metal can be exciting art form. You can make just about anything you want. Children of all ages join in the fun and create amazing works of art.