Ghost Town Fitness is a longtime Kaukauna gym off the beaten path at 180 Fox Shores Drive. To boost the facility’s visibility, owner Clay Eiting decided to buy a prominent building nearby to use as a billboard. In December, he bought the vintage 1889 building at 150/152 E. 2nd St. at the corner of State 55.
“There are 12,000 to 15,000 people traveling past here a day,” Eiting said. “I bought the building to put a sign on it.”
He figured he’d lease the ground floor to someone else and put five apartments upstairs. But he ultimately changed his mind about the ground floor and decided to use the space for his personal trainers. They’ll have a studio to do assessments and work with clients. If renovation goes smoothly, he’s hoping to move the personal trainers in this fall.
At the same time, he figures he’ll help bring a little life back to a quiet part of the city. “This is the cornerstone of 2nd Street,” he said. “I would love to see 2nd Street revived, to get it rolling and make stuff happen. I thought it would be cool.”
He got the historic building for a song, just $65,000, but figures he’ll put in nearly ten times that amount to restore the building and maintain its history.
“It’s going to take a while to get plans drawn up and apply for tax credits,” he said. “I cleaned everything out of there and took down the back corner addition, which was an eyesore.”
He has an architect, his banker and an historical consultant on board.
“It’s registered with the Wisconsin Historical Society,” he said. “The walls, tin ceiling and floor have to stay original. I’m looking to keep as much as possible of the historic details.”
“Although the building has been denuded of its parapets and metal cresting, it is still one of the finest examples of commercial Romanesque Revival architecture in Kaukauna,” read Wisconsin Historical Society records. “Few commercial buildings in the city retain their original storefront or have an intact stamped metal ceiling.”
The building was erected by Julius Kuehn, Kaukana’s first blacksmith who later served two terms as mayor. In 1911, it became Fred Merbach’s hardware store, then Kaukauna Hardware.
For info on the gym: ghosttownfitness.com
— Maureen Wallenfang: 920-993-1000, ext. 287, or firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @wallenfang