A Stunning Rebirth
Whether it’s the persistent rumors about Underground Railroad tunnels beneath its floors, or gleefully bawdy tales of rum running during prohibition, the Stamm House has always been steeped in Middleton lore.
That’s why, when one of the area’s oldest restaurants gradually fell into a state of disrepair, re-opening and closing without notice while the business foundered, the people of the Good Neighbor City were concerned they might lose one of their most iconic landmarks.
Those fears will be dispelled when the establishment re-opens its doors on Tuesday, May 26. Completely renovated, rebuilt, palpably loved and slightly renamed as “1847 at the Stamm House,” the restaurant looks like it could be on the verge of its heyday.
The team behind the new Stamm House has not only fixed up the building, stripping away detritus and glorifying the local limestone walls that had for years been hidden from the public eye; they have also rebuilt its soul and reimagined its purpose and menu.
“So many people have such close attachments to this restaurant,” explains general manager Brian Hamilton. “They worked here, or their parents worked here. It’s imbued us with a sense of mission.”
The reimagined eatery includes two full bars, warm sheets of natural light, exposed stone walls, literally tons of reclaimed wood, a special “chef’s cave” and a menu with which executive chef Nick Johnson will innovate to his heart’s delight.
Johnson, a nominee for the prestigious James Beard Award, has been integral to the design of the kitchen and chef’s cave. He plans to emphasize whole animals, purchased locally from the Conscious Carnivore, crafting dishes with midwestern heart and European sophistication.
The menu, based heavily on seasonal products, will change frequently. But early versions include appetizers like a smoked whitefish Scotch egg. Or chicken and goat milk spaetzle served with sunchokes, lovage and broccoli rabe. Or forest mushrooms and tagliatelle with Brussels sprouts, peppercress and Parmesan.
Nightly specials will include dishes like beef stroganoff with succulent braised beef cheek, pappardelle, mushroom, mustard and crème fraiche; fried fish from Wisconsin lakes; and of course, prime rib.
The full dinner and bar menus were scheduled to go public via the website (www.1847stammhouse.com)
The management team, which has been working for two years to fix up a building that had fallen into the bank’s hands before closing its doors, crafted a place where they say classic foundations meet modern innovation.
The building has colorfully served over the years as an inn, tavern, post office, general store, stagecoach stop, community center, library and dance hall. From the 1940s to present it has changed hands several times as a supper club.
But while supper clubs are a dime a dozen in Wisconsin, 1847 at the Stamm House is striving for something more.
“We want,” says Hamilton, “to embrace this building’s entire history. The golden age of the supper club era, yes, but everything else, too.”
“Our kitchen specializes in classic, yet innovative cooking that pays homage to the building blocks of a great menu: the farmers, the land, the artisans, and traditional techniques,” reads a statement sent out by the restaurant. “At 1847 the serving staff embody and convey the spirit of the business. The restaurant comes to life through them with time-honored hospitality that exudes warmth, laughter and knowledge.”
While the celebrations are drawing near, 1847 at the Stamm House is the result of two years of work.
Local developer Lake Effect Properties purchased what may be the oldest building in Middleton to bring back a restaurant that has a long history with the city. The renovation was approved by the Middleton Plan Commission and the city’s landmark commission.
Last year, city plan commissioners appeared delighted with the developer’s investment.
“[We’re] saying, we have been here a long time but also ... we are going to try new things too,” Lake Effect Properties president Troy Rost told the commission at the time. “It is that blend of tradition and something new.”
“We are going to call it 1847 at the Stamm House,” Rost continued. “In the past it has always been Stamm House through all the different generations of the owners - this will allow people to realize that there is something new.”
“The original Stamm House has been around so long,” Hamilton adds today. “So many people in the area have an almost spiritual connection to the place. The buzz is self-generating.”
“From head to toe we redid the building,” he concludes. “We did it with respect for the past, but we’re trying to move forward as well.”
1847 at the Stamm House is located at 6625 Century Avenue.