Hope Fades for Pagoda

fundraising plans to restore landmark end, museum intends to salvage only top of structure

Tom Giffey, photos by Andrea Paulseth

A fundraising effort to restore the architectural icon that once topped Woo’s Pagoda restaurant in Eau Claire has fallen short, likely signaling the end of plans to preserve the kitschy local landmark. The 18-foot-tall pagoda was salvaged when the defunct Hastings Way restaurant was torn down in 2014, but since then has continued to deteriorate at its outdoor storage spot next to Banbury Place.

Earlier this year, the Chippewa Valley Museum announced that it would abandon plans to restore the pagoda unless it could be stored indoors, and in the 11th hour Chippewa Valley Door Co. offered space inside a building it owns in Chippewa Falls. Previously, Live in Eau Claire – a local real estate business that is also affiliated with The Local Lounge restaurant – had offered to fix up the wood-and-steel structure on the condition that indoor storage was found. A fundraising dinner feature Woo’s Pagoda recipes was held at The Local Lounge in May. However, only about $3,000 was raised, falling far short of the estimated restoration cost of more than $15,000, said Carrie Ronnander, Chippewa Valley Museum director.

In a September email to Rob Bearrood, owner of Chippewa Valley Door Co., Chase Collins of Live in Eau Claire said he was canceling plans to renovate the pagoda because of a lack of public support. (Collins couldn’t be reached for comment for this article.) Ronnander said Collins has offered to give the $3,000 to the museum, which it plans to use to restore the topmost portion of the pagoda for possible display. “It’s a lot easier to think about that than an 18-foot pagoda,” Ronnander said.

The fate of the remainder of the decaying structure is unclear, but signs don’t look good. Ronnander said the museum’s board of directors will make a final decision in the near future.

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