Thanks for Asking | August 9, 2012

our local Jack-of-all-Facts tells you how it is

Frank Smoot |

What is the tall tower that stands between the two church properties on East Hamilton Avenue?

Thanks for asking! I know the tower that piques you. It’s the willowy, powder-gray model standing next to the brown ranch-style building near East Hamilton and Halsey. (It would be in the 400 block of East Hamilton, if it had an address.)

I wish I had a more exciting answer. As I reflected on it, I thought, Oh man, that’s right at the southwest corner of the old State Street Airport, which served Eau Claire from 1919-1950. Maybe I just never noticed it back in the day. Maybe the tower had something to do with Civil Defense. Or WWII. Or the Cold War Soviets. (And, those looking enthusiastically for traces of the airfield can see them: After Fillmore doglegs northeast, it precisely follows one runway. May Street almost precisely follows another.)

But no. According to the Department of Community Development (by way of Cathy Marohl of the City Manager’s Office: thanks Cathy!), in 2007 the Plan Commission approved a conditional-use permit for the site to Clearwire for a 100-foot ‘camouflaged antenna.’ Camouflaged as what I’m not sure. (Note to Clearwire: If you’re gonna go camo, why not a palm tree or a saguaro cactus? Flagpole, lighthouse, grain silo? Shoot me a note; I got more....) As for the building in its shadow, Cathy believes Chapel Heights Methodist uses it to store lawn and snow-removal gear.

I guess it can’t always be about the Russians.

Do you know the name of the donut shop that was on Brackett Ave. where Brother’s Three used to be? This was back in the 70s.  Thanks!

Well, Brothers Three was on Harding, not Brackett. But don’t worry about it: no one can keep those two straight. (Of course Harding is also the locally famous but non-existent Plank Street.) 1720 by number.

As for 1720 in the 1970s, you might be thinking of Dash’s Hi-Dine, owned by Harland Dascher and his wife Viola. The Daschers had been restaurant owners for decades, from the Gold Ribbon in 1949 to the Westerner in 1980. Perhaps Eau Claire’s longest-tenured Pentecostal restaurateurs. They both just passed away in the last few years.

That particular address isn’t an old one in Eau Claire. But, man, it’s had more different kinds of enterprises on it than just about any other particular city spot: an ambulance service, drive-in, real estate office, tavern, auto dealer, a BBQ joint.

Did the children of the late Phil Hartman stay living in Eau Claire or move on to larger fame?

Sean and Birgen Hartman were in Eau Claire fairly briefly. After their mother Brynn shot and killed their father, Brynn’s sister Katherine and Katherine’s husband Michael Wright took the kids in. Fairly shortly after, they all moved to Edina, where Michael had been transferred, if I remember the story right.

While she was in high school, Birgen and a friend organized a screening of the Darfur documentary The Devil Came on Horseback. The girls worked hard to get media attention, including an interview on KSTP-TV. Some 300 people attended the screening and then stayed for a roundtable by state and local officials. Birgen and her friend (Emma Weisberg) got a Mayor’s Youth Commendation. She’s now in college, fronts a band called Glitter Bomb, and, like kids these days, has a twitter account. Sean spent his high school years in a couple of bands (Metamorphis Mexico and, umm, some other one...), then became a visual artist. As far as I know, they’re both doing all right.

Got a local question? Send it (205 N. Dewey St.) or email it ( and Frank will answer it!  Frank has lived in Eau Claire for most of the past 43 years. He is an editor and researcher at the Chippewa Valley Museum, which is open all year just beyond the Paul Bunyan Camp Museum in beautiful Carson Park. You should go there.