famed tavern gets city historic designation
A notable bar on Water Street since it opened in the 1970s, The Joynt has been recognized as a local historic landmark by the city of Eau Claire’s Landmarks Commission. As of Aug. 4, the bar known for its jazz history and lack of light beer is a registered historic landmark following a 2013 nomination. “As far as the architecture, it’s not remarkable,” longtime owner Bill Nolte said. “But it has been a building here for over 100 years.” Originally opening as the Hutchinson’s Saddlery, the building has been around since the late 1800s. Since being erected, the saddlery adjusted to the times and became an automobile tire dealer. After being a used furniture shop and meat market, the building became a tavern in 1945 and has stayed that way ever since.
Much of the historic recognition is through the time during Nolte’s ownership, though, as the statement of significance in the nomination says, “The Joynt, which Nolte purchased and fixed up in 1973, developed into a neighborhood, sophisticated college bar, a place characterized by regulars who were fond of talking about politics, music, art, and sports.”
“The Joynt is a place where all things converge. So that’s this place ... and people find their way here when they’re ready.” – Bill Nolte, owner of The Joynt, on his bar’s historic distinction
Nolte began to feature live music, and The Joynt quickly became a regular stop for well-known jazz artists who were on their way to Chicago, Madison, or the Twin Cities. Starting with Ahmad Jamal in 1974, the now-defunct stage saw the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, McCoy Tyner, and Gerry Mulligan, just to name a few. Notable area groups and musicians, like the Water Street Big Band along with Geoffrey Keezer, also frequented as performers during the 26-year stretch of music at 322 Water St. Artists were able to enjoy an intimate musical setting that was rarely equaled during a time when jazz was played in front of huge audiences around the world.
Nolte never had the goal of making money or gain notoriety from these shows (as he put it, “We weren’t blazing trails!”), but rather to break even and give patrons a chance to witness a fantastic musical endeavor.
While the building itself didn’t have much historical weight, it was the musicians whose pictures line the walls and the continued camaraderie of its customers that make The Joynt an unforgettable spot in Eau Claire. “The Joynt is a place where all things converge,” Nolte said. “So, that’s this place … and people find their way here when they’re ready.”