Book taps into the State’s Tavern Culture

Tavern culture wisconsin league back roads backroadwisconsin

Bluegill Bar in Birchwood, WI

The tavern in Wisconsin plays an important social role in the State. The perfect tavern is warm and inviting, dimly lit, maybe with a worn bar top and ancient back bar. The barkeepers are gracious and the locals friendly. All over the State these little hole in the wall places still exist, although they are fading more rapidly than you could imagine. Photographer Carl Corey spent the last two years visiting taverns all over the state to create an illustrated document  of our disappearing tavern culture.

From the Milwauke Journal Sentinel:

It’s a world of neon lights and trophy deer, a bowling alley here and a pool table there, mirrors that shimmer and glasses that glisten, and overseeing it all, the owners and workers who toil to keep alive a business and a way of life.

The book is part document, part elegy.

“There is no doubt it will have to change or it will fade out,” Corey says of the tavern.

That’s a theme reflected upon in the book’s introduction by architectural historian Jim Draeger of the Wisconsin Historical Society. Draeger notes how “tavern culture helps define the Wisconsin experience.” These are family-owned gathering spots and “as a result, tavern owners have been staunchly individualistic, resisting attempts to standardize, franchise and homogenize their spaces.”

The book: Tavern League: Portraits of Wisconsin Bars is available from the University of Wisconsin Press.

Do you have a favorite local hangout in your community. Is there a tavern that you can call home?


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