Friday, March 31, 2017

The Gobbler Reborn: the New Gobbler Theater

Sometimes miracles do happen: the revamped and re-imagined Gobbler Theater in Johnson Creek, WI is now a popular new venue specializing in "intimate" concerts - the building's unusual circular layout must make for a one-of-a-kind entertainment experience we'd love to see firsthand. Piet Levy of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has put together a beautiful photoessay on the Gobbler, with some rare views of its past and present incarnations. Levy describes how the owners deftly "tuned" the Gobbler Theater's bookings for maximum local fan appeal:
Following a soft opening with a local school choir in December 2015, the Gobbler Theater had its first name band last April in Starship—the rock group behind the infamous, oft-maligned "We Built This City." But the venue between Milwaukee and Madison quickly and wisely switched gears to focus on country, the dominant genre in the market. Noted g[u]e[s]ts so far include Maddie & Tae, Jana Kramer and Confederate Railroad, with Lorrie Morgan, Easton Corbin and Little Texas coming up through July.
We Fans of the Gobbler certainly wish Theater owner Dan Manesis much success with his "labor of love." You can check out upcoming shows - including country stars Lorrie Morgan on April 29, and Aaron Tippin on October 13 - and purchase tickets at the official Gobbler Theater website. (Photo by Dan Zaitz for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Friday, June 12, 2015

Belated RIP: Gobbler Architect Helmut Ajango

The saying goes, one should never wait too long to contact (or re-contact) long-lost friends or relatives; the same could be said of long-admired artists, like Helmut Ajango, architect of the Gobbler Restaurant and Motel, who passed away November 2013. You never know when you'll lose your only chance. I'd mused on the idea of sending Mr. Ajango a postcard or letter telling him how much I admired the Gobbler's design and how much interest the building continued to inspire decades on. I'm sure he already knew, judging from the number of Web references to his designs steadily amassing over the past decade or so. Of course, the Gobbler was only one of many dozens of striking buildings, homes, banks, and churches he dreamed up on his drafting table that still bring a touch of bygone-era beauty to towns and cities across the Midwest. I never sent that card, but wish I had. RIP, Mr. Ajango. Image courtesy

What's the Status of the New "Gobbler Theater"?

UPDATE, 6/12/15 4:25PM: Check out the Gobbler Supper Club & Motel Facebook page for photos of the ongoing restoration; looks like a lot has been changing beneath the famous dome!

It's been a little over one year since the Midwestern press announced Wisconsin entrepreneur (and fellow Retrologist) Dan Manesis' plans to resurrect The Gobbler Restaurant as a 400-500 seat entertainment venue. Has anyone heard "through the grapevine" if there's been any progress on the project? [Fantastic image of discarded Gobbler chairs courtesy of the Mid-Century Modern Freak blog. I'm unsure of the photographer (I will gladly credit) or the date, but about 10 years ago we found one discarded purple chair in the Gobbler dumpster that's a proud conversation piece.]

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Gobbler Links: Updated!

"My mom and my dad just both liked the color pink. Some people like green, some like blue, they liked pink."

-- Clarence Hartwig, Jr., quoted in Linda Godfrey's "The Gobbler Lives"

Many of the websites that were featured on the original post are now defunct, but archived links have been provided where available courtesy of the wonderful Wayback Machine.

You can obtain information on the current status of the property by contacting the real estate agency representing the current owners. More information is available at (Please note, I am not connected with the property owners or the real estate agency in any way, and I can not answer any inquiries about the property.)

The Gobbler Motel and Restaurant now has its own Facebook page. (Please note that while this page lists this blog's link in the "About" section, I am not connected with the page, or its authors/owners.)

Friday, May 23, 2008

Gobbler Gala Set for June 6th, in Johnson Creek WI!

Gobbler Motel and Restaurant Fans have an exciting date to mark on the calendar - the Gobbler Gala is coming to the one-of-a-kind former restaurant on June 6th! Wisconsin State Journal's Doug Moe give us the details:
...On June 6, The Frank Lloyd Wright Wisconsin Tourism Program will host "The Gobbler Gala," a dinner and discussion at the building in Johnson Creek, just off Interstate 94, that was once the Gobbler Supper Club.

There will be a catered gourmet turkey dinner and speakers will include Jefferson architect Helmut Ajango, who designed the Gobbler, and Wright historian Sidney Robinson, formerly of the University of Illinois-Chicago, now with the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. As one who rarely missed an opportunity during a Madison-to-Milwaukee run to duck off the highway and seek refreshment at the Gobbler, I am both amused and pleased by this development.

The idea came from Jack Holzhueter, retired after many years with the Wisconsin Historical Society, and a Wright Tourism board member. He enlisted another board member, Margo Melli, a Madison attorney and law professor, and together they persuaded the current owner of the Gobbler property, Jefferson attorney Raymond Krek, to go along. Though the restaurant has been closed for several years, much of the interior is still in place and Holzhueter said there's even a chance they'll get the revolving bar operating.

The only real problem is explaining the uniqueness of the Gobbler, which for most of its years had a motel adjacent to the restaurant, to those who never experienced it... [read the full article at the Wisconsin State Journal]
You can read more about the Gobbler's Motel's history and 2001 demise at our sister site, farkleberries.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Gobbler Motel and Restaurant: The Television Commercial

From what I've been able to determine, this catchy commercial aired in the Milwaukee/Madison area broadcast market in the early to mid 1980's. Look closely, and you can see the restaurant's padded vinyl seating, the rotating bar, even the dance loft rendered in loving hand-painted detail! There's even a brief glimpse of the motel entrance in a pan shot.

I don't know the exact airdates, or which creative/advertising agency put it together, but it's delightful.

[Kindly uploaded to YouTube by user "miaotong"]

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Once Upon A Time, in Wisconsin...

There was a place called The Gobbler.

The motel's design was a unique spoked "Prairie" style semicircle; luxurious purple, red, blue and pink shag carpeting graced many of the Gobbler's surfaces in its early-1970's heyday, a period when grooviness meant a bedroom covered floor-to-ceiling in the stuff.

Every detail - from lavender vinyl dining room upholstery to built-in 8-track stereos [in the "business suites" - as if we couldn't guess what sort of "business" was conducted in a motel room with a red shag-covered heart-shaped bed] exemplified over-the-top kitsch luxury.

Staying at the Gobbler, a traveler could enjoy hip sleepquarters, and then roll downhill for fine dining specializing in Meleagris gallopavo at the matching Gobbler restaurant. That would be - ahem - gobbler, because Clarence Hartwig Sr., the original owner of the complex, was a well-known Wisconsin turkey farmer.

Some people believe every object contains a bit of the energy of everyone that came in contact with it: considering its rich lore, that alone would have been enough reason to keep the Gobbler standing. Sure, we can't keep every old building - we'd be overrun with collapsing hulks in a few generations. Still, we can try to remember the interesting, the adventurous, and the unique. The Gobbler certainly was all of those.

Don't forget to stop by the recently-updated (April 2005) Gobbler Links section, with connections to fresh news stories on the Gobbler Motel and Restaurant!