A Century of the Pickwick

Duluth’s oldest and longest operating restaurant is celebrating its centennial this week. Although it didn’t bear the Pickwick name in 1914, the establishment that would later become the Pickwick Restaurant and Pub opened 100 years ago. The centennial celebration continues through Saturday. See the PDD Calendar for details.

Below is some historical data from the restaurant’s promotional kit. (Certain items have been called into question. Read the comments to this post for corrections by Tony Dierckins of Zenith City Online.)

The Pickwick offers award-worthy meals with an Old World atmosphere. The European-style woodwork and furniture is a hardy hat tip to Duluth’s skilled immigrants. Even the painted canvases in the Dutch Room were brought over from the former location. Hidden in the artwork is a five-fingered monk, a grasshopper commemoration of the insect plague of 1873 and beer-brewing gnomes. Behind the bar, a hogshead cask from the Fitger’s establishment can be spotted. An urban myth says a tap once ran between the two buildings, but you can’t believe everything people tell you.

Timeline

  • 1888 – Beginning of Pickwick as a small tasting pub known as the ‘Old Saloon’ within Fitger’s Brewing Company.
  • 1914 – Pickwick moves to current location at 508 East Superior Street.
  • 1918 – Joseph S. Wisocki bought the business for $200, which he borrowed.
  • 1918 – Prohibition was enacted.
  • 1918-1933 – Pickwick’s main menu items were “Near Beer” and sandwiches.
  • 1933 – President Franklin D. Roosevelt repeals prohibition; around 9,000 Duluthians take to Pickwick to celebrate; the Pickwick Pub remained open 24 hours and served a stein of beer for 5¢.
  • 1950s – Joseph Wisocki Jr. takes over the business for his late father.
  • 1970s – Joseph’s sons Steven and Tony Wisocki takes over management of the Pickwick.
  • 1990s – Chris Wisocki takes reins from father Steven.
  • 2010 – Tim and Amy Wright purchased Pickwick in partnership with the Holm Brothers and begin management of the business in June of that year; renovations commence to restore the building aesthetic to the 1940s. Reopens in August.
  • 2014 – Pickwick celebrates current location’s centennial.

Owner Biographies

Tim and Amy Wright – Co-owners and Operators
Tim is originally from Chicago, while Amy was born and raised in Duluth. Together in 1993, the couple built and ran Aberdeen Lodge, a first-class resort in Manitowish Waters, Wis. Tim and Amy moved to Duluth in 1999 and sold the lodge in 2000. In 2010 Tim and Amy, in partnership with the Holm Brothers, purchased the restaurant and began the journey of bringing life back to the long-standing landmark by the lake.

Holm Brothers – Co-owners
Excited to have the opportunity to be a part of the rich heritage and carry on the tradition of the restaurant, co-owners Dean, Duane and Dan Holm have been long-time Pickwick patrons. Coming from four generations of family-owned contracting, they have put their personal touch on the physical changes both inside and outside of the building. Every attention was given to preserve the building and reuse and match the woodwork chosen by the previous owners.

10 Comments

Tony D.

about 1 month ago

Paul: Thanks for supplying the history of the Pickwick. Hope you don't mind if I suggest some corrections to the new owner's timeline. I don't know where they found their information, but it contains some misinformation: • There was never a facility called the "Old Saloon" associated with Fitger's. In September 1881, a year before he hired August Fitger, brewery owner Mike Fink built a new facility for his brewery on Superior Street. It included a drinking establishment called the Brewery Saloon. This is the Pickwick's predecessor. • The "Pickwick" did not "move" in 1914. August Fitger and Percy Anneke built a new Brewery Saloon at 508 Superior Street in 1914. There was no "Pickwick" establishment until 1920. • Those canvases were part of an 1894 remodel of the 1881 Brewery Saloon; the paintings were executed by Feodor von Leurzer and John Fery. Frey also pained new murals in the new building in 1914 (Von Leurzer was dead by the time). You can read about Leurzer here. • Wisocki first leased and later purchased the Brewery Saloon/Pickwick • The Brewery saloon didn't become known as the Pickwick until 1919 or soon thereafter. That year Fitger's first produced a non-alcoholic drink called "Pickwick." It was served at Wisocki's Brewery Saloon and was said to be a "great mixer," perfect for those sneaking in their own hooch during Prohibition. People started saying they were going "to get a Pickwick." Soon they were saying, "I am going to the Pickwick." By 1920, Wisocki had changed the name and likely purchased (rather than continue leasing) the building at that time. • Another tidbit of interest: On November 12, 1935, the first canned beer in the city of Duluth went to the Pickwick — only five cases! Sorry to step on your post, Paul: the new owners hired me to research and present a history of the Brewery/Pickwick for their celebration (then cancelled the presentation without informing me), so I have spent a great deal of time researching the topic very recently. If you want the whole story on Fitger's/the Pickwick, there is a book available at the Bookstore @ Fitger's titled Fitger's: The Brewery and Its People by the late Coopen Johnson that contains a ton of great information.

Paul Lundgren

about 1 month ago

Providing facts is by no means stepping on a post. Thanks for these details, Tony.

jessige

about 1 month ago

Is there somewhere I could get a print of the prohibition photo? That's freaking awesome.

Paul Lundgren

about 1 month ago

Yeah, she's a beaut. Look for an 884-by-709-pixel version in your inbox, which ought to be good enough for a small print.

Tony D.

about 1 month ago

Before anyone starts downloading historic images, did the folks at the Pickwick give any credit to where those images came from? Some historical organizations get pretty upset when their images start getting passed around (even those that are technically public domain due to age). Best to check the original source. Unless you are somehow making money from the images (e.g., using them in a book), they won't charge you, but that doesn't mean you don't need to ask permission for use. That being said, I want ALL of these images for Zenith City!

udarnik

about 1 month ago

Are the extensive TV screens part of the "personal touch?" That's one of the things that drove me away.

hbh1

about 1 month ago

Not a single woman in that Repeal photo except a couple of the servers. Until I did some research on women and their role in Prohibition, I'd never really realized that it wasn't until speakeasies and blind pigs (i.e. illegal saloons) that women went to saloons. (They could pick up a growler at the side door—usually literally a bucket of beer -- and in some places they could have a bit to eat in the back room with the tables, but not if you were respectable.) After prohibition was repealed, this taboo was supposedly gone, but I guess not at the Pickwick!

jessige

about 4 weeks ago

Tony, looks to me like the Pickwick owns the Prohibition photo. I just quickly googled "Pickwick Duluth Prohibition" and got an image result on hamburgersaremylife.wordpress.com. It's a photo of the photo, which appears to be hanging in the Pickwick. I have to confess, I haven't been to the Pickwick in years, so I can't swear to it, but in 2009, it was evidently there.

suebedo

about 4 weeks ago

The prohibition picture was in the front entry until the place was sold. Was not there last summer when I was there. My father told me several times he was there that night. At midnight Joe broke a bottle of near beer , I believe at the fireplace, and said - no more. Heard that story from when I was a child so would guess it is fairly accurate.

Tony D.

about 4 weeks ago

Sue, the story I've often heard is that either Joe Wisocki or John Beerhalter (brewmaster at Fitger's at the time; later the owner) poured the last of the near beer from the tap into a glass, sniffed at it, and then threw the beer, glass and all, into the fireplace. Here is more about the end of Prohibition in Duluth: April 6, 1933: Prohibition ends—and Fitger’s is ready

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