The Angus Haus at 155 East Main Street, Evansville, Wisconsin, was destroyed by fire in the early morning hours of February 13, 2007.  The restaurant, a popular Evansville eating place, has served as a hotel and restaurant since August 1878.  George Wolfe, a house painter, built an addition to his house near the depot and opened a "railroad eating house." 

Keeping a hotel was one of many businesses Wolfe tried during his lifetime.  He was born in Pennsylvania in 1849 and four years later, his family moved to Iowa.  In 1872, he married Martha Barnum and they lived in Comanche, Iowa where he worked as a house painter.  Martha and George decided to move to Evansville in 1876. 

George Wolfe continued to work as a painter, until he made his home into a hotel.  Running a restaurant and hotel did not suit Wolfe and he sold the business to Sylvester Hill in 1879.  Wolfe took a job at the Baker Manufacturing plant, as manager of the paint department.  Years later, Wolfe opened a meat market and in the early 1900s operated the Central House, another Evansville hotel.

The new owner of the business, Sylvester Hill, bought the hotel at 155 East Main Street and began making improvements.  When the 1880 census was taken, Hill was 46 years old and he and his wife, Sarah, and two sons, Elmer and John, lived at the hotel, along with several boarders. 

Hill named his new enterprise, the Hill House and was often referred to in local news items as The Railroad House.  A barn associated with the hotel was enlarged in 1880 with a 30 x 30 foot addition.

The hotel was enlarged in 1881 and the name was changed to "The Commercial House."  This named stayed with the building over the next seventy years.

The hotel was nearly swept off its foundation in a flood on the night of June 29, 1882.  A terrible thunderstorm hit Evansville.  Lightning struck a barn and men were fighting the fire when the news spread that Allen's Creek was flooding.  The men were so occupied with the fire that no one had remembered to open the gates of the dam at the mill pond and the flood waters rushed over and through the dam, washing it away. 

Bridges, railroad tracks, sties and fences were swept along with the rushing water.  The water rose to the level of the windows at the Commercial House.  Hill saw a pig floating in the stream of water, opened a window and brought the pig into the hotel dining room. 

After the flood, the street commissioner was ordered to straighten the creek bed, to try to prevent damage to buildings located along Allen's Creek.  This was the first of several floods that damaged the Commercial House.

A month after the flood, in July 1882, Hill decided to quit the hotel business in Evansville and placed an ad in the Evansville Review.  "For Sale.  All the furniture and household goods in the Commercial House."

The following month, Joshua Owen, a Footville merchant, took over the hotel.  For three years, Owen rented the building.  When he decided it was a business that he wanted, Owen Paid $2,000 and became the new owner of the building.

Most of the hotel and restaurant business came from railroad men or boarders.  A special event in June 1883 brought thousands of people to Evansville.  The 13th Wisconsin Infantry regiment held a reunion in Evansville and the Civil War veterans, their families and friends, arrived for the festivities.  The organizers of the event had planned a Civil War "grand campfire and barbecue," a military meal of pork and beans, donuts and hard tack.  Joshua Owens planned a more appetizing menu for those who did not want to take part in the Civil War era meal. 

For his day-to-day business, Owens depended on men employed by the railroad.  The Chicago and Northwestern employees often chose to take room and board at the hotel because of the convenient location near the Evansville depot.  In 1886, a railroad line between Janesville and Evansville was under construction.  The new route was called "The Cutoff" and the railroad company had a large force of men building the new road.

When the construction workers were injured on the job, they were taken to the Commercial House and treated by the railroad's physician.  Six people were injured during the work near Evansville and taken to rooms in the hotel.  Archie Campbell and Frank Benedix had broken legs.  Fred Sholts injured his hand while coupling cars and a Mr. Shea had severe internal injuries from being jammed against a gravel car.  Joshua Owen did his best to keep the men comfortable and happy while they were guests at his hotel.

In the 1880s, Evansville had three hotels and all were doing a good business.  Traveling actors who played at the Magee Theater, traveling salesmen calling on Evansville businesses, and several permanent boarders, kept all three hotels in business.

Joshua Owens and his wife Margaret ran the hotel for nearly 20 years.  Margaret Owen was a native of Pennsylvania and came to Wisconsin with her parents when she was 20 years old.  Her family settled in Plymouth township in Rock County and there she met and married Joshua Owen, a general store merchant in Footville.

The Owens' owned the hotel in Evansville from 1882 until 1903.  They built an addition in 1899 and leased the hotel to other parties.  In 1903, the Owens' moved out of the hotel to a new residence on North Madison Street.  The hotel was leased to B. Sorenson until 1905.  Then Fred Allen and his wife took over the business for a short while.

Margaret Owens died in 1906 and for a few years following her death, Joshua once again took over management of the hotel.  He hired 16-year-old Ella Cassidy to help in the hotel.  In 1907, Ella married architect/builder William Meggott and two years later they purchased the hotel from Owens. 

Meggott was well known in Evansville, as a designer and builder of the Grange Store and the Eager block on East Main Street (Ace Hardware) and St. Paul's Catholic Church. He had served as the general contractor for the Eager Free Public Library.

The Meggotts did some extensive redecorating by staining all of the wood on the first floor in a walnut finish.  The second floor was decorated in mahogany and ivory colors.  New furnishings were purchased and gas lights were installed. 

William Meggott died in 1912, leaving Ella with her young daughter, Eunice.  Ella decided to continue to operate the hotel.

In 1924, a large wing was added on the south side of the hotel.  The dining room was enlarged and a steam-heat furnace was installed.  New bathrooms, with hot and cold running water, were added to the conveniences offered to hotel customers.  Sat Brown, a local mason, was hired to build the chimney for the new furnace.

While the building was being remodeled, Ella Meggott closed the restaurant portion of her business and reopened in January 1925 in her new rooms.  The announcement of the reopening was met with joy by her regular customers. 

Ella briefly sold the business to Nate Anderson of Wisconsin Rapids in 1928.  Ella and her daughter, Eunice retired from the hotel life and moved to a home on East Main Street.  The retirement was short lived and nine months after purchasing the business, Anderson returned to Wisconsin Rapids. Ella and Eunice, once again operated the hotel and restaurant.

Once again, Ella remodeled and redecorated the hotel.  There was a small parlor for guests who wanted a little more privacy. 

The main lobby was enlarged and furnished with wicker furniture.  Three large French doors separated the lobby from the restaurant.  The dining room had 12 tables to accommodate 50 people.  The second floor was also remodeled and new steel beds were put in the rooms.

By 1933, the Depression was reducing the number of traveling salesmen coming into Evansville and local people found that eating in restaurants was a luxury few could afford.  Ella Meggott closed her restaurant in the hotel and announced that she would only furnish lodging.  Ella told her customers that food prices were so high that even being as economical as she could, she was operating the restaurant at a loss.  As the economy improved slightly in the late 1930s, she once again opened a restaurant.

In April 1940, the Commercial hotel was sold to Mr. and Mrs. Fred Miller.  Miller operated a grocery and meat store just across Allen's Creek to the west, at 137 East Main at the same time that he and his wife ran the hotel.  They renamed the hotel, Miller's Hotel.

Miller was from Cooksville and married Henrietta Viney in 1899.  After farming for a short time, they moved to Evansville in the 1920s.  Henrietta died in 1948 and Fred decided to sell the business.

Miller found a willing buyer in Stanley Sperry, a retired professional baseball player from Evansville.  Stan and his wife, Iris, moved into the hotel with their five children, Stanley, Jr., Ross, Scott, Jed and Gail.  Stan's father and mother, Fred and Martha Sperry, also moved into the hotel. 

Martha was an experienced restaurant cook and had most recently worked at "Doc" Schuster's Cafe, located in the Baker Block on East Main Street.  Martha and her daughter-in-law, Iris, became the hotel cooks. 

After leasing the building from Miller for a few years, the Sperrys purchased the building in 1955.  Stan Sperry was well known to Evansville residents.  He had been a star athlete at the Evansville High School, earning 14 letters in football, basketball, baseball and track.  After graduation, he became a major league baseball player and the local newspapers had followed his ball playing career as a second baseman with a professional team in Eau Claire in 1933; the Philadelphia Philies in 1934; the Oklahoma City Indians, Philadelphia Athletics, and a San Diego team.

After Sperry returned to Wisconsin he served on the Rock County Sheriff's department.  After purchasing the hotel, he also worked part-time for the Evansville Police Department.  He died in 1962, at the age of 47.  His obituary said that Sperry had operated the restaurant and bar for 10 years.

Fred Sperry was a popular Evansville barber, and his son's greatest fan.  He had started his barbering career as a shoe shine boy and barber's apprentice when he was in the seventh grade.  He apprenticed in the shop of Arthur H. Devine.  He operated a barber shop at the hotel, that was known as the Sperry Hotel.  Fred and Martha celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at the hotel in January 1964. 

As in earlier years, the Sperry Hotel was the victim of one of Allen's Creek's raging floods.  In June 1967, the banks of the creek overflowed, after a two-inch down pour of rain.  The concrete dam at Lake Leota cracked near one of the two spillways and men were stationed at the dam to check for further damage.  In addition to the damage at the hotel, Baker Manufacturing and Pruden Manufacturing plants were damaged from the four feet of water that pushed silt and debris onto their land.

The Sperry's had just installed a $5,000 heating system in the basement of the hotel and during the height of the flood water gushed through the windows in the foundation of the building.  Six to eight feet of water filled the basement.  "It is the biggest mess I've seen," Iris Sperry remarked to a newsman who interviewed victims of the flood.

The Sperry's sold the Hotel in the late 1960s to Arnold Montague of Stoughton.  Montague hired Leonard "Lonnie" Grignano to manage the restaurant for him.  Grignano purchased the business in 1976 for $56,580.  He repaired the kitchen and built a new front entrance.  Grignano renamed the business, "The Coach House."  Although the building no longer served as a hotel, there were still rooms for rent in the second story of the building. 

Grignano sold the restaurant in the late 1980s to the Plescia family.  The Plescia's sold the business to Tom and Terry Allen and in 2003, the business was sold to the Bauer family and the name of the business was changed to the "Bauer Haus."  For a few months in 2005, the restaurant was closed.  Then in September 2006, the Bauers leased the restaurant to Lanny Ross and Traci Klemm.  Ross and Klemm operated the restaurant as the "Angus Haus" until the business burned on February 13, 2007.

According to news reports, a restaurant employee who lived in one of the apartments above the restaurant smelled smoke and alerted other residents and the Evansville Fire Department.  Although Evansville and area fire departments responded to the blaze in the early morning hours of the 13th, and stayed on the scene for several hours fighting the fire, the building was a total loss.