If These Walls Could Talk: Currently Van Horn's Pub and Grill

Grenz, Anderson & Straub. "If These Walls Could Talk: Currently Van Horn's Pub." Northwest Blade, 15 September 2011.

Beer anyone? Nestled between two gargantuan buildings, the Great Plains Bank to the north and the Krein Insurance Agency to the south, is the little building in which beer has flowed during most of its existence. It has been difficult to ascertain the exact time when this building was erected, but it is believed to be one of the oldest buildings in Eureka. If one bothers to look at the south side of Van Horns, one can see that it is built out of the same decorative blocks and concrete that was used to erect the Kennedy Implement in 1907. (The Kennedy Implement is now known as Eureka Plumbing and Heating and was featured in one of the earlier "If These Walls Could Talk" articles.) Popular consensus is that the building was built at the turn of the century.

The McPherson County Directory of 1911 states that August Martell was a dealer in wine, liquors and cigars and operated a saloon in Eureka, known as the Red Front Saloon. The 1916 McPherson Co. Directory reiterates that August Martell was still a proprietor. This author found a reference to the Martel Saloon in the 1920 Eureka Business Directory taken from the Aberdeen American News. According to the photo above, the Red Front Saloon was in this location, next to the Eureka Drug Company.

It must be brought to the readers’ attention that from 1907 to 1915, which would include the years that August Martel owned the Red Front Saloon, repeated attempts were brought to a vote in Eureka to repeal "the sale of intoxicating liquors." (It would seem safe to presume that there were a persistent group of prohibitionists in Eureka.) The vote was always soundly defeated. In 1913, an effort to curb the number of saloons in the city of Eureka, which at one time were numbered at 17, was attempted and again defeated. The city council passed an ordinance fixing annual fees for saloons at $1,000.00, payable in monthly installments in advance on the first day of each month. This pattern changed in 1916 when a vote of 117 to 98 passed the law forbidding the sale of intoxicating liquors at retail making Eureka a DRY town. If this law was ever repealed in Eureka before the end of Prohibition is not known.

A national law of prohibition was passed in 1920 with the 18th amendment to the US constitution. Eureka became "saloonless" in 1921 (Eureka Chronology of 100 years). The clinking of glasses in saloons was replaced by the clandestine "passing of the flask" at dances and other public events. Home stills were very popular during the time of prohibition; liquor sales were now covert and sometimes considered as a neighborhood business. In 1924, an ordinance passed "prohibiting the operating of public pool and billiard halls and bowling alleys within the city of Eureka." Prohibition was repealed on December 5, 1933.

So what was our little building during prohibition years? The 1937 Jubilee book states that Joe’s Barber Shop was opened in 1931 by J. K. Fischer, who purchased the Ideal Barber Shop from N. D. Harr, renovated the building and changed the name. J. K. Fischer ran that business until 1935, assisted by Emanuel Kary and Rheinie Werre. In 1935, Mr. Fischer was forced to close the shop because he was unable to find a new location.

Lester Heilman remembers going there for haircuts in the 1930’s and Earl Krein remembers a gentleman named Adam Preszler who was a farmer, but would get fruit from California and then sell it out of the building.

The date of April 1934 (this date conflicts with the date given as the opening of the J.K. Fischer barber shop) was given as when the building was purchased by Ed (Snooks) Schumacher. Mr. Schumacher also purchased the Ed Kunz equipment in the old Martell Pool Hall building. This establishment was known as Ed’s Billiard Parlor for over twenty years. This is where men came to talk, play pool, drink beer and solve the world’s problems. Harvey Schock worked in Ed’s Billiard Parlor for five years in the late forties.

Ann Bauer who now resides in Fargo, ND, told this author that she had been a clerk in the grocery department of the Eureka Bazaar in Eureka; and on Saturday nights, the grocery stores had to remain open much longer than usual because the wives would wait in the grocery store until their husbands came from the saloons to pick them up. Mrs. Bauer stated "no reputable woman would be seen in those saloons!"

The little building was sold in March 1955 to Elmer Neuharth who named it Neuharth’s Recreation. It was affectionately called Elmer’s. It continued to be a place for relaxation, where one could drink a beer, smoke, and play pool. Elmer and his wife, Edna, ran a very popular place until 1980 when it was sold to a young gentleman named Greg Opp. Mr. Opp stated that he was barely old enough to run a bar when he bought it! It was called Greg’s Bar and Recreation. A small line of food was added at this time and one could buy pizza, barbeque and snack items. Pool was still a major attraction. Mr. Opp stated that there was a decades old Snooker table which was used by many. The traditional card players showed up in the afternoons, and the younger set came in at night.
Greg Opp sold it in 1981 to a retired farmer named Henry Hilgemann. It was named Hank’s Bar and Recreation. Hanks once again gave the little building the luster of its former years where men and now women would come and play pool, snooker, drink beer, eat snacks and talk into the wee hours of the night.

In 1993, Mr. Hilgemann sold the building to Wolfgang Kitzler who named it Our Place. Mr. Kitzler sold the decades old snooker table, much to the chagrin of its loyal patrons. Mr. Kitzler eventually used the building for storage of his video lottery machines.

Not until 1998, when Al Adam bought the building, did we once again see the renewed interest in pool, conversation, card playing and dart tournaments. A very attractive large fresh water aquarium was added for the enjoyment of the patrons. Mr. Adam also added a small kitchen in the back of Al’s Place where now burgers, steaks and other fast foods were offered to his customers. The little building once again took on the vitality and spirit of its past during the decade that Al Adam owned the building. Mr. Adam sold it in 2008 to Lester Van Horn. It was closed for a couple of years, when Chris Gonska & Kristie Kapsner became interested in revitalizing the building. It is once again a popular place to go in Eureka.

If these walls could talk, they would say, "Don’t forget me. I have been here longer than any of you have been alive; and once again; I am alive with laughter, talk, food, beer and good company. Come in and meet my new owners, sit a spell, eat, and enjoy the camaraderie of small town Eureka."

The Red Front Saloon, August Martell proprieter.
Van Horn's
Elmer's Recreation, July 1976 - Museum.
Van Horn's Pub & Grill, 2011
Our Place Bar 9/7/1995 - Museum photo.

Story courtesy of the Northwest Blade, Eureka, SD.
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Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller