Love of the forever home and business, unexpected deaths
and one murder have caused spectral supervisors and
boarders who never left keep the living company.
The Sheeley House Saloon is an Italianate style structure, described by the National Register of Historic Places as being a “three story cubical mass with a two story rectangular wing extending to the rear of the property.”
Because the basement is level to the street, with the two floors above it makes the structure look bigger and grander, like the Duff Green Mansion in Vicksburg, MS.
From outside, this carefully restored working-class house saloon sure has its authentic 1886 aura, as it looks just like the pictures of it taken so long ago.
Inside hasn’t been yuppified but it looks like a comforting watering hole for locals, and visitors who like authentic, historic bars.
The bar area, located on the first floor by the sidewalk, has its original copper ceiling. The interior space is ordinary but practical, with no airs like fancy woodwork. It has a plain, functional wooden bar with a backboard that holds the liquor and alcohol. The back part of the first floor has tables and chairs for dining. The restrooms were quite upscale and pretty.
The second and third floors have been restored to be useful areas for private affairs and gatherings of all kinds, acting as a profitable revenue source.
The second floor is home to the formal dining room, used for social events and meetings. The third floor is available for private parties and banquets. Some walls may have been taken down to make room for larger spaces.
Tom and I enjoyed a delicious dinner in the bar and can testify that the food offerings are outstanding, thanks to the talents of Chef Brian Jensen, who has joined current owner Jess Moran, in providing high quality meals and drinks in a historic atmosphere that must please the former spectral owners.
There is also a large outdoor patio on the east side of the structure.
The oldest part of the building was constructed in 1864. Carl Hering bought the property and used it as a carriage and blacksmith shop, as it was located just north of a small house where the Hering family lived.
In 1884, John Battlias Paul bought the property. He removed the home and built this three story boarding house in its place, and connected the large building to the original carriage and blacksmith shop.
The entire building was surfaced by red brick.
The first floor was used as a stable, for their own horses and those of their guests. The second floor had a small kitchen, was the living quarters of the owners, and a dining room for third floor guests.
The third floor had thirteen rooms that were rented to travelers. For added income possibilities, a small carriage repair shop was situated at the Northern end of the property in a separate building.
In 1905, it was put on the real estate market once again and was soon bought by Irish immigrants James and Kate Sheeley, who saw its possibilities as a commercial investment.
They renovated the stable into a saloon, and moved into the second floor apartment with their three children: William, Howard and Anna. They continued to rent the third floor rooms, offering long-term accommodations to mostly lumberjacks, turning their lodging area into a boarding house.
Kate, William, Howard and Anna prepared the food for meals and maintained the rooms for paying guests. James ran the saloon.
James Sheeley died in 1913 from stomach cancer on the second floor, and his wake and funeral were held on the property.
Kate and her children continued to serve meals and rent rooms, but leased the saloon to another party to operate it and pay the family a portion of the profits.
In 1934, Kate Sheeley fell down the stairs and broke her hip and died from an infection resulting from her injuries. Her funeral was also held here. William, Henry and Anna continued running the family business.
Unfortunately, the wife of one of the brothers, wasn’t happy because of her life here. She became depressed and killed herself. This probably caused the brothers to get out of the family livelihood, leaving Anna to manage on her own in a place that she loved, despite all of the drama she’d lived through.
Anna did well managing the rooms of their boarding house but stopped serving meals. Her biggest challenge was to find a suitable saloon manager. Finally in 1939, Frank “Frenchy” LaCour came on board, full of enthusiasm and great ideas.
For twenty-eight years, he worked hard to serve the coldest beer in town, becoming the most successful lease holder, up until 1967 when the saloon was closed probably because Anna could not make the necessary upgrades to pass inspection by the state of Wisconsin.
Anna continued to rent out the rooms to boarders throughout the 1970s. Sadly, in 1981, she had to leave her beloved forever home due to failing health.
The whole property was again placed on the real estate market, badly in need of restoration and basic repair. It would take substantial funds and dedication to make it a viable business once more, This challenge was not for the easily discouraged, or for people looking for a property to flip fast.
What the saloon had going for it was that its structural bones were solid, as it was built to last. The location was perfect for a commercial business to thrive. David and Sharon Rhiley were up for the challenge and bought the place, one of the last historical boarding houses in the Chippewa Valley.
The Rhileys were serious about doing an authentic restoration. Using pictures from Sheeley family descendants of what the original interior and exterior looked like, they went to work.
They replaced the missing balcony and the exterior trim and bargeboard by studying historic photographs before ordering the millwork.
Inside, the solid oak wainscoting, trim bar and back bar were reconstructed to look like they did in 1912. The second floor dining room was restored as well, with the added perk of having the original Sheeley furnishings displayed there.
The kitchen was renovated as well as the electrical and plumbing, etc. to bring the building up to state code.
Ever since then, the Sheeley House Saloon has been fortunate to attract owners willing to maintain and improve the building. At some point, the large outside patio was added. The third floor that at first was used as storage, was renovated to be a banquet and small parties space.
The current owners as of 2022, are Jess and Brian Jensen, who bought this property in 2015. They soon realized they were not alone in their business venture.
HISTORY OF MANIFESTATIONS
At least seven known spirits, as well as perhaps a spectral visitor who hangs out, call this historic building their favorite afterlife home.
When people suffer circumstances beyond their control that suddenly take their lives by accident, illness or murder, their spirits may decide to stay and make themselves feel better about their early, unexpected demise.
Berkeley Plantation, VA (When the owner was suddenly killed by lightning, he decided to be the eternal, spectral master of the house).
Brumder Mansion, WI (When the mob closed the speakeasy in the basement, the employees were executed because they knew too much. The spirits of the fellas and a few other employees stayed and found new positions to volunteer for with the living).
Captain Benson Bailey House Museum, NE (The spirits of Captain Bailey and his wife were poisoned by their next-door neighbor, who didn’t have both oars in the water. Both spirits have chosen to stay).
Sheeley House Saloon, WI (Besides the sudden death of James Sheeley and his wife Kate, three of the guests or tenants who resided on the third floor also suddenly passed away. One guest died from a gangrened wound, another guest died after being crushed between his carriage and his horse, and the third was murdered in his room).
Suicide seldom relieves tortured people of their torment, and they find themselves restless and stuck where they did the deed.
Hotel Paso Del Norte, TX (A bride killed herself by jumping off the hotel after being stood up at the altar. She vents her restlessness by bothering living men).
Slater Hall, University of Iowa, IA (A stressed-out male student jumped off the top of the hall, and has regrets about his rash act).
Old Allen House, AR (The Allen’s daughter, LaDell Allen, was unlucky in love. After yet another failed relationship, she poisoned herself. Her spirit resides in the Allen forever home along with spectral members of her family, making interesting roommates for whomever owns the property).
Sheeley House Saloon, WI (The spirit of the Sheeley brother’s wife who killed herself still frets and roams).
When circumstances force people to leave a property that they loved before they were ready to do so, they are sometimes never able to work through their disappointment completely. As spirits, sometimes they like to come back to the property and spend their afterlife there, which gives them some peace.
Buffalo Central Terminal, NY (Real estate developer Tony Fedele fell head-over- heels in love with the buildings and had a dream to develop businesses in them, as well as protect and restore the local neighborhood. He was foreclosed on because he couldn’t pay the high taxes levied. As a spirit, he moved back into his old third floor apartment space in the tower).
Hartford Twain House, CT (Because Mark Twain wasn’t good at managing money, and their daughter died at home, they had to sell their forever home. As spirits they have moved back inside).
Chateau At Coindre Hall, NY (In 1939, the original owners couldn’t afford to live there any more and sold their beloved home to the Brothers of the Sacred Heart, and moved into the superintendent’s gatehouse home. As spirits they visit and remember their good times, and also enjoy all the special social events).
Sheeley House Saloon, WI (Anna had to leave her home but now her spirit is happily residing in the restored house saloon along with her spectral family. The spirit of Frenchie who had to leave when the saloon was closed, may occasionally visit to see how it is going for the living owner).
Restoring a creaky fixer-upper property can draw spirits attached to it back into this world to once again try to be a part of the life of the building.
Geiser Grand Hotel, OR (As this creaky home for birds and wildlife went through the restoration process, spirits attached to it became so excited that they tried to encourage the workers. They now enjoy the restored hotel).
Brumder Mansion, WI (When a replicated 1920s bar was installed in the basement theatre, the spirits of Sam Pick’s speakeasy crew became very active, so pleased to see an operational bar once more).
The Clayton House Museum, AR (After the house was taken apart, and rebuilt again, restoring it to the way it was when the Claytons lived there, with their special personal belongings on display, spirits became active and made themselves at home once again.
Sheeley House Saloon, WI (As this property was restored historically to what it was while they all were alive, the spirits that have an attachment to it have made themselves known to the living).
Seven or eight spirits still love this structure and have been present since the first restoration, letting the living know their feelings, ideas and standards.
First Signs Noticed
During one of the restoration efforts, a coat of resin was brushed onto the stairs. The next morning, foot prints appeared on the first part of the stairs, disappearing half-way up.
Items were moved around from where the living had placed them
Doors opened and closed with no help from the wind or the living.
Footsteps were heard on the floors above the saloon.
Electrical items were and still are a lot of fun to play with.
Employees feel that they are never alone, as they sense friendly presences keeping them company and mostly encouraging them.
Unseen benign presences are felt on the third floor where the old rooms for guests and boarders were located.
Perhaps they amuse themselves playing with the lights, or pulling playful jokes on the living.
After the Rhileys reopened the restored saloon, a face of a spirit man appeared in the paint on the wall, watching them. It probably was the spirit of James Sheeley, or perhaps that of Frenchie.
A female, see-through apparition who was supervising appeared by the bar. Some thought it was Kate, while others claimed it was Anna.
The security cameras have filmed apparitions going about their business in the building.
THE FLOWER MURAL STAYS!
During the 2001 restoration, it was decided to paint over the flower mural. Uh oh!
No matter how many times the flower mural was painted over, the bright red flowers kept coming through.
As an employee was about to set the tables, silverware went flying at her.
“This should’ve been done earlier!” Or it could’ve been the message was to “Use these, not the ones you are about to put on the tables.”
Making Introductions with current owner Jesse
While Tom and I were enjoying our meal, the bartender gave us the history about their spirits written by the owner Jess, that is also on their website (http://www.sheeleyhousesaloon.com/building-history)
In the month of May, after experiencing a variety of activity, Jesse spoke to the spirits, asking permission to stay, and invited them to be apart of it all with her.
After that invitation, an apparition of a man wearing a red and black flannel top crossed in view of the second floor kitchen camera, letting her know that he was present.
In June, she heard a friendly female voice saying ‘Hey Jess.”
Since the first restoration effort, owners and employees have had a variety of personal experiences with the benign, helpful spectral partners.
Jesse feels their supportive presence, as do the others who work at various jobs. She has experienced most of the activity listed above.
On the security camera, solid apparitions have been caught on film.
Though I couldn’t find any paranormal investigation results shared publicly online, several investigation groups agree that this building has its resident spirits happy to participate.
A big yes indeed is in order!
Spectral members of the Sheeley family feel welcomed and appreciated, glad that they were invited to be a part of Jesse and Brian’s house saloon and restaurant.
They must be pleased with all the restoration work, the high quality of meals and drinks offered, and that all the floors are used to bring in income. Plus, some of their personal belongings are on display as well in the second floor dining room.
Though the third floor guest rooms have been enlarged for parties and banquets, the three spirits who lived there seemed to have adjusted to the changes, as they haven’t made a fuss, but seem to go with the flow as they make the best of it in their afterlife.
Perhaps they have fun attending all the events held in this space, as well as hanging out in the saloon!
236 W. River Street
Chippewa Falls, WI
Sheeley House Saloon is located at the corner of W River Street and Pine Street, and very close to N. Main Street which crosses the Chippewa River. Its location has long been an advantage, being so close to the river.