Nelsonville - The walls might say ugly, but there is a connection and love of the people

July 12, 2015

Nelsonville is just north of Amherst in eastern Portage County. I was searching for the Tomorrow River, which my kayak guide book said was lots of fun to paddle on because it was so narrow. This is a very small town, in the 2010 census numbering a population of 155. I really enjoyed my short stay in the town.


This is the Rising Star Mill. It is one of the oldest in central Wisconsin and the last of its kind in Portage County. Built around 1860, it operated as a business until 1984. It sits right adjacent to the Tomorrow River, and offers a kayak put in point.

This is a spectacular view of the side and back of the mill, and you can see the narrow Tomorrow River. I walked along the river embankment for a bit looking for a good put in point. Let me say this. On the day I was there, the current was moving right along and the water was I though fairly deep, by that I mean at least knee deep. I found one shallow put in point, but the other locations are workable if you’re good at getting inane out of the kayak in knee deep water. I am one who usually goes out alone with my kayak, so I go downstream and then have to fight my way upstream. The river at this point looked like she might give me a little fight returning upstream. Not sure. Set that aside, what a beautiful place to sit down on a summer day for a little picnic. Fabulous.


The front view


A look upstream the Tomorrow River.


A look downstream. The Tomorrow River is a tributary of the Wolf River and rises near Polonia in northeast Portage County and flows into Waupaca County where it becomes the Waupaca River. It flows through Amherst. Wouldn’t that be a riot to kayak!

I'll now show some photos of various small businesses in town. I visited in October 2013, so I do not know if they are all still in business or have changed hands. I was through town the other day and the buildings were still up and alive.


As you would expect, the “downtown” is quite small, just a few old buildings. I thought it was all really neat. Across the street from the mill is an office of Alchemy Concrete, Inc. I believe the company is headquartered in nearby Amherst Junction. It provides custom decorative concrete, stained concrete, stamped concrete, conventional concrete slab work, polished concrete floors, poured concrete wall construction, pervious concrete, concrete water features, concrete repair as well as concrete counter top services.


Across the street from Alchemy Concrete’s office is a place that used to be a meat market, Waller’s Market, but now hosts Reflections Antiques and Gifts. Its “gift” line consists of one-of-a-kind artistic creations by area craftsmen. The store offers these at different times of the year depending on the element. These “gifts” are always unique and special in their own way. The building has quite a history, and its owner urged me to stop by again and come inside, which I will do. It was built in 1902. The Reflections website says this about the building’s history, which is fascinating:

“ ‘ If Walls Could Talk ……!!!’ I’m not sure we would want to hear ALL that this place could say. We feel it's uniqueness is not only in the retained architectural details, like the meat showcase and ceiling track, the tin walls throughout the 2nd story, the 'embalming room' certificate, the gurney, and original metal bed headboard & footboard still wrapped in the straw & paper it was shipped in, the bullet holes or spittoon and barrel stains on the floors, or the bar from the poker room. But in the connection and love of the people in the village and the surrounding small community of Nelsonville.”


The other main building in the small downtown once was the State Bank of Nelsonville, 1903-1907. At the moment, it appears unoccupied and in disrepair, but the outside of the building is architecturally attractive. It looks like someone is trying or had tried to do something with the building, but there is a way to go. Neat nonetheless.


I was intrigued by this home. The color certainly caught my attention. I want to downsize and this looks like about the right size for me!


The town is small, but I thought it very well laid out with some very nice homes.


Last, but certainly not least, as you ride out of town on 1st St. to CH SS, you’ll come across an old rejuvenated Phillips 66 gas station. When I first pulled up, I thought someone had converted it into a home. But then I learned it is the home of ZoroPhoto, run by Anna Zoromski-Linde, a professional photographer who earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts with an emphasis photography while in Denver.