509 West Wells St – 1967

Back before the Wisconsin Center convention center there was the Time Insurance Building at 5th & Wells. Back before the Time Insurance Building there was the Wells Hotel. It was made up of several small buildings which had rooms for rent and taverns and diners on the ground floor. These smaller buildings with diners and taverns were found in all corners of downtown. They were places for socializing during the day when people had simpler lives.

You would stop in for a morning coffee and a plate of eggs before work and find a small hole in the wall next door for a cold bottle of Schlitz after work. The smallest diners had enough business on a daily basis that they could stay around for decades. Slowly, progress eroded and closed up these places. The old buildings with lower rents to keep them in the black were still plentiful through the 70’s but those older buildings were torn down regularly. The last real old-school diner was the Michigan Street Diner between Water and Broadway but some old timers may remember Lenrak’s on Old World Third, the Belmont Cafe, Heinemann’s, etc. George Webb’s shares some of the feeling of these places but there was a character to these old restaurants with a patina of the “accumulation of the years”.

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