This image from the late 30s/early 40s of a building with a deco sunburst fašade is the Kool Stein Cafe, i.e., Witkes during the period when the restaurant had been sold to A. J. and Helen Paquette. I presume this alternate designation was chosen to avoid promoting the name of the former proprietors. I doubt 'KoolStein' caught on very well, as it brings to mind a bar rather than an up scale restaurant. At any rate, when ownership reverted back to the Witkes, their name was reinstated and the fašade evolved into the inspired mid-century modern banner motif with streamlined script (see top photo).
Witke's was a fun place to dine before it was torn down recently to be replaced by condos.
"This is actually the original Surf as it appeared in 1933/34, thus it was adjacent to the Witke's site. The Decker's Hamburger Stand and the Surf Roof Garden are evidence of other services provided by the original Surf. Decker's phased out quickly but, to my knowledge, the roof top accommodation provided the opportunity for 'al fresco' dining throughout the original Surf's time span of 1933 through 1947. Few would recognize the place without its (inspired) mid-century modern banner motif and streamlined script."
(Submitted by Lyndon Crist 1962)
(Clip that follows was featured in the Clear Lake Reporter Centennial Annual of 12 July, 1951.) Provided by Lyndon Crist (1964)
'Witke's Started Here in 1928'
It was on June 4, 1928 that Bill and Pearl Witke came to Clear Lake and purchased the bath house from Mr. and Mrs. J. J. Willinow, who had operated it for 16 years. From that small beginning Witke's is now known all over Iowa for their fast speed boats and good food.
In the fall of 1928 Mr. and Mrs. Witke purchased the lot where Witke's Cafe now stands. In the same year they built a sandwich stand on their boathouse property and in 1929 erected a cottage adjacent to their bath house, which was later moved off and is now occupied by Mrs. Perkins.
They purchased the equipment and stock of the George Petersen Bath House in the fall of 1931 and the next spring built a larger bath house. The Petersen property was rebuilt into the old Tom Tom Ballroom.
A small cafe was built on their lot across from the sandwich stand in the spring of 1933 and a new kitchen and dining room was added in the spring of 1934.
The Witke Boat Taxi was started in the spring of 1936 with three speed boats and several row boats. The cafe was rebuilt in 1937 and in 1938 the Beach Lunch was rebuilt, adding booth service and a tower on the building.
The cafe part of the business was sold to Mr. and Mrs. A. J. Paquette in 1944 but was repurchased again by the Witkes in 1948. They did extensive remodeling, also adding new
equipment and a new stock and work room, and reopened again on July 22, 1948.
Through the years Witke's have added new speed boats to their Boat Taxi, including the cruiser Miss ClearLake. Bayside dock was added to the business in 1941 and in the spring of 1946 the boat storage building and sales room was built adjacent to the boat house.
Mr. Witke passed away May 8, 1949 and Mrs. Witke now owns and operates their interests with B. A. Morse as manager of the Boat Taxi and Sales and V. N. Minette managing the cafe.
In brief, the cafe part of the Witke business holdings was sold to Mr. and Mrs. A. J. Paquette in 1944 but was repurchased again by the Witkes in 1948. It is my belief that during that four year span there was a name change to 'Kool Stein Cafe'. I presume this was done to avoid promoting the name of the former propietors (Bill & Pearl Witke). At any rate, when ownership reverted back to the Witkes in 1948, extensive remodeling took place, particularly the front facade which was altered from a sun burst deco theme to an inspired mid-century modern banner motif with streamlined 'Witkes' script. It reopened on 22 July, 1948. In the early 1960s the restaurant was enlarged but the distinctive facade remained intact. As with many Clear Lake landmarks, Witke's was destroyed by fire, ca. mid 1980s. The property was subsequently taken over by an array of commercial structures.
A lakeside vantage of the Witke's boat repair/rental complex (on the left) with Witke's Gift Shop behind and to the right. Photo dates from late 1940s to early 50s. Note the similarity of gift shop to main entry of original Surf. (Lyndon Crist 1962)
"A wonderful old b/w of the Witke's boat taxi dock and adjacent boathouse, sandwich stand and bath house. As the taxi was begun in 1936, the time frame of the photo is probably late 1930s. If my bearings are correct, all of the structures depicted were ultimately replaced by a new boat repair/sales building and gift shop. The third photo depicts this revised area, but from a vantage out on the lake. Note the similar stylistic of the gift shop (and Pearl Witke's apartment on the second floor) with the main entry of the original Surf. If anyone knows the architect or contractor who designed any of the wonderful icons in that area of town, I'm hoping they will let us know."
This b/w depicts the toboggan water slide that was one of the featured amusements at Petersen's Bath House (subsequently site of the Tom Tom, original Surf Ballroom and then the Blue Horizon Motel).
The inclined surface of this structure was a series of rollers that helped propel a sled-mounted human at high speed into the drink. Today's water parks have nothing on this high tech recreation from yesteryear.