Jefferson backs 'J Stops,' eases al-fresco restrictions

Jefferson's Chamber of Commerce executive director, Jen Pinnow, discussed the city's new "J Stops" Tuesday night with the city's common council. These are historical markers, in the shape of a canoe paddle, that go with corresponding, adjacent, historical sites. Shown above are Pinnow and Bill Brandel, alderman and former mayor. The canoe paddle shape is part of the city's branding initiative to bring to mind the fact that the Rock River flows through the center of Jefferson.

JEFFERSON -- Jefferson's leaders on Tuesday evening took additional strides to emphasize the city's historic nature, while making it easier for craft brew pubs and wineries to dot the downtown riverfront landscape and historic business district.

Jefferson Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jen Pinnow told members of the city's common council during the panel's regular session for August she was excited to introduce "J Stops" to downtown as part of the chamber's city branding initiative and effort to bring local history to the fore.

"Soon, there will be 10, standing canoe paddles with the letter 'J' to be found up and down Main and Racine streets, and along some of the side streets," Pinnow said. The paddle-shaped signs are also part of the branding initiative meant to bring to mind that the Rock River runs through the heart of the city.

The 10 locations were chosen based on their historical significance in the city of Jefferson. The paddle will have the "J Stop" image on one side and the historical description and photo of the building and/or location on the other side.

The sites to be recognized in the first phase of the project are:

-- Jefferson House, 135 S. Main St., now Playa Vallarta restaurant.

-- Old Jefferson Firehouse, 148 E. Milwaukee St., now FOCUS Co-working.

-- St. Mary's Episcopal Church/Carnegie Library, 309 S. Main St., now Fidelity Land Title.

-- The Imperial Saloon, 138 S. Main St., now Landmark Saloon.

-- Heger Brewery, 123 N. Center Ave., now a residential property.

-- Court House Block, 311 S. Center Ave., now the Jefferson County Courthouse.

-- Farmers and Merchants Bank, 106 S. Main St., now Associated Bank.

-- Bon Ton Bakery, 115 E. Racine St., remaining as Bon Ton Bakery.

-- The Zimmerman Building, 200 W. Milwaukee St., now The Heron's Landing

-- Puerner Buildings/Brewery/Heilemann's IceCream, 100 N. Main St., now Fort Community Credit Union.

The J Stop city tour is a project that emerged from the city branding initiative that took place in 2017. J Stops are points of interest in the community providing a marker in the shape of a canoe paddle to designate each location engaging locals and visitors alike. The concept of the paddle was designed to embrace the city's brand, "We're Going Outside."

"J Stops are a great reason to explore downtown and learn a little Jefferson history while visiting local businesses," Pinnow said. "It's exciting to see how current business owners have transformed these spaces over time. We're looking forward to seeing people 'J-Walking' in Jefferson."

The J Stop committee consists of Vicki Schicker, former mayor and current alderman Bill Brandel, Ellen Waldmer and Pinnow.

"There are many historical buildings with fascinating stories in downtown Jefferson. The committee had a hard time narrowing the list to 10," Pinnow said. "My favorite aspect of this process has been learning the history of Jefferson firsthand from siblings Vicki and Bill who grew up here. Their stories related to the beer tunnels that run under the city, to the mobsters that passed through from Chicago on their way north, were captivating -- and it all happened right here in Jefferson."

The J Stops will be installed by the Department of Public Works. In the near future, a city tour of historical Jefferson highlighting the J Stops and other relevant history will be available. Pinnow said she hopes to have the J Stops in place by the end of August. The committee will also evaluate the next phase of J Stops to be recognized.

Aldermen unanimously approved an ordinance modification that will permit winery and brew pub operators greater opportunities and latitude in locating in the downtown business/historic district.

Jefferson Mayor Dale Oppermann said after the meeting that he is excited the council backed the ordinance modification, which will allow potential new business operators, such as Rob Lewis of Lewis Station Winery, greater ease in entering the city's downtown community to make wine.

At the first council meeting of August, Lewis updated Jefferson officials on his hopes for converting an old stable building, that dates to the 1800s on the east bank of the Rock River, into his second area winery. The building, to be renamed Stable Rock Winery, is located between Jefferson's municipal building to the south and the Racine Street bridge to the north. The city's pedestrian bridge sits just feet west. It was the Rock Bottom Brewery before that business moved a short distance south to the former train station.

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