Circus poster on display at Corral Bar & Riverside Grill in Durand, Wisconsin.
DURAND, Wis. (KMSP) - A piece of history is now on display after it was preserved between two buildings in western Wisconsin for more than 130 years.
From the metal ceiling to the mirror-backed bar, the Corral Bar and Riverside Grill in Durand is full of pieces from the past. But the main attraction is a nod to the day the circus came to town more than a century ago: a poster advertising a circus back in 1885.
While expanding the family business a couple of years ago, Ron Berger cut a doorway into the building next door and found some paper with a buffalo on it.
"I think it’s a great thing for the town. It's history," Berger said. "To me, it was like reading an old book taking you back to that time period."
Over the next six weeks, he uncovered a 9-foot tall, 55-foot long poster for a circus coming to town on August 17, 1885, plastered and remarkably preserved on the outside of the building.
"It’s kind of amazing, I guess. It’s hard to put words to it, hard to digest. It took time to figure out what it was," Berger said.
It turns out the lithograph was for the Great Anglo-American Circus owned by Miles Orton, who was a world renowned standup horseback rider.
Experts at the Circus World Museum in Baraboo, Wis., say not only is the poster one of the only existing advertisements for that show, it’s one of the oldest and best preserved circus posters of its kind on the entire planet.
"It’s so remarkable. It’s so unusual to see anything this old in modern day America - or anywhere in the world, for that matter. It’s really in good shape," said art restoration expert William Hoeser.
"This is a just another thing that adds to the history of Durand, and particularly in the early days of the city, that shows what type of entertainment and what was important that happened during that era," Durand Mayor Patrick Milliren said.
The golden age of the Great American Circus may be long gone, but Berger was more than happy to be a ringmaster preserving a forgotten piece of Wisconsin history.
"That should have never have survived; it was on paper meant to weather away outside. It should never have been saved," Berger said.