A Little about our History

The Up North Bar location has seen many changes over the years. It was once the Havana Club, The 400, and then Slammers. One thing has remained the same: the back bar. Dating back to the 19th century, the actual bar itself used to be the longest bar in Madison, WI. It was a bar without stools – patrons would stand and spit into spitoons while observing an occasional bar fight. It was kind of a rough neighborhood back then!

After the Civil War, passenger trains began stopping in Madison and the city began a period of incredible growth. East Wilson Street, just a few blocks away from the first train station, was Madison’s first German neighborhood.

At that time, nearly all of the residents and merchants were German and the block was the site of The Germania House, a two-store hotel that catered to German travelers. By the late 1800s, however, the area had fallen into disrepair, populated by taverns and houses of ill-repute. All this driven by a very transient community with hundreds of passenger trains stopping nearby.

This unfortunate trend continued through the early 1980’s, until Bob Worm had a vision for the block, starting with a German restaurant to take the place of a vacant dinner theater at 514 E. Wilson.

He then bought the building that became the Essen Haus, and later bought the Come Back In and the Up North Saloon, along with the historic old Wilson Hotel, which he named the Ruby Marie after his mother. The Lakeview Deli & Bakery is nestled in the first floor of the Hotel Ruby Marie where hotel guests enjoy complimentary breakfast.

These days that block of East Wilson is again not only reputable, but a destination for locals and tourists alike. Known for its great German food, live polka bands, and boots full of beer, Essen Haus has helped turn a once thriving area back to its original roots of fun times and cordial hospitality….