The community of Three Lakes continues to be saddened, and concerned, by the loss of the Oneida Village Inn  destroyed by fire Monday, March 4. 

The loss of the landmark restaurant and motel comes on the heels of the Three Lakes Diner being destroyed by fire just over two weeks earlier on Feb. 13.

Not only did Three Lakes lose two thriving downtown businesses, but the community is impacted by the loss of employment for dozens of workers, overnight beds for visitors and revenue for taxing entities.

An account has been set up at BMO Harris Bank in Three Lakes for those impacted by the Oneida Village fire and a gofundme.com fundraiser also was initiated.

Those traveling past the Oneida Village Inn on Superior Street see nothing but the ice-covered remnants of the facility, including the statue of Skip Wagner in front of the building.

“Sad to say, it is a complete loss,” wrote Oneida Village Inn owner Jackie Walker in an Internet post. “Thank goodness no one was injured. I will be forever grateful to the emergency responders, local businesses and the community for all of the hard work, assistance and outpouring of love and support.”

While it appeared, according to witnesses, that the fire started in the motel area, Walker said it remains unknown how the fire started sometime around 10:30 p.m. on March 4.

“I do not know. At this point, everyone has a theory. However, the fire marshal has yet to determine the cause,” said Walker.

Walker said the facility was insured, but she has not decided if it will be rebuilt. 

“Possibly with assistance of outside investors. I plan to spend the coming weeks and months weighing the options. However, at this point, it is just too soon to determine a course of action,” she said.

For people who had a future reservation for the hotel, for catering or a party, Walker asked they find another establishment.

“There are a lot of great local businesses that are happy to assist. If you gave a deposit, please keep your receipt and bank account statement for proof of payment as all documentation from the Oneida Village was destroyed,” said Walker. “I will do my best to reimburse you as quickly as possible.”

Walker said the Oneida Village phone lines have been forwarded to her cell  phone. Her contact information is Oneida Village Inn, c/o Jackie Walker, P.O. Box 759, Three Lakes, WI 54562, (715) 546-3373 or oneidavillageinn@gmail.com.

Walker said she is gratified by the community support, including Three Lakes 

Town Chairman  Jeff Bruss, who set up the gofundme.com page with a goal of raising $10,000. The fundraiser has already topped $14,800. 

“All donated funds will be used to provide assistance to those directly impacted by this catastrophe,” she said.

“At this time, there is not a central location for tangible items (clothes, bedding, furniture, etc.) due to the fact that those affected are displaced,” said Walker. “As an interim solution, please contact me via my contact information.”

Walker also asked area employers to post their job openings on her Facebook page. 

“There are a number of great people who awoke Tuesday morning  (March 5) without a job,” said Walker.

Because of the destruction, Walker said she lost everything in the fire.

“If you have photos with the Oneida Village Inn and would like to share your memories, please do so on this (Facebook) page,” said Walker. “All of our photos and mementos were de­stroyed in the fire, so it would be wonderful if folks could share what you have.”

Walker said she appreciates the community’s support.  

“This town has been my life. I’m truly overwhelmed with the outpouring of love and support and can’t thank everyone enough,” she said. “Life is a journey and I’m excited for the possibility of what the future holds for myself and our town. And who knows what doors will open for us.”



Economic impact

Town Chairman Bruss said the loss of the Oneida Village Inn restaurant and motel is devastating for a number of reasons and provided some statistics:

— 25 employees left without jobs;

— Downtown Three Lakes left with no overnight accommodations;

— 14% of the Three Lakes Sanitary District’s wastewater volume and revenue eliminated (about 1 million gallons of just under 13 million total gallons and close to $20,000 in lost sanitary revenue);

— Roughly 25% of the total room tax collected erased (approximately $19,000 annually); and

— Nearly $6,000 in lost property tax revenue.

“In summary, the Oneida Village Inn annually contributed $45,000 to local infrastructure through collection of taxes and fees,” said Bruss, “and an unknown amount of money from lost contributions to the state through taxes on wages and sales.” 

Bruss said the trickle-down effect of lost revenue will impact food vendors, beverage providers, local advertising and marketing, cable and internet services and more.

“Statistics like these should quickly put into perspective how much local businesses matter,” said Bruss. “Supporting our Three Lakes economy is more important than ever. Please do what you can to keep it local.”



Food pantry helping

The volunteers of the Three Lakes Christian Food Pantry are also offering their support to the owners, managers, employees and residents of the Oneida Village Inn and the Three Lakes Diner, according to Doe Muench of the food pantry.

Food and personal items are available at the pantry and if any other help is needed, people can call either Muench at (715) 546-2192 or Jan Harris at 546-2220.

The pantry is open the first and third Saturdays of the month from 9:30 to 11 a.m. or by appointment. The pantry is located in the basement of Faith Lutheran Church, at 6995 Highway 45 S. in Three Lakes.