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Two local historic sites added to national register

Nov. 5, 2010

Two West Allis properties - longtime landmarks Kegel's Inn and the Koelsch Funeral Home - have been officially added to the National Register of Historic Places.

That announcement by the Wisconsin Historical Society this week follows the efforts of the West Allis Historical Society, which worked to get those properties onto the national register earlier this year.

What is now known as Kegel's Inn was a "soft-drink parlor" when it originally opened in 1924, according to .

Shortly after prohibition was repealed, John Kegel took out a permit to enlarge his drinking establishment to include a restaurant. The renamed Kegel's Inn opened Aug. 26, 1933.

German-born artist/painter Peter Gries hand-painted murals on the walls after the business opened. Additional murals were painted as the dining areas expanded.

Kegel's offered dancing and hosted dance bands every week through 1952.

Like Kegel's, the Koelsch Funeral Home, 7626 W. Greenfield Ave., started out as something else entirely - a business that combined shoe sales and picture-frame making.

Joseph Koelsch and his son Frank were among the first merchants to establish a business along Greenfield Avenue, the village's primary commercial district, when they opened at 71st Street and Greenfield Avenue.

After Frank completed a six-week course at Chicago's Morris School of Embalming, the Koelschs added a funeral business to the store. They moved to its current location at 76th and Greenfield in 1937.

The National Register of Historic Places designation provides access to certain benefits, such as grants or rehabilitation tax credits, and does not restrict private property owners in the use of their property.

The National Park Service maintains the list, while the Wisconsin Historical Society administers the program in the state.

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