Eagles Club gets a new name: the Howard

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In honor of their grandfather, a pioneer in the food packaging business who went on to head Bemis Co., the new owners of the Eagles Club are giving the building a new name: the Howard.

“We are naming it after my grandfather, Howard Curler,” said Carey Sharpe, who bought the building this summer together with her sister and brother. “We thought it would be really neat to pay tribute to him,” she said.

After serving in World War II and earning a chemical engineering degree at the University of Wisconsin Madison, Curler changed the way that cheeses and meats are packaged with his development of flexible polymers to wrap food products. He sold the company he co-founded, Curwood, to Bemis in 1965 and in 1977 became president of the corporate parent, which today does $4 billion a year in business.

“To be very honest, a lot of what we’re able to do here is because of all the work that he did many years ago,” Sharpe said. “It’s allowed us to do these kind of projects.”

She acknowledged that some people in Oshkosh might object to the new name. “However at the same time the Fraternal Order of Eagles still exists in Oshkosh, so I’ve actually gotten some feedback from them that they don’t really like that we’ve been using the name,” she said.

Sharpe said the building will be open for weddings starting in July, and a renovated bowling alley and cafe are scheduled to open in September. The bowling alley “is getting a total fresh look,” Sharpe said. Builders have opened up some walls and uncovered some windows “so there’s lot more light, and it looks really neat already.”

The bowling alley will feature an upscale bar menu and craft cocktails. On the first floor, a new cafe will open, focusing on coffee, juices and smoothies.

“The ballroom is going to be completely refurbished,” Sharpe said. She has been working with the Grand to book performances, including dinner theater.

The Howard has hired Michelle Rector, former event manager at the Paine Art Center and Gardens, to serve as general manager. Oshkosh native Elizabeth Redman has been hired as executive chef.

The neighborhood is also getting a new look. Several nearby buildings have been razed and will be replaced “with a mix of parking and green space,” Sharpe. Next year Washington Avenue is scheduled to be resurfaced, and overhead power lines will be buried, she said.

“This whole block is going to be lovely.”

Photos: The old Eagles Club is undergoing extensive renovation on the inside and the outside. Photos courtesy of the Howard.

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Miles Maguire

Miles Maguire is the author of Advanced Reporting: Essential Skills for 21st Century Journalism. He was the founding editor of the Oshkosh Community News Network, a nonprofit online news organization whose work was cited as a notable innovation in journalism in the 2005 Knight-Batten Awards. Send questions, comments and suggestions to miles.maguire@yahoo.com.

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