Ever enjoy an ice cream sundae? Thank one guy and one little girl in Two Rivers, Wisconsin for the inspiration. The Historic Washington House, built as an immigrant hotel and saloon in the 1850s, holds the history for the invention of the ice cream sundae. Today, it’s a museum, a gallery, and a tasty spot for more ice cream sundaes.
The history, as detailed on the historic marker by the Washington House along Highway 42 in downtown Two Rivers, states that a man named George Hallauer went into Edward Berner’s soda fountain and asked for some ice cream, with some chocolate sauce on top. It became a popular Sunday tradition, selling for a nickel. One non-Sunday, a 10-year-old girl came in and asked for an ice cream with “that stuff on top,” meaning the chocolate sauce. Berner noted to her that it wasn’t Sunday; she retorted by suggesting they “pretend” it was Sunday. He went along with it, and eventually the dish became available every day (I mean really, how hard is it to pour chocolate sauce over ice cream on any given day?) Later, a glassware salesman who sold the dishes the ice cream and chocolate concoction was typically served in termed it a “sundae” and the current name stuck.
The Washington House still has its original decorative tin ceiling. There are seven rooms and an old ballroom to explore, all filled with items of historic interest. Stop in for a sundae, they still make them there! Sixteen different sundae flavors are offered at this replica of Ed Berners’ Ice Cream Parlor where he invented the Ice Cream Sundae.
Make sure you check out the upstairs, too: the murals in the ballroom were added in 1906 by a slew of artists, illustrating life in Wisconsin during that era. More local insight can be gained from viewing the works of Two Rivers native Lester Bentley, who did portraits of President Dwight D. (“Ike”) Eisenhower, three Wisconsin governors, a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, and the recruiting poster for the Coast Guard’s women’s unit in World War II.
The Washington House is free to explore; the ice cream sundaes are inexpensive, too!
Hours at the Washington House vary by season. From Memorial Day through Labor Day Weekend, hours are Noon to 7pm; the rest of the year they’re open Friday through Sunday, Noon – 4pm.
You’ll find the Washington House one block east of Highway 42 along Jefferson Street; the marker is along 42 one block north. Stop in for a sundae; they’re as good as you might imagine!
Address of the Historic Washington House, home to the World’s First Ice Cream Sundae:
1622 Jefferson Street
Two Rivers, WI 54241