Little Dutch Mill Restaurant
The Little Dutch Mill Restaurant was in operation on the southeast side of Madison from 1929 to 1959. It was founded by Gertrude Eloise Argue. Born on September 27, 1899, she married Arthur J. Anderson in 1918. Together they operated a landscape gardening business in the Madison area. In 1926 they bought two acres of land on Femrite Drive (then called highway 12 and 18, at the point where highway 51 came north from Stoughton). This intersection was at the time a major tourist entrance to Madison. The Andersons built a small house that included a grocery store on the first floor and gas pumps out front. They planned to start a plant nursery.
Arthur died suddenly on July 7, 1928, only six weeks after the birth of their third child. Needing to provide for her family, Gertrude borrowed $1,200 and remodeled the building, turning the first floor into a tea room and restaurant. She named it the Little Dutch Mill, having been impressed with the Dutch theme in Holland, Michigan. With the help of her sister Beulah Argue, she went into the restaurant business.
She painted the tea room walls with scenic designs, decorating the tables with green and pink linen tablecloths. She placed held two miniature windmills on the mantel over the fireplace. Her brother Henry built electrified Dutch windmill arms and attached them to the front of the house. When the restaurant opened in June 1929, it seated 28 guests.
Gertrude’s sister-in-law, Sophie Anderson Bowen, began a bakery in the basement and supplied the restaurant with baked goods for many years. Getrude, who continued to do some landscaping in the Madison area, surrounded the restaurant with magnificent gardens.
In 1930-31 the Interlake Bridge was built over the Yahara River. Highway 12 & 18 was extended straight east to highway 51, and Monona Drive was extended straight south, thus bypassing Femrite Drive and the Black Bridge. Since the new highway configuration bypassed the restaurant, Gertrude moved the Little Dutch Mill building to 1801 East Broadway. She borrowed money for the move from a childhood friend, Walter Baker. They subsequently married on November 17, 1933, and had three children.
From 1933 to 1946, Orin Rime rented the building and operated the restaurant. When Getrude’s son Arthur returned from World War II, the family resumed operation. Arthur rebuilt the windmill arms, which were a landmark on the highway, with a yellow neon hub and pink neon arms. The restaurant was open from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. from June 1st through Labor Day, and 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. the rest of the year.
The restaurant closed in 1959. In 1961, when the State Highway Commission condemned about half the property to widen highway 12, Gertrude’s son moved the building to 4417 Femrite Drive. He converted it into an apartment building, after removing the windmill arms.
Getrude Argue Anderson Baker died on September 28, 1983, at the age of 84.
Based on an article by Ann Waidelich in the 1999 Journal of the Four Lake Region