The Early Years
Curling is believed to have started in Lodi in the 1860′s. At this time, local sawmills were turning out wooden blocks of poplar or oak, and metal handles were attached with molten lead. Such early "blocks" would occasionally be unearthed, often by area farmers tilling the soil for planting.
A fine example of an early Lodi curling "block" is shown in the photo below. This block was recovered from the area in Lodi that is now home to Veteran's Park, formerly the mill pond for the long past Excelsior Flour Mill.
There was mention of curling news in the Lodi Valley News in the 1870′s. However, it was on Tuesday December 14, 1880 that a group of men met in downtown Lodi to organize a "curlers club". Those present elected J.O. Eaton as President, J.F. Collin as Secretary, and J.W. Watson, Treasurer. Mr. James Wilson moved that a curling club be organized, with two "rinks" or teams. and that the club be called the "Lodi Curling Club". The motion passed and thus the Lodi Curling Club came to be.
About this same time, the gentlemen that were forming the Lodi Curling Club had purchased a set of 16 cast iron curling blocks from Mr. James Fyfe of Portage, WI. These blocks were described as having a handle screwed to the top and to providing much more consistent performance than the wooden blocks previously used by the men.
A newspaper account from 1887 describes a match against an Arlington, WI team in which the cast iron blocks of the Lodi team were no match for the granite blocks of Arlington. This is the first local mention of the change in block material to what is currently used today.
In 1892, the Lodi Curling club, along with Portage, Arlington, Cambria and Poynette, became one of the eight founding members of the Northwestern Curling Association of America.
Though the answer as to why appears lost to time, it is apparent that the popularity of curling in Lodi (and possibly elsewhere) waned around the turn of the 20th century. There is little local mention of the game again until the early 1920′s.
The First Icehouse
By 1921, interest in the game had been rekindled and the Lodi Curling Club reorganized with 57 members. They purchased land and built an single-sheet icehouse that was "second to none in the state" at that time. It was located on Portage Street and was dedicated on January 2 ,1922 with an all day (and night!) bonspiel. Dues were about $3 per person.
Disaster struck the Curling Club on Sunday December 19, 1926. Under the weight of a heavy ice and snow load, the roof collapsed. Fortunately, no one was injured, but the building was rendered useless temporarily. However, after less than three weeks, and at a cost of $275, the roof had been replaced and the curlers were back in business.
The local paper reported a "boom" in curling again in 1946. This seemed to be more than a local trend, as many communities experienced a resurgence in curling, post-WWII. This year, Lodi hosted its first bonspiel in several years.
A Second Home
The renewed interest in curling prompted the club, in 1948, to seek out a new building to house the club. At the same time, Truax Field in Madison was selling off Army surplus, including some of the old buildings. One of these was a 33′ by 160′ former mess hall. The club purchased the building for $2273, cut it apart, and hauled it to Lodi in 20′ sections. There were 55 curling members at this time.
The curling club struck an agreement with the Lodi Agricultural Fair Association to erect the building on the fair grounds. It was to serve as curling rink in the winter, as well as an exhibition hall during the Lodi Ag Fair. It was a mutually beneficial relationship that continues to this day.
The new icehouse was in place, and in use for the 1949 season. That season also brought another change as the club had purchased Scottish granite curling stones just prior to the beginning of the season. The cost of the new stones was $960. Curling also was added to the curriculum as a regular Lodi High School winter sport in 1949. In 1945 one dozen brooms cost $14.38 and membership dues in 1950 was $10 for men and $5 for women. The local paper attributed the increased popularity of curling to the new facility with its two sheets of ice and a warm spectator room!
In the early 50′s, following the lead of many other clubs, funding was secured and the club moved forward with plans to refrigerate the icefield and achieve the ability to create "artificial" ice. This would both prolong the curling season, and allow for more consistent ice that was impervious to fluctuations in the weather. In 1955, women curlers in Lodi organized to form the "Lodi Lauries".
Little changed at the club until the early 1970′s, when the club decided to add-on to the original structure that was moved from Truax. This addition, along with another in the mid 80′s, would create a clubhouse/lounge area, including a kitchen. It would also provide a locker room and equipment storage in the basement.
Home of today
In 2007, the Lodi Curling Club undertook the task of construction of a new icehouse facility on the site of the current one. This newly expanded structure would allow for ADA compliance, updated restrooms and viewing area, along with a state-of-the-art, two sheet, icefield facility. This discussion was expedited by the rapid deterioration of both the icehouse foundation, and the 50-plus year old icefield piping. These elements contributed to increasingly inconsistent and unpredictable ice surfaces. Construction of the new facility began mid-July 2007, and was completed In November 2007. Today, the club is a result of all of this hard work and foresight provided by many former, and current curlers.
Curling is still an active sport for Lodi today with Columbia County having the most curling clubs of any county in the United States. Curling takes place at the club five nights a week with two to four games per night from late November to the end of March. The club also host various bonspiels.