MILFORD — The fire that destroyed the Turf Bar during the early hours Thursday, Oct. 8, certainly hasn’t brought much joy to owner Doug Stump. After all, it destroyed a favorite watering hole that has been in downtown Milford for many years and that had been owned by Stump for more than 10 years. However, this past Sunday night, Stump’s girlfriend Lori McBride made an amazing discovery as she was continuing the tedious task of cleaning up from the fire’s destruction. As McBride was chipping layers of plaster from the south interior wall of the building, she started seeing letters painted on the original layer of bricks that composed the bulwark. She excitedly continued chipping away at the plaster until more of the lettering could be deciphered. Eventually, the entirety of the painted sign revealed itself to read “Milford Mail Fine Job Printing.”
When told about the discovery, Stump encouraged McBride to take photographic evidence of the find to Ron Baumgartner, publisher of The Mail-Journal in Milford and owner of Ink Free News, which she did first thing Monday morning. Baumgartner was just as excited about the sign’s unearthing and noted the building that now houses California Desert restaurant was once the home to the local newspaper, the Milford Mail, when his father, Arch Baumgartner, purchased the business from Carlyle Barnes and Jack Forbing in August 1939. In the book “In Kosciusko County Community Journalism is Alive and Well,” written by Arch Baumgartner and published five years after his death in 1993, it was noted “about 1916, the offices of The Milford Mail were moved to the new, rebuilt south side of Main Street.”
Apparently at the time, the space now occupied by the Turf Bar was an access alleyway from Main Street to the area behind the buildings on the east side of the street. The bricks on which the newly rediscovered painting served as the exterior wall of the south side of the alley. Shortly after purchasing the newspaper in 1939, Arch also purchased a building on South Main Street Nov. 15, 1940, in what is the original building on the site of the present location of The Papers Inc., bringing to an end the tenure of the local paper being housed in the building featuring the painted sign.
According to Stump, the newly exposed brick and historic painted sign will become part of the interior of the new Turf Bar, which he plans to rebuild as soon as possible. Stump, McBride and others are working daily to gut the building’s interior as they strive toward rebuilding the popular bar.