Old bottles found to be a piece of Lawton history

Bruce Marks – Lawton Heritage Museum Board Member
Steve Tyre has donated the bottles to the Heritage Museum, located in the lower level of the Community Center.	Steve Tyre, owner of the Decatur Do-It Center hardware store,   left, points to where he discovered a stash of old wine bottles between the floor joists in the basement of his store.  He had not heard of the wine maker, Houppert Winery of Lawton, and researched it to find that the former Houppert Winery is now the Lawton Lions Heritage Community Center. Photos courtesy of Bruce Marks

    DECATUR - Steve Tyre, owner of the Do-It Center hardware store in Decatur, made a recent unexpected discovery in the basement of his store. He had decided to move his paint section, but wanted to insure the floor of his historic building could support the weight of the display and ventured below to the basement.
    There, he noticed that the floor joist on the south wall of the basement had been bricked up; however, one brick was loose where the mortar was broken away. Removing the brick, Tyre uncovered a cache of old wine bottles, labeled Houppert Winery, Lawton, Michigan.
    Unfamiliar with the name, Tyre did a little research online and learned that the site of the Houppert winery is now the Lawton Lions Heritage Community Center, which also houses the Lawton Heritage Museum. He clicked on the museum website to gain further information regarding the Houppert Winery, and then contacted me regarding his discovery. He asked if the museum would be interested in the bottles. Of course, my response was a resounding “Yes!”
    The Houppert Winery was in existence from the early 1930’s-1943, owned by William Houppert. In 1940, a fire destroyed the building and Mr. Houppert had the facility rebuilt in field stone. However, he could not financially recover his losses, and ceased operations.
    During the same time period, it is unclear what business occupied the now existing hardware store. It might have been a grocery store that sold Houppert wine; but whatever it was, either an owner or employee of the business had a definite liking for wine.
    All the wine bottles Tyre found still had the labels on them, to some degree. A few were covered with dirt. The labels named four different varieties of wine - White Port, Muscatel, Tokay, and Port. Some of the labels stated the wine could be sold only in Michigan.  
    By coincidence, just two weeks earlier, former Lawton resident, Jim Bergenham, also donated two Houppert wine bottles in perfect condition to the museum.  It has been years since the museum received any of these bottles.
    The bottles will be on display beginning with the museum’s September 5 “Best of Michigan” Wine Tasting at the Lawton Lions Heritage Community Center.

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