Honey Boy mobile home park in Baraboo closed this week, shuttering a family business dating back to the 1940s.
Residents of the 30-lot park at the intersection of Sauk County Highway W and State Highway 136 were notified of the impending July 1 closure three months ago, owner Bruce Braithwaite said.
Longtime managers Vicky and Dale Harding wanted to retire, and Braithwaite decided to discontinue rentals and sell the land, located at one of Baraboo’s busiest intersections. “It was time for me to lighten up on some things,” he said.
The property was the homestead of his mother Ruth Gaetzke, who met Harold Braithwaite in 1930. They married in 1941, living in Beloit but returning to Baraboo to visit family and swim at Devil’s Lake.
A beekeeper, Harold Braithwaite began selling honey to stores between Baraboo and Beloit to help pay for those pleasure trips. He developed a delivery route to a network of stores, generating enough money to buy property on Old Lake Road. There the couple built cabins they rented to tourists visiting Devil’s Lake.
When Ruth’s father Benjamin Gaetzke died in 1949, she, Harold and son Bruce moved into the yellow family homestead at Highway W and what was then known as U.S. Highway 12. Already a landmark, it became a business when the Braithwaites began renting mobile homes to Badger Ordnance Works employees in need of temporary housing.
The honey business operated out of this location as well, hence the park’s Honey Boy name. In time, a large structure was built for processing honey, its dark green roof emblazoned with “Honey Boy” in 30-foot letters.
In the early 1970s the bee business was sold. The building was transformed into the Baraboo Mini Mall. The mobile home park remained.
Bruce Braithwaite and wife Karen heeded a call to become missionaries to Brazil, and turned management duties over to the Hardings, who operated the park for more than 20 years. “We ran it like it was our own,” Vicky Harding said.
By Tuesday, several lots had been vacated, but many mobile homes remained on the property, which is littered with discarded furniture and other refuse. Bruce Braithwaite said tenants who left mobile homes at the park will get two weeks’ notice to remove them, at which point he’ll dispose of them as he sees fit.
He hopes there will be interest in the property, as an exit off the new U.S. Highway 12 at W funnels considerable traffic past it. Braithwaite is working with real estate agent Gary Wegner to sell the land. “It’s situated right on the main drag,” Braithwaite said.