Crazy about rocks

Madison's Wolfschlag to
display his rare collection

Crystals, fossils highlight
Historical Society exhibit

By Levi King
Staff Writer

(November 2005) – Bob Wolfschlag, owner of Wolfschlag Construction in Madison, Ind., claims he retired three years ago, but you’ll still see him on the construction site. Wolfschlag and his crew most recently completed a restoration of the Madison Train Depot, which had suffered extensive termite damage. In 1975, Wolfschlag completed the depot’s first major renovation as one of his first projects.

Bob Wolfschlag

Photo by Levi King

Bob Wolfschlag has
collected fossils from many
areas around the world.

Wolfschlag started out as a house painter, then was hired by area contractor Jim Gabhart, who taught him carpentry. After several years with Gabhart, Wolfschlag started his own construction company.
Wolfschlag Construction took on its first project 30 years ago, a restoration of the Bright House on Third Street. It took three years to complete with a crew of four. The project led to more restorations, including the depot, many of downtown Madison’s historic houses and Fern Haven in Milton, Ky.
The jobs have ranged from minor repairs, such as replacing a window or sheet of drywall, to complete restorations.
“When I first walked into Fern Haven, which is three stories, I could stand in the basement, look straight up and see the sky,” said Wolfschlag, 61. Today, the historic home looms proudly over Hwy. 36.
Having worked in many of the area’s oldest homes, Wolfschlag has had his share of spooky encounters. “I never believed in ghosts, but after some of the things I’ve seen I certainly do think a house can be haunted,” he said. From repairing the damage of unexplained fires, to insulating a room that refused to stay heated and finding tools inexplicably moved, Wolfschlag has plenty of stories fit for a dark and rainy night.
Wolfschlag has always made time for his hobbies, as well. Since Gabhart, a fossil enthusiast, turned Wolfschlag onto rock collecting many years ago, Wolfschlag has built an extensive collection of fossils, crystals, minerals, shells and stone tools. “You never know what Bob’s going to come up with,” Gabhart said. “He’s a real rock hound.”
An avid traveler, Wolfschlag said he has always set aside eight to 12 weeks a year to travel. On these voyages, Wolfschlag often adds to his collection. “I’ve picked up things all over the world,” he said.
Much of his collection will go on display at the Jefferson County Historical Society’s Heritage Center this month. The exhibit, which combines pieces from local collectors Wolfschlag, Gabhart and John Zubaty, and Hanover College, kicks off Nov. 25 in conjunction with the Nights Before Christmas Candlelight Tour of Homes and continues through Oct. 31, 2006.

Bob Wolfschlag Arrowheads

Photo by Levi King

Arrowheads that are among
Bob Wolfschlag's collection.

Visitors can view Wolfschlag’s blue coral from the Great Barrier Reef, fossilized shark teeth and prehistoric fish skeletons from China, mollusk fossils from Africa, amethyst crystals and geodes from Brazil, mastodon teeth, petrified wood, and prehistoric sheep fossils from North America.
Wolfschlag also boasts a variety of arrowheads, axes, scrapers, and other stone tools, many of which he found personally in the area. “I used to go out a lot and walk along the fields or river bottoms after a big rain,” he said.
As a young man, Wolfschlag raced stock cars at North Vernon’s Twin Cities Raceway, the Louisville Speedway and the Tri-County Speedway in Cincinnati. “I love to drive fast cars,” Wolfschlag said. He’s also restored a 1955 Studebaker truck and a 1952 Oldsmobile convertible. His 1991 corvette has only 8,000 miles on it and hasn’t left the garage in seven years. “I only get it out on very special occasions,” he joked.
In the mid 1990s, Wolfschlag owned a tunnel hull SST-100 racing boat, which topped out at 100 mph. Wolfschlag had a driver race the boat for him, but had plenty of time behind the wheel on the Ohio.

Bob Wolfschlag Blue Coral

Photo by Levi King

Blue coral can also be found
in Bob Wolfschlag's collection.

Since selling the boat, Wolfschlag has become more involved with the Miss Madison hydroplane, and currently serves on the boat’s board of directors. It’s just one of many civic positions Wolfschlag holds.
He is the president of the Board of Directors at the Madison Convention and Visitors Bureau, a member of the Jefferson County Tourism Board, chairman of the Buildings and Grounds Committee at Prince of Peace Parish, secretary-treasurer of the Venture Out Business Center, president of the Madison Cable Advisory Board and a member of the Jefferson County Historical Society Board of Directors.
“I could very easily be a couch potato, but I stay busy,” Wolfschlag said. “I like to feel like I have some say in how things are carried out in the community.”
Last year, the Historical Society awarded Wolfschlag with its Lifetime Achievement Award for his service.

• For more information on the Jefferson County Historical Society or the rock show, call (812) 265-2335.

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