A delicious debate: Two Rivers' claim to fame through the hot fudge sundae

A delicious debate: Two Rivers’ claim to fame through the hot fudge sundae

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TWO RIVERS, WI (CBS 58) -- Monday, July 25 is National Hot Fudge Sundae day, a perfect day to reminisce the story of a small Wisconsin town with a big (and delicious) legacy.

Two Rivers, where a sundae is more than just a day of the week.

The tiny town in Manitowoc County has a rich, chocolatey history.

"The first ice cream sundae was made at Ed Berner's ice cream parlor," said Nancy Jo LeClair with the Historic Washington House.

Once a prominent fixture on 15th street in two rivers, Ed Berner's soda fountain and ice cream parlor was said to be the original home of the sundae.

It all started in 1881, when man named George Hallauer was visiting his good friend, Ed.

"He was having this dish of vanilla ice cream, and he spotted the chocolate soda syrup on the back shelf, and he wanted that on his ice cream, and Ed says 'Oh no, that's too sweet, I mix that with the seltzer for the ice cream sodas!' Well, George says, 'I'll try anything once.' So, Ed put it on the ice cream and George loves it, and the ice cream sundae was born," LeClair said.

The news of the concoction spread like wildfire around the small town.

Berner put it on the menu for 5 cents, but only on Sundays, until a little girl had a craving on a different day of the week.

"'Well, we only serve that on Sunday.' She goes, 'Well, this must be Sunday because that's what I want. So, then they began to serve it more often," LeClair said.

LeClair has volunteered at the Two Rivers' Historic Washington House for 30 years.

The museum includes a replica of Ed Berner's ice cream parlor, so visitors can 'dig in' to the town's history.

"We didn't want to forget Mr. Berner's ice cream sundae," LeClair said, "We're just a small community and we've had this international fame."

Some believe the actual birthplace of the ice cream sundae is controversial, with Ithaca, New York claiming they invented it in 1892 with syrup and a candied cherry on top.

"The other cities decorated it with whipped cream, cherries, and nuts, and they think they invented the sundae, but the original sundae is ice cream with chocolate soda syrup on it," LeClair said.

The contesting claims caused a heated battle, with Two Rivers and Ithaca even writing songs to each other to prove their past.

"Ed was the first. That's our fight song. 'Ed Was First,'" LeClair said.

However, the sundae war may have been settled in 2016, when the United States Postal Service created ice cream sundae stamps.

"They came to the Washington House and had their first day of sale here, so they even realized that Two Rivers is the home of the ice cream sundae," LeClair said.

Along with the classics, over the years, the Washington House also added their own twist to the treat, garnering attention with their unique, very popular Ruby Sundae, made with vanilla ice cream, rhubarb, caramel, and nuts.

For decades, Berner's creation has been the town's pride and joy, and proof that if anything can withstand the test of time, it's ice cream.

"Nothing takes the place of it. So, you just had supper, so what? Have ice cream," said visitor, Beverly Ketchbau.

It's a creamy claim to fame that Two Rivers believe can't be argued, not even by Ithaca, New York.

"When the federal government recognized us, they had to concede that we were the home," LeClair said.

CBS 58 asked LeClair if Ithaca ever really conceded...

"We haven't heard back from them, so they must have," she said.

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