The building at 544 West Water Street is called the William F. Luedtke building in the 1997 downtown historic district designation report. The report correctly states that the building was constructed before 1885, but the Wisconsin Historical Society building inventory incorrectly says it was built in 1884. (Update: It has been corrected.)
The City of Princeton Historical Walking Tour plaque doesn’t quite get the story correct, either.
The two-story stone building was erected at the northeast corner of Water and Pearl streets by Green & Carman (David and A.P., respectively, I believe) in 1868.
Princeton Republic, May 14, 1868: “Green & Carman’s stone building is coming up slowly. Mr. L.L. Anjer and Carl Krueger are doing the mason work, and Leonard Long & Co. the carpenter and joiner work.”
Green & Carman planned to locate their dry goods store in the building, which would also house the Wilde & McClurg drug store.
Princeton Republic, October 19, 1868: “Green & Carman and Wilde & McClurg are moving into their new stone building.”
Princeton Republic, Feb. 8, 1869 (“Bird’s-Eye View of the History of Princeton”): “Late in the fall of 1866, Wilde & McClurg bought out (Royal C.) Treat and dealt almost exclusively in drugs at the Corner Store (northwest corner of Water and Washington streets) until last October, when they moved into the new stone store on the northeast corner of Water and Pearl streets.”
The Mueller Bros. bought out the Wilde drug stock in May 1875 and moved into the stone building. In July, however, the Luedtke brothers purchased the building.
Princeton Republic, February 5, 1876: Luedtke Bros. and Mueller Bros. at the old stone corner are rejoicing over big trade and good times.”
The Luedtke Bros. took over the entire space in 1877, and William F. Luedtke took charge of the family business over the next several years.
Princeton Republic, January 9, 1890: “It is said Wm. F. Luedtke will soon commence valuable improvements on his premises. He proposes to cut off the front of his stone store and even up the front into line with the buildings erected since the erection of his building. He will also widen his building several feet to the east line of his lot.”
Luedtke tore down the old wooden building adjoining his store and purchased 50,000 bricks in Portage for the project. Excavation began in April.
Princeton Republic, May 15, 1890: “Last week about Thursday, W.F. Luedtke commenced in good earnest the work of demolishing as much of that old stone building as is necessary to erect that substantial building that is going to take its place soon.”
Princeton Republic, August 7, 1890: “W.F. Luedtke’s stone building is fast nearing completion. The building is 36×90 in size, two stories high, and will have a fine plate glass front. The first floor is divided into two rooms. Mr. Luedtke will occupy the corner store, and the other will be rented (to E.T. Frank, initially), as will rooms over the east store room.”
Princeton Republic, August 14, 1890: “The words ‘W.F. Luedtke, 1890’ are carved on a beautiful tablet of white marble of ‘key-stone’ shape and set in front of Mr. Luedtke’s new block. It is a splendid addition to the architectural beauty of the front.”
When Russian emigrant Hyman Swed came to Princeton to open a dry goods store in 1913, he leased the building at 508 West Water Street. In 1918, according to the Republic, he reached a deal with the O.R. Luedtke estate in which he took over the Luedtke stock of merchandise and leased the Luedtke building at 544 West Water Street.
Swed maintained stock in both locations until March 1919 when he left 508 Water. The newspaper reported he completed the purchase of the building at 544 West Water in 1923, prompting V. F. Yahr, who had occupied the east half for his grocery store, to move into his own building across the street (535 West Water Street). Swed remodeled the interior, bought new fixtures and updated the exterior, which featured large plate glass windows held in place with “large copper strips and a wider copper cornish” (cornice).
The Swed family operated the store into the 1980s. Tracy Porter gave it a fresh look in 1992. Since then the building has housed several now-departed businesses – Princeton Audio, most recently – and the next plan is to turn it into a boutique hotel, The Pearl Street Inn.
But for me, it will always be Swed’s. We did our weekly grocery shopping there for years and years. The floors creaked. It felt old. But it was always clean and neat, with prices that fit a modest family budget.