The Teske house – 330 West main street

The house at 330 West Main Street was built in 1887 by Gustave Teske Sr.

“Music hath charms, as we are all well advised by the singing of a portion of the Turners as night approaches. Every afternoon as the time of quitting work draws near, Teskes’ Turners break out in strains of sweetness that completely entrances our printers, and all hands are happy.”

– Princeton Republic, May 29, 1875

A recent post describing my search for the final site of “The House of Seven Gables” led me to another interesting house at the northeast corner of Main and Farmer streets.

(FYI: The gables post has been updated with information learned while researching this post.)

The house at 330 West Main Street was built by Gustave Teske Sr. in 1887 after he sold the house that previously occupied the lot to Gardner Green, who moved it to 316 South Farmer Street.

The property (Block 16, Lot 7) was part of the Rosebrook addition, platted in 1867, and sold along with Lot 6 by John Rosebrook to Oliver Rupell for $100 in March 1868. (Deeds, Volume 28, Page 454) Four years later Rupell sold the two lots for $500 to Albert G. Hopkins. (Deeds, Volume 44, Page 616)

Hopkins arrived in Princeton in 1850, according to his obituary in the Princeton Republic, “being one of the few men who at that early day determined to find a home on the bank of Fox River and who believed Princeton was so situated as to eventually become a thriving village and pleasant place to live.”

After a few years Hopkins and his son, Harvey, established a successful hardware business in the building constructed in 1855 by Davis H. Waite and Orrin Parsons at the southwest corner of Water and Washington streets. (The building at 501 West Water Street was replaced with a brick building in 1901 that originally housed the First National Bank of Princeton).

Hopkins paid $1,000 for the east half of water lot 29 in April 1865. (Deeds, Volume 24, Page 533)

Hopkins, who was elected president of the Princeton Pioneer Club when it formed in 1873, served as postmaster for 16 years under Republican presidents. He was also county treasurer and a county supervisor. He suffered from severe rheumatism and died in 1876 at age 59.

Teske purchased lots 6 and 7 from Hopkins’ heirs in 1883 for $650 (Deeds, Volume 44, Page 616).

Business life

The Teske name is tightly interwoven with the history of Princeton. Edward Teske Sr. is remembered by local historians for his role in bringing electricity to town, but brother Gustave also left his imprint on the community. For example, he served on the school board for 18 years.

Gustave Teske Sr. was born in Prussia, immigrated to the U.S. with his mother at age 16 in 1856, bought a farm in 1861 and later opened a mercantile business with his brother Edward in Princeton. (Gustave also had sons named Edward and Gustave.)

Gustave Sr. was also one of the original promoters of the Citizens Light and Power Company, president of the overall and shirt manufacturing company, president and director of Princeton State Bank, and involved in nearly all major civic projects of his era. He was county treasurer for eight years and served as village president, town treasurer, county board supervisor and chairman. He held leadership positions, as well, at St. John’s Lutheran church and school and with the Princeton Fire Company.

His obituary in the Princeton Republic noted that Teske for “over three score years was intimately connected with the home life, the civic advancement and the business upbuilding of Princeton.”

The Teske brothers went into the dry goods business in 1866 and purchased the Hiram Loomis building at 520-522 West Water Street in August 1867.

The brothers added the building next door east (518 West Water Street) to their holdings less than a year later.

Princeton Republic, April 3, 1868 – “R. Tucker Sr. has sold to Teske Bros. his store and stock of goods opposite Demell’s block on Water Street. The Teske boys are refitting up the building and joining it to their present one, will have a splendid storeroom.”

The newspaper reported the Teskes occupied the new store by mid-May, giving them two large rooms filled with groceries, dry goods, etc. The brothers advertised that they carried “everything wanted by the farmer” and were willing to “take in exchange for goods everything the farmer has to sell.”

In 1872 the Teskes sold the former Tucker building, which was relocated to the riverbank in the 600 block of West Water Street and burned in 1873, and then built a brick block at 516-518 West Water. They officially opened for business in the two-story, 100-foot building, which the Republic said was “the largest business room in the village,” in January 1873.

A boot and shoe manufactory filled most of the second floor until the operation was moved one door east when the Teskes purchased Josiah Luce’s building in 1875.

The Teske brothers in 1874 built a two-story building on the north side of West Main Street, in the 500 block, that housed a German Lutheran school for several years and later was converted into a barn for their prized horses. In 1876 Gustave was president of the Princeton German Publishing Group, which published a German newspaper for about three years.

At one point in the early 1880s, the Teskes owned the lots at 514 (Rosshaven Gallery in 2020), 516-518 (Levee Contemporary), 520-522 (Shiloh), 524 (vacant) and 528 West Water Street (Bentley’s Pharmacy).

The Teskes also purchased a large tract of farmland from John Knapp north of the village, erected warehouses to handle their wholesale business dealing in wheat, potatoes and pork, and grew hops for many years near the railroad track. They also were major horse traders, driving and shipping animals to Wisconsin cities and elsewhere.

The Republic reported in April 1885 that Gustave had purchased a Clydesdale stallion from a farm near Cambria. “The animal is a fine one, as good, if not the best, that was ever brought to this section for use,” the newspaper said. “One or two crosses from such stock will make a vast improvement in our horses.”

The horse tipped the scales at about 1,300 pounds just before it turned 2 years old in 1886. “He is a magnificent specimen of horse flesh,” the Republic said.

Princeton Republic, August 11, 1887 – “Teske Brothers own a number of colts of their stock of horses that make a fine showing. Those gentlemen have introduced a stock of horses in this section that is worth thousands of dollars to farmers in this country.”

Princeton Republic, March 29, 1888 – “On Tuesday last Teske Bros. shipped a carload of horses to Clark, Dakota. They sent excellent stock. Among the lot was one of their famous stallions.”

Gustave also presided over the Farmers Institute visit to Princeton in 1891, the same year village authorities put a cistern in the corner of Teske’s residential lot for use of the fire department.

Personal life

Gustave Ernst Teske married Justine Giese in 1864. She bore the couple four children – three boys and one girl.

Princeton Republic, April 21, 1877 – “Gustave Teske has furnished his boys (Eddie and Frank) with a pretty three-wheeled velocipede. The boys keep it warm running on the sidewalks.”

Justine died in December 1882 at age 39 shortly after giving birth to the couple’s fourth child, a son “who first gazed upon the light of day as the mother was entering the shadows of the night of death,” the Republic’s obituary noted.

Teske lost his daughter, Eveline, a year later to measles.

Princeton Republic, December 20, 1883 – “She was the only daughter, a shining light of her doting father’s home, and had entwined herself about the parental heart until them dread summons was almost like snapping the very heart strings of life.”

The Teskes had lived in a large home on the southeast corner of Main and Farmer streets. Following the loss of his wife and daughter, Teske sold the property to Dr. G.C. Hoyer and moved his family into his brother’s home near the mill on the west side.

In 1883 Teske purchased the Hopkins property at 330 West Main Street, across the street from his previous home, and moved into a large but aging house that had been moved to Princeton from St. Marie years earlier.

Princeton Republic, Sept. 20, 1883 – “Gus Teske has purchased the residence on the corner of Main and Farmer street belonging to the Hopkins estate. That property will now undoubtedly be improved.”

Gustave, 44, married 23-year-old Ernestine Maik in 1884. She bore him three daughters and one son. The new family would need plenty of space, which Teske decided to address with a new house.

Princeton Republic, May 26, 1887 – “Gus Teske has moved the house he lives in off from its foundations and will soon erect a neat, commodious dwelling in place of the old one. That corner property will be improved clear out of its former semblance soon.”

The house was ready in October.

Princeton Republic, October 6, 1887 – “Among the class of dwellings that are neat and substantial and of a high order in general appearance, is the one nearly completed on the corner of Farmer and Main streets, by Gus. Teske. The building is erected on a splendid corner, conspicuous and sightly, and in all respects an ornament to the village and reflects credit upon the good taste of the proprietor. From cellar to garret it is convenient and satisfactory. It is two stories above basement. The rooms have high ceilings and are finished by carpenter and painter both inside and outside in a tasty manner. In a word it is a home in every sense of the word. The roomy parlors, the sitting rooms, bedrooms, halls, closets, etc., neatly finished, give it an air of elegance and comfort.”

The newspaper said it hoped Teske’s project would “stimulate others to go and do likewise. We need a better class of homes to give background and set off the natural beauty of our surroundings, and we hope Mr. Teske’s move will be the entering wedge to a lively competition in this respect.”

Teske was chairman of the committee that planned the brick school built on the downtown triangle in 1894. He was elected school board clerk in 1899 and remained in office until 1917, when he declined to seek re-election. During his tenure, the district developed a four-year high school and in 1908 built an addition to the school.

When Teske was unanimously re-elected school board clerk, having already served eight years, in July 1908, the newspaper noted he “is an honest, faithful and conscientious businessman whose word is as good as a bond.”

In July 1923 Teske went to Waukesha where he underwent treatment for rheumatism at the famous Moor Baths. He died in December 1927 about a week after suffering a paralytic stroke. He was 87.

“To know this kindly man was to be his friend,” his obituary noted. “He was a neighbor in the true sense. He was a companion that was sought by young and old. He was a Christian gentleman who inspired toward noble things in life. He was a civic worker that held community welfare above personal gain. He was a business leader who let honesty, uprightness, character, courtesy and service be the leading elements in this contact with those with whom he dealt.”

The residential property at 330 West Main Street remained in the Teske name until April 1946 when Charles and Mabel Smith became the new owners.

Teske’s son, daughter and other relatives kept the store at 516-518 West Water Street open until 1964 when it was sold to Lois Jankowski.

The house at 330 West Main Street was built in 1887 by Gustave Teske Sr.

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