Local historian Joe Wyse shared this photo with me this week. We agree it shows the United Consumers Corporation filling station – the first drive-in station in the city – in what is now the parking lot for Princeton Garage Antiques.
Princeton officially entered the age of the automobile in 1902 when the Rev. J.S. Wozny, pastor of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, became the first resident to own a car. Others quickly followed as “motored” and “autoed” became popular new verbs in the Princeton Republic.
According to the “Dictionary of Wisconsin History”: “When automobiles were new, gasoline was at first delivered by horse and wagon like coal. About 1915, the first curbside gas pumps and underground storage tanks appeared in Wisconsin.”
Before gas stations, Princeton residents filled up their cars at roadside pumps at local auto garages such as the Washington Street Garage, Drake’s Garage, Schaal’s (hardware store, service station and Goodyear dealer) and Erich Mueller’s implement business. Sometimes the gas was pumped from a barrel alongside the pump.
In the later 1920s “service stations” offering oil changes and other services in addition to gas were commonplace in most communities. They utilized underground tanks for gas.
The Princeton Republic reported in February 1921 that sealed bids were being accepted at the home office of the United Consumers Corporation in Milwaukee until 8 p.m. March 15, 1921, for the construction of 21 gasoline filling stations, including one in Princeton, with work to be completed within 90 days from the time the contract was awarded.
In April, Alfred Warnke razed the building previously occupied by Aaron Fishkin’s general merchandise store, The Reliable, at the southeast corner of Water and Washington streets. “We are informed the building for a gasoline filling station which will be erected in its place, which will be constructed in the very near future,” the Republic reported.
Princeton Republic, May 26, 1921 – “Contractor Hagen of Green Bay was on arrival last Saturday afternoon and on Monday began operation in the construction of the filling station for the United Consumers Co.”
Construction was completed by fall 1921. Gas prices that Christmas were 23 cents for a gallon of 58-test (octane) gas and 26 cents for 64-test gas.
Warnke laid the foundation for another new building (441) to the east in June but did not complete it until the following year.
Princeton Republic, June 16, 1921 – “Alfred Warnke, who has acquired the Harmon property some months ago and located east of the new filling station, is at present engaged in cleaning up, removing old lumber and contemplates the erection of a garage. The building with dimensions of about 40 x 80 will be constructed of tile with a brick front and one story high.”
Intended and eventually used as a Ford garage, the building was first occupied by a men’s clothing and shoe store.
The gas station, meanwhile, later became a Deep Rock station before it was demolished in 1932.
Princeton Republic, March 17, 1932 – “The Deep Rock filling station, opposite the American House, is being razed. Mr. Warnke, the present owner, proposes to build cement driveways on that property for the convenience of the Ford garage.”
Princeton Republic, March 24, 1932 – “Alfred Warnke has completed the razing of the Deep Rock filling station on Water Street and is now making arrangements for the laying of cement driveways to the Ford garage building.”
Four more local entrepreneurs got into the gas station business in the 1920s.
F.C. Breivogel announced in February 1926 he would erect a filling station in spring directly north of the cheese factory near state Highway 23/73 and County Road D on the southeast edge of the city. (Does anyone know if this is the Subway building?)
Julius Schalow bought a lot near the intersection of Main and Water streets, east of the bridge, from the railroad in April for his new station.
Princeton Republic, April 29, 1926 – “The owner informs us that the building will be of a late design with all the modern conveniences, and in addition a comfort station (rest room) will be provided in the structure. The surrounding will be arranged with a considerable filling, trees and shrubbery will be planted, and when all is completed it will represent one of the beauty spots in the city.”
Princeton Republic, May 27, 1926 – “Julius Schalow has the cement foundation completed for his filling station near the Fox River bridge and is now engaged in putting up the cement block walls.”
The Republic reported on July 8 that the new filling station was completed and open for business. (Building is now The Ice Bowl.)
William Huenerberg built a filling and car washing station at Fulton and Dover streets, directly north of the Princeton Chick Hatchery, in spring 1928. (Building is now police station.)
John Kalupa, meanwhile, began preparations that April to open a filling station near the southeast corner of Main and Second streets.
Princeton Republic, April 19, 1928 – “The main building now occupying the corner and used for a grocery store will be moved in the extreme rear of the lot to make room for the station. The new station will be built of red brick, will be modern in design and fitted with a rest room. The east wing of the old Messing building will be remodeled and transformed into a grocery store, while that part of the building moved back will be utilized for a garage.”
The new filling station, named “First and Last Chance,” opened on July 1 with A.A. Sommerfeldt as manager. For the grand opening, customers could get either one gallon of gasoline or one quart of oil free with every five gallons of gasoline purchased. (The building, best known as Kristy’s, has been demolished and replaced.)
Additional gas stations would be built in the 1930s.
The Shell Oil & Gasoline Company erected a filling station on the corner of Main and Mechanic streets, on property formerly owned by Mrs. Wm. Lueck, in 1930.
Princeton Republic, Dec. 25, 1930 – “The filling station, corner of Main and Mechanic streets, was recently completed and opened for business. The building is of steel and stucco construction and adds to the beauty of that section of the city. Alfred Sommerfeldt has taken over the lease hold of the building and deals in the Shell Oil company products. … We are informed the Shell Oil company contemplate the erection of a bulk station in Princeton the coming summer.”
About a year later, in February 1931, Max King purchased the Frank Kallas residence at the northwest corner of Wisconsin and Fulton streets, across from the Community Hall, and moved it to Howard Street, across from the park. Kallas retained the lot and announced plans to build a filling station and garage on his lot. He sold Deep Rock products.
Princeton Republic, April 16, 1931 – Frank Kallas is busily engaged in the erection of a filling station on his premises opposed the city park. The building will be of modern design and of (cream-colored) brick construction. It will be a two-story structure with living rooms on the second floor. Mr. Kallas will also provide facilities for washing cars.”
The original name was the Park Super Service Station, but within a few years it was known as the Parkside Tavern and Service Station. The original building today is part of Jim’s Place.
Herman Mosolf opened a filling station and garage on Highway 23, Princeton-Montello road, in 1931 and Gust Dreger was the proprietor of a gas station built directly east of the Pleasant Valley pavilion in 1932.
Another station went up in Princeton in 1933. The station managed by John Ronspies Sr. sold DX gasoline.
Princeton Republic, Sept. 21, 1933 – A new filling station is being built on corner of East Main and Washington streets.
The station eventually was demolished, and the site is now part of the Gagne Ford dealership parking lot (511 West Main Street).
Fred Ponto opened the Airport Tavern and Service Station across Fulton Street from the Community Hall in 1937. Ponto sold Texaco products.
W.H. Doyle added the last of the gas stations built prior to World War II in 1939. Doyle, who previously had operated the Kalupa gas station on the west side, has the distinction of likely being the only gas station operator in Princeton who experienced two armed robberies! One of them involved a shootout, with police and vigilantes chasing the outlaws to Wautoma, but that’s a story for another day.
Princeton Times-Republic, July 27, 1939 – “After operating a Cities Service Station at the intersection of highways 23 and 73, on the west side, W.H. Doyle is changing the scene of his operations in the service station line to the Princeton Chick Hatchery on highways 23 and 73 near the eastern limit of the city. Work is progressing rapidly at the night sight on the installation of the latest type of display and computing pumps and in improving the driveway, and Doyle promises that everything will be all set to serve his customers at the new location on August 1st. The new station will be a Cities Service Station and Mr. Doyle will continue to handle the dependable Cities Service products. Edward Krystofiak, we understand, will be in charge of the west side station.”
Doyle got out of the gas business in 1941.
Princeton Times-Republic, Oct. 23, 1941 – “Amerigas is the name of the new motor fuel introduced here by the Amerigas Service Station, successor to the W.H. Doyle station next to the NYA building near the airport. William Knaack will manage the station and also plans to operate the Princeton Chick Hatchery located in the same building.” The station featured red, white and blue pumps.
The station, on the southwest corner of Dover and Fulton streets, no longer exists.
The city welcomed a new station in December 1950 when Gilbert Dreger opened a Consolidated station featuring green and white pumps in conjunction with an auto repair and welding business just west of the Main Street bridge. An advertisement in the Dec. 7 edition of the Princeton Times-Republic offered customers at the grand opening a free ball point pen (reg. 1.49 value) but only one to a car.
Art Dreblow installed two large gas storage tanks at his implement shop on South Fulton Street in May 1951. “He plans on going into the cut-rate gasoline business there sometime during June,” the Princeton Times-Republic reported. “By July the Dreblows also plan on consolidating their appliance business and implement business under one roof. They will vacate the downtown building in July.”
Princeton welcomed another filling station as part of the “Little Chicago” motor court established by Elaine (Siekierka) and James Gervasi on state highways 23-73 just east of the city, on property formerly owned by Peter Adamske, where Bob Miller built his Chevrolet dealership and now home to Gagne auto repair. Work started on a cement block administration building, followed by five cabins for tourists, filling station and tavern (Jim’s and Al’s Place).
Princeton Times-Republic, March 2, 1950 – “Len Gruber has taken the lease on the Little Chicago tavern and filling station. He expects to take over sometime early in the spring. Jim Gervasi will continue to live there and run the tourist court end of the business. The Grubers’ son Ken will handle the filling station end of the business.”
If anyone has information on any other early gas stations, please let me know.