The history of the building at 528 West Water Street is one of the easier ones in our downtown to track. It has been a drug store since it was built.
There is one hole in the lineage of the property, however, that I cannot explain. Here are the clues that I cannot fit into the history:
Princeton Republic, Aug. 15, 1867 – “Geo. L. Armstrong has harness shop one door east of Williams’ shoe store (532 West Water Street).”
Princeton Republic, Sept. 14, 1868 – “Mr. Magill has sold his harness shop to Frank Holloway, who has moved across the street into the building lately occupied by Demell & Harroune.”
Princeton Republic, Feb. 15, 1869 – “The building now standing between Teske Bros.’ store (520 West Water Street) and Mr. Williams’ building on Water Street was put up at about the same time (1865) as the above and by the same party (Edward Magee), and has been principally occupied as a shoe shop, but of late years, and until within a few months, was Wm. Magill’s harness shop.’’ (Bird’s Eye View of the History of Princeton)
From the above, we learn there was harness shop, apparently built about 1865 by Edward Magee (who I have yet to find on any property records), between the Williams and Teske stores. But when the Republic listed the businesses in the 500 block of Water Street in a story on “Business and Business Men of Princeton” on March 12, 1870, it jumped from “Passing east, we next step into Thomas Williams’ Boot and Shoe Store … to the “Teske Bros.’ two large rooms.” Nothing in between.
I assume the harness shop was razed rather than moved prior to 1870 but cannot yet document that as fact.
But here is what we do know:
The lot was part of the original plat of Princeton and part of a package of lots that Henry Treat sold to Salem Wright in 1850, a few months after Princeton was platted. Wright sold it again a short time later to Jerome and Zelotus Fisher.
Other than the harness/shoe shop reference, we next read of the property being developed in 1873.
Princeton Republic, July 12, 1873 – “We learn that Mr. A. Wilkins and a gentleman from Montello (Rouse) will erect a building on Water Street, near Williams’, to be used for a billiard saloon.”
Princeton Republic, August 30, 1873 – “Messrs. Wilkins and Rouse laid the foundation for their building last Thursday. In a short time, the building will be finished and ready for business.”
Wilkins and Rouse got a new neighbor a week later when Philemon Wicks purchased 34.5 feet off the west side of the parcel for $500 (Deeds, Volume 33, Page 304).
Princeton Republic, Sept. 6, 1873 – “P. Wicks is putting up a new wooden building beside Wilkins & Rouse building, which itself is being rapidly pushed forward to completion.”
Wicks sold his property to Summer Sears for $1,000 in August 1874 (Deeds, Volume 36, Page 90). Sears sold it to Charley W. Loomis for $1,200 in November 1874 (Deeds, Volume 36, Page 165).
When Loomis sold the property to Abram Myers in 1877, it included the restaurants of Mrs. Jones (west) and Zelotus Fisher (east).
Princeton Republic, December 7, 1877 – “Judge Myers has bought the Loomis property upon which the restaurants of Z. Fisher and Mrs. Jones are situated.”
Jones moved her restaurant building to about 436 West Water Street on the lot she purchased just east of M.J. Radway’s photo studio building in July 1878. (Jones’ two-story building blocked the light at the one-story post office next door, forcing the post office to move across the street.)
With Jones gone, the Teske Bros. (Edward and Gustav) leased the then-vacant lot from Myers and built a shoe and harness shop there.
Princeton Republic, April 29, 1880 – “Yesterday morning ground was broken for a new building erected by Teske Bros. just west of Fisher’s restaurant.”
Princeton Republic, 10, 1880 – “Teske Bros. commenced vacating their east store room (514) last Monday and have moved their harness and shoe shop to their new room four doors west.
Fisher continued his business until July 1882 when he moved to Newton, Kansas. Prior to leaving he cut prices of stick candies to 15 cents and fancy candies to 25 cents per pound.
Teske Bros. purchased the Fisher building in 1882 and rented it to W.J. Frank for his grocery store.
Myers sold the entire lot, which then included the Teske and Fisher buildings, in August 1882 to Gustave A. Krueger for $1,000 (Deeds, Vol. 44, Page 316), but the Teskes were allowed to stay until their lease expired in May 1885.
The Teskes sold their harness and boot shop building to Fred W. Cooke, who moved it to the south side of the 400 block of Water Street, in 1885.
Princeton Republic, March 12, 1885 – “Fred Cooke has purchased the building just east of Schendel’s hotel and will move it to one of the vacant lots just west of Turner Hall. It will be fitted up and occupied as a grocery store.”
Krueger then sold the remaining property to Gustave and Richard Mueller, who had purchased the Ferdinand Wilde drug business in 1875.
Princeton Republic, March 5, 1885 – “Another important transfer of real estate in this village is announced. Gus Krueger has sold to Mueller Brothers a lot of 27 feet front just east of Schendel’s hotel. Mueller Brothers commence the erection of a two-story building this spring, to be occupied by themselves in their drug business when completed. The dimensions of the structure will be 27×100 feet, and it will be veneered with brick.”
The Muellers’ plans for a brick building to replace the Fisher building forced Frank to move again.
Princeton Republic, March 12, 1885 – “W.J. Frank will soon move his stock of groceries to Megow’s building for the present. The building to be erected by the Mueller Bros. requires that Frank vacate the premises he now occupies.”
(Frank did just fine, by the way. He was named postmaster a short time later.)
The Muellers’ deal with Krueger included a provision that that they provide a 10-foot alley west of Krueger’s meat market. The new brick building was done in four months.
Princeton Republic, May 7, 1885 – “The steamer Weston reached Princeton yesterday loaded with 75,000 brick for Mueller Brothers’ new block. The steamer returns forthwith with another load of brick.”
Princeton Republic, May 28, 1885 – “The foundation for Mueller Brothers’ new building has been commenced.”
Princeton Republic, August 13, 1885 – Muellers’ new block is about ready for the roof of tin, which will be put on by G. Schaal.
The Republic provided a detailed inspection of the building in October:
“The Mueller Brothers have moved into their new building this week. … The work is now drawing to a completion, and a careful inspection of it shows that the carpenter work will bear the closest scrutiny and compare well with the finest work ever done in the county.
“The floors are of red birch, solid as marble. On the lower floor the room is arranged to perfection. As you enter to the left is the express department, effectually fenced off from the intruder. On the east side the shelving is to a great extent occupied by drugs. On the west side, books, musical instruments and a thousand and one articles too numerous to mention, usually kept in their line of trade, adorns the shelves. On both sides iron frames support show cases filled with an endless variety of goods. All the shelving and scores of glass doors – sliding and opening on hinges – are neatly made.
“The second floor is arranged for dwelling apartments and will be occupied by Dr. GA Mueller, one of the firm. These apartments are well and pleasantly, from the parlors to the smallest closet. Every door is a glass-paneled one; and everything is done with a neatness that gives these rooms an air of elegant completeness and reflects great credit on those having charge of the work. The windows, including those below as well as above (excepting the front of store room) are two-lighted windows, raised and lowered with weights, all moving smoothly and easily in their grooves.”
Gustave Mueller sold his share of the business to Richard for $5,000 in August 1886. Following Richard’s death in 1893, Frank Mueller, younger brother of Gustave and Richard, moved his drug business from the 600 block into the store at 528 Water.
Princeton Republic, June 1, 1893 – “Frank Mueller will soon take possession of the stock and move into the drug store lately occupied by the late Richard Mueller, deceased. Frank will have splendid quarters there. The splendid suit of rooms over the Mueller drug store have been repapered, and last Monday Mr. and Mrs. Frank Mueller took possession of them and they will be their future home.”
The property initially passed to the brothers’ father, Michael, who sold it to Frank in January 1901 for $5,500. (Deeds, Volume 58, Page 557).
Mueller introduced acetylene to Princeton in January 1898.
“Frank Mueller has had his acetylene plant in operation for the past week and it works to perfection,” the Republic reported. “It is said the gas makes a light equal to electricity.”
Mueller’s plant consisted of four tanks, two large ones and two small ones. The Republic explained the process: “The two small tanks are filled with calcium carbide, and water is admitted into one of these tanks and it, coming in contact with the calcium carbide, generates the gas. The other tanks contain water, and gas ready for burning. No heat is required in its operation. It may be operated automatically or shut off at any time. To stop generating the gas, the supply of water is turned off.”
Mueller retired in 1919 and sold the building to August and Clara Breitengross in September 1922 for $8,000 (Deeds, Volume 85, Page 52).
Princeton Republic, April 17, 1919 – Notice – Having spent 35 years in the drug business at Princeton, I have decided to withdraw from the service. The new owner, Mr. A.F. Breitengross, takes charge of the business at once. Frank Mueller
Princeton Republic, Sept. 20, 1923 – “A. Breitengross, the druggist, of late has been busily engaged in remodeling the second floor of his store building. He has removed partitions and replaced them into different positions and replaced them into different positions and made arrangements for two flats. He is also removing the front of his building and replacing it with large plate glass windows. The front will be one of the latest design and will be similar to the one of the Hyman Swed store building.”
Princeton Republic, Oct. 18, 1923 – “A. Breitengross, who has had the construction of a new front for his drug store in hand for the past several weeks, has same nearly finished and surely is a fine addition to his store. It is of the very latest type, large show windows and when entirely completed it will equal those that can be found in larger cities only.”
“Breity” invested in new technology to draw younger customers.
Princeton Republic, April 2, 1925 – “A.F. Breitengross, the druggist, always alert and on the watch for improvements and for the good of his patrons, recently installed a Frigidaire ice cream cabinet, which he procured through the agency of H.A. Shaffer, Madison. The new outfit was installed last week and places Mr. Breitengross on the list of having one of the best, most convenient and sanitary ice cream cabinets in this section of the country. … It is air-cooled which has a tendency to keep the contents at an even temperature at all times.”
A coupon in the newspaper entitled the holder to a credit of 10 cents toward a 25-cent purchase of ice cream.
Princeton Republic, June 11, 1925 – “The latest soda water Carbonator installed by A.F. Breitengross is the latest in the making of soda water and is run with an automatic electric motor that makes fresh soda water directly when needed, in the most sanitary way, and, in connection with the Sanitary Iceless Frigidaire Ice Cream Machine, gives the people of Princeton and vicinity the same sanitary service recently installed in the L.K. Liggett Company on the busiest corner of the world, Broadway and 7th Ave., New York City.”
Princeton Republic, April 28, 1927 – “Development of a self-operating talking machine, which changes its own records automatically and gives an hour of music with one filling of the record magazine, is the latest achievement of engineers and scientists. Announcement of the perfection of this instrument was made today by A.F. Breitengross, Victor dealer.”
In 1937 the Breitengrosses purchased the former Princeton State Bank building at 527 West Water Street and converted it into a restaurant. They continued to operate both businesses for two more decades.
Princeton Times-Republic, Jan. 30, 1947 – “Breity’s Drug Store has installed a beautiful new soda fountain with a stainless steel worktop and receptacles, and linen finish Formica counter. This new fixture will help improve the service but also adds greatly to the appearance of this busy store.”
I have not verified when Breitengross sold his drug business to the Bentley family from Montello. The plaque on the City of Princeton Historical Walking Tour, which readers of this blog will know is riddled with errors, says 1954, but Breity’s Rexall drug store ads continued in the Times-Republic through 1956.
Bentley drug store ads were running in the newspaper by June 1957, and the Bentley grand opening was held in August.
Princeton Times-Republic, Aug. 8, 1957 – “The Bentley Drug Store is holding its grand opening Friday and Saturday. A lot of preparation has gone into this event. Since buying the store from Mr. and Mrs. Breitengross some months ago, the new proprietors have completely rearranged and remodeled the interior, all with a pleasing effect and added convenience for the customers. While the store has continued to serve its patrons without interruption, the grand opening this weekend is somewhat of a special invitation to old and new customers to come in and get better acquainted.”
The business has remained a Bentley pharmacy since that time.
Following August’s death, Clara Breitengross sold the property to Kenneth and Elaine Bentley for $16,000 in September 1959 (Deeds, Volume 149, Page 615).
Princeton Times-Republic, Feb. 7, 1980 – “For 10 days, Bentley’s Drug Store is having a Grand Opening. The observance is in recognition of the major changes which have taken place in the business and the building the past year. The building has housed a drug store since about 1890 when the Muellers started the drug business in Princeton. since then, A.F. Breitengross (Breity) owned it until it was purchased by Kenneth Bentley in 1956. Pat Bentley, Ken’s son, a pharmacist, came to the Princeton store two years ago. In all those years there haven’t been many changes at the drug store. But this past year an extensive remodeling and updating program was undertaken and the store is now a dealership for the well-known Walgreen Drugs.”