The building at 514 West Water Street is known to local historians as the Josiah Luce building, but to my generation it was simply “the dime store.”
The lot was among several lots in the original plat sold by Henry Treat to Thomas Sargent. It passed through the hands of Charles Stacy to Josiah Luce in 1851. Luce paid $150 for a lot about 56 feet wide, divided the property and sold both lots.
The lot that became 514 West Water was undeveloped when Gustav and Edward Teske sold it back to Luce, a well-known insurance agent and former sheriff of Marquette County, in August 1869 for $300 (Deeds, Volume 31, Page 17).
Princeton Republic, April 10, 1869 – “We learn that Mr. J. (Josiah) has purchased of the Teske Bros. the lot between their store and the Republic office. Mr. Luce proposes to put up a good fireproof building which will make a fine addition to our business street.”
(The Teskes had purchased the building at 518 West Water in 1868. The Republic office was located in a building, about 512 West Water, owned by Royal Treat and moved here from St. Marie.)
Masons built Luce’s new brick building along with the double building at 508-512 West Water Street for August Thiel in 1870.
Princeton Republic, Dec. 4, 1869 – “The stone is coming upon the ground for Thiel and Luce’s blocks.”
Princeton Republic, June 18, 1870 – “Thiel and Luce are proceeding with their block of three stores.”
Princeton Republic, August 20, 1870 – “The front of Luce’s block is completed.”
Lafayette Fisher moved his inventory of staple dry goods, clothing and fancy groceries into the new block. The Republic moved its office to the second floor.
Princeton Republic, March 16, 1872 – “On Monday night, at about 11 o’clock, or a little later, Mr. David Demell had occasion to be in the hall door of his brick block, and having heard hurried steps a few moments before, was peering about to see the cause. Looking across the street, he saw a small light between Luce’s block (in the second story of which is the Republic office) and the two-story wooden building of Teske Brothers. These buildings are separated only by room for two narrow flights of stairs, the light being situated as he thought against the wooden building. Mr. Demell hurried over to see what was wrong. … Tearing off the siding he found a large ball of cotton cloth saturated with kerosene and filled with matches, all in full blaze. The siding and studding were already ignited, but the timely application of plenty of snow spoiled the plan of the fiend who set fire to his neighbor’s property. Mr. Demell then went to the hotel and got out Mr. Walter Cooke and the hostler, and also aroused Mr. Teske, and the matter was talked and discussed with apparently slight chances of tracing the villain. Had it not been for Mr. Demell’s illness that made him wakeful and nervous, there is no telling how many families would have found themselves homeless, as this part of the village is built mostly of wood.”
A.W. Pettibone filled the store when Fisher left in 1872 but lasted only one year before moving into the Thiel block one door east. Luedtke Bros. filled the Luce space but also tarried there only about a year.
Princeton Republic, July 3, 1875 – “We understand a new store to be opening in Luce’s block as soon as Luedtke Bros. get their stock moved out. The Luedtke Bros have purchased the store building of G. Green, occupied by the Mueller Bros, and will move into their new quarters on Monday next.”
The Republic moved one door west, to the Teske block, in November 1875 as the Teskes moved their boot and shoe factory into Luce’s block. Luce, who faced family and money problems, sold his building to the Teskes in 1877.
Princeton Republic, March 24, 1877 – “J. Luce has sold his store and brick block to E. Teske & Bro. for $2,500. Luce retains the office for five years.”
After Luce’s death in 1878 the Teskes rented the second floor of the building to the Odd Fellows for their lodge room.
The Teskes decided in 1880 to move their boot and shoe operation to a new building several doors to the west and rented the Luce building to Mueller Bros.
Princeton Republic, June 10, 1880 – “Teske Bros. commenced vacating their east storeroom last Monday and have moved their harness and shoe shop to their new room four doors west. They will put the necessary array of mechanics into the vacated rooms forthwith and make it over into a room convenient for the sale of drugs, etc. which ere long will be occupied by Mueller Bros.”
The Teskes sold the former Luce lot and building to Fred Mittlestaedt for $2,800 (Deeds, Volume 45, Page 307) in 1885.
Princeton Republic, Feb. 5, 1885 – “Fred Mittlestaedt has bought of Teske Bros. the store building now occupied by Mueller Bros.”
The Muellers moved into their own brick store at 528 West Water Street later in 1885, and Mittlestaedt sold the former Luce property to John P. Schneider, who also owned the American House, in April (Deeds, Volume 45, Page 405).
Princeton Republic, April 30, 1885 – “J.P. Schneider has purchased of Fred Mittlestaedt the block occupied by the Mueller Brothers.”
William Lueck and Edward Manthey, operating as Lueck & Manthey, filled the former Luce building following the Muellers’ departure. Lueck and Manthey purchased the property from Schneider in October 1891 for $3,075 (Deeds, Volume 49, Page 512).
Princeton Republic, Oct. 15, 1891 – “J.P. Schneider has been disposing of his real estate during the last week, having sold his residence property to Fred Schwenzer and the brick block on Water Street to Messrs. Lueck & Manthey, who have occupied it for some time.”
Following Manthey’s death in 1906, the business became Wm. Lueck & Son. Lueck leased the general store to Eugene Thomas for a while but ran into financial difficulties.The property was sold to Eugene Kidman for $3,250 in November 1911. He opened a grocery and ice cream store.
Princeton Republic, May 13, 1915 – “Eugene Kidman who has conducted a very successful grocery and ice cream parlor business on Water Street for the past several years, has sold a half interest in his business to his nephew, Lynn Merrill, who immediately took possession under the name of Kidman & Merrill.”
Merrill was no longer with the business when Eugene Kidman passed in 1929. His widow sold the grocery stock and business to Albert Lawson in September 1932.
Princeton Republic, Sept. 15, 1932: “The new proprietor is at the present time busily engaged in remodeling the storeroom and rearranging the stock. Mr. Lawson will have his opening on Wednesday, Sept. 21.”
Lawson lasted only until April 1933 and was succeeded six months later by A.L. Van Dyke.
Princeton Republic, Oct. 19, 1933 – “A. L. Van Dyke, proprietor, opens Van Dyke’s Cash Grocery in the Kidman building Saturday, Oct. 21. Will carry a complete line of fresh groceries, fruits and vegetables – new stock.”
Van Dyke also lasted only a short time. The Boy Scouts, meanwhile, had turned the upstairs into their headquarters.
Princeton Republic, Nov. 15, 1934 – “The Boy Scouts have their room in the Kidman building all painted and decorated. The rooms are nice and makes a fine and pleasant place to meet. The Scoutmaster, Clayton Miller, and Mr. Hiestand have, with the assistance of the Boy Scouts, labored long and tirelessly to bring about the present fine appearance of the meeting place. We trust the parents as well as the public will accept the invitation of the boys to visit the rooms any evening the boys meet.”
The store got new owners and new merchandise in 1934.
Princeton Republic, June 27, 1935 – “Mr. and Mrs. J. A. Nyeggen and two daughters came to this city recently from Spring Valley and will be engaged in the Kidman building which has been remodeled to suit the needs of the new proprietor. Also, the store has been provided with a new front of the very latest design. Mr. Nyeggen will have his opening day on Wednesday, July 3, with a bran new stock of goods of every description.”
Princeton Republic, June 17, 1937 – “Nyeggen’s Store has installed a soda found of the latest type. It is a beautiful fixture with marble counter and panels and is equipped with electrical refrigeration for maintaining varying degrees of temperature in the different compartments.”
The Nyeggens operated their bargain store for nearly 10 years.
Princeton Republic, Oct. 19, 1944 – “A deal was recently closed by which D.J. Volpel of Chicago becomes the owner of the Nyeggen 5¢-$1.00 store and will take possession next Monday. Mr. Volpel has for several years been a manager of one of F.W. Woolworth’s large Chicago stores and is therefore splendidly equipped to make a success of his new venture. Through his experience with the Woolworth Company, he is familiar with every phase of the business from stockkeeping and buying to meeting the requirements of the public and knows how to meet those requirements with the right kind of merchandise. Mr. and Mrs. Volpel and their eight-year-old son will occupy the apartment over the store now occupied by the Nyeggen family. Mr. and Mrs. A.W. Nyeggen are moving their household goods to Madison where they will make their home. They opened their store here nine years ago last July and by giving their very close attention to every detail of the business have built up one of the most prosperous business enterprises of the kind in this section of the state.”
Volpel erected a neon sign for the front of Volpel’s Variety Store and branched out into other business ventures, including an appliance shop and clothing store in the ‘40s and ‘50s.
Property records show the Volpels sold the variety store to Fred and Linnie Dahm in February 1953.
Princeton Times-Republic, Feb. 12, 1953 – “The Volpel Variety Store was sold on Monday to Mr. and Mrs. Fred Dahm, of Belmond, Iowa. The deal, which had been pending for some time, was completed and the transfer of ownership made Monday of this week. Mr. and Mrs. Dahm will occupy the apartment above the store. The Dahms come here after some seven years operating a department store in Belmond and more than 20 years in the retail business. … Mr. and Mrs. Del Volpel have operated the store here in Princeton for the past seven (nine) years. They plan on remaining in Princeton, and Dell will devote more time to his position as salesman for the Handcraft Company, Inc.”
(We patronized the Dahms store as often as possible as kids, for toys, games, and comic books.)
The Dahms sold to Edward and Betty Seavecki in 1962.
Princeton Times-Republic, Jan. 11, 1962 – “Fred Dahms, owner and operator of Dahm’s Variety Store here for the past nine years, has sold his business to a Wautoma businessman and will retire after spending over 50 years of his life as an active member of the business world. The variety store was sold to Edward P. Seavecki, who is owner of a dime store in Wautoma and also mayor of that city.”
Princeton Times-Republic, March 1, 1962 – “Seavecki’s 5 & 10, formerly Dahm’s Variety Store, is holding a grand opening sale this coming Saturday, March 3.”
Princeton Times-Republic, May 19, 1963 – “Ed Seavecki, owner of Seavecki’s 5 & 10 here in Princeton, is celebrating his first year in Princeton with an anniversary sale. … The store was recently remodeled with Seavecki removing the soda fountain in order to make room for other merchandise.”
The Seaveckis moved the dime store to 429 West Water a decade later, and James and Carol Siddall opened a paint and home decorating center in the former Luce building in 1974. James had started in the painting business with his father, George, in 1960.
Princeton Times-Republic, April 25, 1974 – “Siddall Painting and Decorating is holding a grand opening this week at its new location at 514 Water Street, Princeton, the former Seavecki Variety Store. Jim Siddall, owner, has purchased the Weber Sewing Center line of decorating and the Mautz paint line from Mosolf Refrigeration and TV. He also has the area franchise for Glidden Paint.”
An article in a Princeton Times-Republic’s 1977 “Progress” edition noted that the Siddall Painting and Decorating Service’s home decorating center featured the largest wallpaper selection in mid-Wisconsin, including over 70 wallpaper patterns in stock, and three major lines of paint, varnish and stain available.
The May 27, 1999, edition of the Princeton Times-Republic carried an ad from the Siddalls congratulating their successors.
Joe Tondu and his wife, Dr. Phyllis Lee, opened Blue Moose Mercantile, advertising books, art, home accents, jazz CDs and “accoutrements for the discerning guy and gal,” in the former Luce building on May 29, 1999.
Princeton Times-Republic, Aug. 5, 1999 – “If you could open up a store, and sell anything you wanted, what would you sell? That was the question Joe Tondu asked himself last fall when he moved to Princeton. And, although he opened his business, Bull Moose Mercantile on Water Street in Princeton, he hasn’t completely answered that question yet. … He is a firm believer in the idea of ‘rugged individualism,’ and this is reflected in his products. It is also where he came up with the name of his business. The Bull Moose political party of earlier this century believed strongly in that trait, as led by Teddy Roosevelt. Tondu felt that this was the image he wanted to portray with his business: cigars, the western hats, strong furniture.”
That completes our survey of 514 West Water Street from 1849-1999, the 19th and 20 centuries! We will leave the 21st century research to future historians.
The Luce building in 2022 is home to RossHaven Gallery Art.
If you can fill in any of the gaps or have corrections, please let me know. Thank you for caring and reading about local history.