Here is a brief history of the early days of Lots 1, 2 and 3 of Block C (626-640 West Water Street), known affectionately as the north side of “the crooked end” of Water Street.
Please keep in mind that my current research extends only through 1945. I have added more recent information when available but will not begin more thorough research of the 1940s and beyond until next year.
Although Royal Treat is considered the founder of Princeton, the U.S. government patent for the land that comprised the original plat was issued to Royal’s brother Henry in June 1849.
Henry Treat sold Lots 1, 2 and 3 of Block C to Samuel Cole in February 1850. The lots remained largely undeveloped as they passed through several owners until Chauncey Boylan purchased the property from Aldis Stevens for $300 in September 1862. (Deeds, Volume U, Page 176)
Boylan, an early settler perhaps best known as the marksman who provided the antlers that hung over the door of the original Buckhorn bar, divided the lots in 1869.
Boylan sold the almost triangular-shaped Lot 1 parcel to Ernst Manthey in January 1869 for $150 (Deeds, Volume 34, Page 67). Manthey built a house.
Princeton Republic, June 12, 1869 – “Ernst Manthey is putting up a new dwelling on his lot on Water Street, recently purchased of C.M. Boylan.”
The location of Manthey’s house is important to local historians because it also helps locate the first dwelling built in Princeton by Royal Treat in 1848-1849.
The “Bird’s Eye View of the History of Princeton,” published by the Princeton Republic in 1869, noted that Manthey’s residence was near where Treat built his first shanty, later replaced by a log cabin: “This shanty, the first building erected in Princeton, was put up in front of the house owned and occupied by Ernst Manthey, in Main Street.”
The Princeton Times-Republic in 1940 noted that Ernst Manthey’s son Edward said the house was on the site of the then-Henry Grams residence, now 640 West Water Street and still a residence, and concluded Treat’s cabin stood about where the Mike’s Payless Auto Service is today, 631 W. Main Street.
But I digress.
After selling Manthey his section of the block in 1869, Boylan sold the remaining parts of Lots 2 and 3 in Block C to fellow early settler Silas Eggleston for $650. (Deeds, Volume 30, Page 340).
Eggleston, who owned at least three other lots on Water Street at one time or another, split the property again.
The stone house
In 1872 Eggleston sold the west 27 feet of Lots 2 and 3 for $350 to Christoph Tagatz (Deeds, Volume 33, Page 633), who a year later built a stone house fronting Water Street.
Barber Chris Hunold moved into the house in 1882.
Princeton Republic, Feb. 9, 1882 – “C. Hunold has rented family rooms in the stone building of T. Tagatz’s just west of Gard Green’s.”
Christoph and Louise Tagatz sold the property to Oliver and Lovina Harmon for $1,000 in March 1887. (Deeds, Volume 47, Page 386)
Princeton Republic, October 11, 1888 – “Mrs. Clara Noster, having sold out the restaurant business to A. Carley, has vacated the premises and moved into O.N. Harmon’s house just west of Warnke & Zauft’s hardware, formerly Gardner Green’s.”
The real estate firm of Pooch & Megow listed the house for sale in June 1899: “Eight-room modern stone house, a good cellar and a good barn. Best location in town of Princeton for any kind of business. Fine lot. In block C on Water Street and extending to Main Street. Possession given at once. Must be sold. First come first served.”
The property, now 632 West Water Street, changed hands a few more times until the heirs of Gottlieb Luedtke, including son-in-law Erich Mueller, sold it to Lucile Losinske in 1928.
The house remained in the Losinske family until 1984, when it was purchased by the Princeton Historical Society and converted into a museum with rooms depicting life in the early to mid-20th century.
The folklore museum
I wrote three posts a few months ago about the botched history of the building at 630 West Water Street on the city’s historical walking tour, so I will not go into great detail here, but suffice to say the building was not moved here from St. Marie and was not a feed store for nearly 100 years. It was built in 1876 and served primarily as a hardware store for its first 50-plus years and feed store for about forty years.
But, again, I digress.
After selling a parcel 27 feet wide off the west side to Tagatz, Eggleston sold the rest of Lots 2 and 3 to Gardner Green in April 1876 for $300. (Deeds, Volume 37, Page 135).
Green – with A.P. Carman as partner – operated one of Princeton’s early lumber yards on the lots. (Samuel Fairweather, who resigned as the local railroad agent to buy out the Yahr lumber yard, owned the other for a time.) At one point, Green owned five business blocks on Water Street and had built thirteen houses in Princeton.
Utilizing the property’s access from both Water and Main streets, Green and Carman envisioned more than a lumber yard. It would become a “Farmer’s Bazaar” with lumber, hardware, farm equipment and supplies. They built the building at 630 West Water Street in 1876.
Princeton Republic, June 3, 1876 – “Green & A.P. Carman building an agricultural warehouse to accommodate their increasing trade in farm commodities and machinery.”
Princeton Republic, June 17, 1876 – “Green & Carman hardware and agricultural rooms nearly completed – opposite G. Luedtke’s wagon shop.”
Princeton Republic, June 24, 1876 – “Gard Green’s new store is completed and open for business.”
Green and Carman kept the busy yard in a state of flux, adding sheds, removing sheds, building a platform near the Main Street entrance to display farm equipment, and more.
Princeton Republic, August 15, 1878 – “Gard. Green’s Bazaar is undergoing a terrible ordeal. One portion of it will be demolished, that another may be built up. A commodious sales room is to be fitted up in rear of A.P. Carman’s room’s (which rooms will be used for an office) where will be exhibited to the honest granger all lines of hardware and farmer’s goods that are to him useful and ornamental. A well is being dug, into which will be inserted a force pump, that will protect the buildings and lumber yard in case of fire.”
Green sold the lumber yard, including Lots 2 and 3 (except the 27 feet from the west side occupied by the stone house), to J.P. and W.F. Viel in June 1883 for $2,000. (Deeds, Volume 44, Page 343)
Princeton Republic, April 12, 1883 – “G. Green and A.P. Carman have sold out their lumber yard, hardware and other business to Messrs. J.P. and W.F. Viel. W.F. recently sold out in Milwaukee. … Green and Carman … have long served the people in that capacity and by their uprightness and fair dealing have secured the confidence of the people in general. Their places are filled, however, by a firm of live, energetic men who will undoubtedly prove a valuable acquisition to the business interests of Princeton.”
The Viels made good use of their own lumber.
Princeton Republic, May 30, 1883 – “The Viel Brothers ere long will build on to the rear of their store building (630), making their room some forty feet longer than it now is.”
Princeton Republic, September 12, 1883 – “The Viel Bros. have not only enlarged their storeroom by adding on new, but also have built on many feet of shedding for stowing lumber.”
The addition to the hardware store enabled the Viels to attract new renters.
Princeton Republic, Jan. 17, 1884 – “Pooch & Wichmer have moved their effects from the building opposite the American House to Viel Brothers’ west room.”
The brothers also created another store (626-628) east of the hardware store.
Princeton Republic, July 30, 1885 – “The Viel Brothers are making it lively over in the region of the lumberyard. As the outcome of a recent arrangement, Rev. J.P. Viel is having the barn moved from Main Street to the rear of the building across the alley from the hardware store of W.F. Viel & Co. This is the nucleus for the erection of capacious business rooms in there. … It will be 58 feet in depth and additional storage space will be added.”
Princeton Republic, October 8, 1885 – “The new storeroom just erected by Rev. J.P. Viel has been rented by W.F. Viel & Co. and will be used as a sales room.”
Meanwhile, the Viels also turned the second floor of the hardware store into profitable space.
Princeton Republic, Feb. 25, 1886 – “Solon Dudley has moved his photographic stock into the second story of Viel’s block over the hardware. A skylight is being put into apartments he occupies, and the place fitted up for a fine photograph gallery.”
Princeton Republic, August 5, 1886 – “A.H. Noyes, an artist of wide experience and excellent reputation, has arrived and will open the gallery in Viel’s building next Monday. He has left Jefferson to establish a permanent home in Princeton.”
J. P. Viel sold the lumber yard property to Herman Warnke in April 1888 for $4,500. (Deeds, Volume 48, Page 28)
Princeton Republic, April 12, 1888 – “Warnke & (August) Zauft have purchased of J.P. Viel the lumber yard, business and good will, including real estate.”
Warnke and Zauft’s tenants included Martin Manthey, the first German to settle in Princeton. He sold insurance and over the years dealt in groceries, eggs, meat and more.
Princeton Republic, December 6, 1888 – “Mr. M. Manthey is about opening up a stock of staple groceries in Warnke & Zauft’s room years ago occupied by Green & Carman.”
Princeton Republic, May 15, 1890 – “There has recently been a material change in the firm of Manthey & Sons. Martin Manthey, the father, has started a boot and shoe store in the front room of Warnke & Zauft’s store house, and Adore has taken charge of the buying and selling deal at the old grocery stand, while J.H. Manthey has opened a new dry goods establishment in Gard Green’s building recently vacated by Taback & Jacobson. May they all flourish.”
Warnke and Zauft eliminated the skylight in the roof of the hardware store building.
Princeton Republic, August 21, 1890 – “The skylight in the store building of Warnke & Zauft at the foot of Water Street has been taken out and shingled over.”
Warnke bought out Zauft in February 1891.
Princeton Republic, March 26, 1891 – “Herman Warnke has bought of Aug. Zauft the latter’s interest in the hardware and lumber business. Herman will manage the entire business for awhile and until other arrangements are made. It is rumored that Aug. will soon remove to Ripon.”
Warnke also got out of the lumber business in 1893. He sold the hardware store property, 24 feet wide extending from Water to Main Street, to William Schroeder for $2,550 in February 1893. (Deeds, Volume 50, Page 478)
Princeton Republic, April 6, 1893 – “Wm. Schroeder, having purchased the hardware business of Herman Warnke, takes possession soon.”
Schroeder sold the property, including store and hardware stock, to A.C. Tagatz for $4,000 on Aug. 23, 1897, and then bought it all back from Tagatz for $2,250 five days later. (Deeds, Volume 53, Pages 573 and 580)
Erich Mueller, who ultimately owned much of Gardner Green’s former empire, paid Schroeder $1,475 for the property in March 1913 (Deeds, Volume 73, Page 266), and Schroeder held an auction for his hardware stock in May.
Princeton Republic, June 19, 1913 – “Erich Mueller who recently purchased the Wm. Schroeder hardware store is having the front of same remodeled. We understand that Mr. Mueller will use the building for the storage of pianos, sewing machines, etc. Water Street.”
Mueller found various tenants for the former hardware store over the years; a chiropractor, for example.
Princeton Republic, Jan. 17, 1924 – “R.L. Orrick, chiropractor, will be permanently located in the building of Erich Mueller, directly across the street of E. Mueller Implement store.”
Mueller rented the space to the Princeton Produce Company, Lichtenberg-Blinkiewicz, in the early 1930s. The firm dealt in poultry, eggs, poultry feed and supplies.
In 1934 Mueller – elected Princeton’s first mayor after the city incorporated in 1920 – sold the property for $1,900 to Carl and Victor Lichtenberg (Deeds, Volume 97, Page 306), i.e. the Princeton Produce Company.
We know from previous blog research that Edmund Piasecke purchased the former Ador A. Manthey feed and poultry business at 616 West Water Street in 1936 following Manthey’s death.
Princeton Republic, Nov. 19, 1936 – “In a deal consummated last Tuesday between Mrs. A. A. Manthey and Edmund Piasecke, the latter takes over the produce business of the late A. A. Manthey. Possession was immediately given. Edmund has been in the employ of Mr. Manthey for the past eight years.”
Piasecke later told the local newspaper that he first became interested in the poultry, egg and feed business in 1925 when as a junior in high school, he started working for the late Ador A. Manthey. After leaving Princeton to work on a farm at Elkhart Lake and then the Ajax Rubber Company in Racine, Piasecke returned in 1929 to work full time for Manthey for $75 a month. He bought the business following Manthey’s death in 1936.
When Piasecke entered the Army in 1943, Lichtenberg Bros. agreed to operate his poultry, egg and feed business until he returned.
Piasecke returned as planned and in 1946 purchased the building at 630 West Water Street. He remodeled the front of the building four years later.
Princeton Times-Republic, Sept. 28, 1950 – “One of these fine days Edmund Piasecke is going to unveil the new front of his feed store. Built of natural stone and complete with large plate glass windows, Edmund says it’s going to be the nicest on the crooked end of Water Street. From our own examination we’d say it’s going to be one of the best in town.”
Piasecke purchased a grader and candler for his egg business, reducing processing time in half, in 1957. In 1962 he added a two-row grader, enabling Piasecke and employee David Lang to grade and candle a case of eggs in six minutes.
The firm built a warehouse in 1956 that about doubled the business’s floor space.
Piasecke retired in 1970 and, effective Jan. 2, 1971, sold the business to longtime employee Jim Krueger, who had started working for Piasecke at age 15 and remained there, except for time in the service, before becoming owner.
Princeton Times-Republic, Dec. 31, 1970 – “When bells ring in the New Year, Edmund Piasecke, after 31 years, will no longer be in the produce business. He has decided to retire while he and his wife Isabelle are still in good health and young enough to do all the things that the demands of business did not allow in the past.”
After Krueger closed the feed and seed store, the building was occupied by Premier Video and Tanning and then Laura Apostolos’ Settlement General Store and Trading Post, which opened in May 2006. Apostolos was followed by Bill Wick’s water softener business.
After Wick sold his business to an out-of-town firm, he and the Princeton Historical Society traded buildings, with Wick receiving a house owned by the historical society on the west side, in 2010.
After three years of remodeling, the society unveiled its new folklore/storytelling museum at 630 West Water in summer 2021.
When Herman Warnke closed his lumber yard in 1893-1894, he sold the east 31 feet of Lots 2 and 3, east of Schroeder’s hardware store, to Andrew Drill for $2,300. (Deeds, Volume 52, Page 234)
Drill opened a saloon in the building erected by the Viels and in July 1903 advertised his establishment as the “First and Last Chance” for fine wines, liquors and cigars in Princeton,
Drill sold the saloon and property for $3,050 in 1907. (Deeds, Volume 54, Page 565)
Princeton Republic, May 16, 1907 – “The Stott Bros. have purchased the lower saloon of Andrew Drill. John Beyer, who has been conducting the above business for Mr. Drill, will remain with Mr. Drill in his present place of business (520 West Water Street).”
Peter Stott sold to the property back to Drill in October 1911 for the same price as he paid four years earlier. (Deeds, Volume 32, Page 325)
Drill next sold the property to Henry Grams for $2,650 in March 1916. (Deeds, Volume 76, Page 302)
Princeton Republic, April 1, 1915 – “A deal has been consummated between Henry Grams and Andrew Drill whereby the former became the owner of the latter’s saloon building on lower Water Street now occupied by Lese & Soda. Mr. Grams intends to remove the old buildings and erect a modern two-story concrete building to cover the entire depth of the lot. He intends to build as soon as weather permits and will use the building for a garage and machine shop.”
Princeton Republic, May 6, 1915 – “Henry Grams who has purchased the Last Chance saloon and will erect a modern and up-to-date garage, moved with his family here on last Thursday, and are residents of the west side.”
Grams followed through on his plan to erect a new garage and machine shop but in wood rather than block.
Princeton Republic, July 15, 1915 – “Wish to make known that the undersigned has his auto garage completed and is in position to repair autos and all kinds of machinery. All work guaranteed. Give me a call. Grams garage.”
Grams, who also sold and repaired farm machinery, installed a newly invented machine to store car batteries. Cars were generally not driven in winter.
He sold the property to William Knaack for $6,000 in August 1916. (Deeds, Volume 76, Page 409)
Princeton Republic, Aug. 3, 1916 – “Last Monday Wm. Knaack became the owner of the garage and the saloon building owned by H. Grams on lower Water Street. Mr. Knaack will take over management upon his return from Minnesota.”
Princeton Republic, July 25, 1918 – “Amandus Tassler, our former townsman, but of late a resident of Neshkoro and at the head of a garage, rented the garage of Wm. Knaack, this city, who recently left for a cantonment to become one of Uncle Sam’s fighting men.”
Princeton Republic, June 10, 1920 – “A.G. Tassler, local agent for the Chevrolet car, boasts of having the only car able to make Stimson’s (Barnekow’s) hill on high. This feat was accomplished by him on last Monday evening. On his ride he was accompanied by Emil Gorr who vouches for its truth. The hill is known as a difficult one to climb and the general run of cars are obliged to shift into low.”
In April 1921 Knaack sold the property back to Grams, including the machinery and tools in his garage on Lot 2. (Deeds, Volume 83, Page 309)
Princeton Republic, May 5, 1921 – “In a deal recently consummated between Knaack & Priebe and Henry Grams, the latter became the owner of the former’s garage, now occupied by A.G. Tassler. The new owner will take possession about August 1st. It will be remembered that Mr. Grams at one time was the owner of the property and erected the building.”
Grams launched another major project in 1921, turning a stretch of land on the east side of White Lake, about six miles west of Princeton, into a resort getaway.
Princeton Republic, July 14, 1921 – “Henry Grams, a former citizen of this city, has recently acquired a stretch of land bordering the east side of White Lake and located about six miles west of this city on the State Highway 23. Mr. Grams has prepared this place into a beautiful bathing beach and is still engaged in beautifying the place in general. He has under construction a large and commodious dwelling near the beach. A bath house, diving boards, shoot the shoots and resting places have been constructed. He is sparing no efforts to make the place convenient and attractive, and that he is well succeeding in his efforts is evidenced by the large assemblage of people who go there from this city, Montello and the surrounding community. … Refreshments of all kinds may be secured on the grounds at all times. The lake itself is a very fine and clear body of water profusely surrounded by various beautiful shade trees. It is a most excellent spot for bathing and outing.”
Grams Welding and Machine Stop, meanwhile, remained in business for many years as Grams got involved in other projects.
The Princeton Times-Republic in February 1940 listed the city’s manufacturers and industries as Grams’ shop, Miller Cigar Co., creamery, Handcraft Company, Ham’s (meats and butchering), Edward Kolleck and Clarence Stiles (manufacturing Venetian blinds), Ladwig Grit Company (which put up granite grist, a product of the Montello quarries, shipped to all sections of the Northwest), three chick hatcheries, Princeton Bottling Works, The Quality Dairy, Klotzbuecher Home Bakery, and Princeton Times-Republic printing.
Grams also helped the National Youth Administration in Princeton. The New Deal program was designed to help young people, ages 16-24, learn new job skills during the Great Depression. The cement block building built in the 600 block of South Fulton Street was later utilized as a bowling pin factory and still stands today.
Princeton Times-Republic, March 30, 1944 – “The NYA shop is a busy place these days the facilities being devoted to the repair of farm machinery. Henry Grams, the instructor, is devoting three nights a week, Monday, Tuesday and Friday, to the work and has classes of upwards of 20 men engaged in repairing farm machinery of all kinds.”
Grams’ contributions to Princeton area history also included the following:
Princeton Times-Republic, May 5, 1949 – “One of the most ambitious tree planting operations in this section of the state was completed Sunday when Henry Grams set out the last of 12,000 seedlings on his land about four miles west of the city on Highway 23. The land, which is part of the old Zabel farm, came under Mr. Grams’ ownership about eight years ago and since that time he has set out over 280,000 seedlings, mostly white and Norway pine, with a sprinkling of other trees, including some white cedars, which he planted Sunday.”
Henry Grams was in the pine tree planting business and responsible for many of the pine stands we see today especially west of Princeton going toward Montello. (The U.S. government promoted pine trees for the sandy soil in our area.) He also had a Christmas tree business, which included a machine for baling the trees and a large truck for transporting them. The business continued into at least the 1970s.
I have not done extensive research beyond 1940, but I do know from property records that Grams and his wife sold the east 31.5 feet of Lots 2 and 3 to their son Henry for $1,500 in June 1941. (Deeds, Volume 103, Page 535)
Henry Grams Sr. sold his remaining property, along with the west 21 feet of Lots 4 and 5 in Block C, to his daughter Henrietta Clark for $5,000 in January 1964. (Deeds, Volume 180, Page 131) Son-in-law Russell “Red” Clark continued to operate the business, called Grams Implement by that time.
Princeton Times-Republic, Aug. 13, 1964 – Grams’ Implement, one of the city’s older business firms, is now being operated by Mr. and Mrs. Russell Clark. Henry Grams turned the operation over to his daughter and son-in-law as of January 1st. The firm has a long history in Princeton, having been started by Henry Grams Sr., about the turn of the century. It was, at that time, a new and used car business and repair shop. Known as Grams’ Garage the firm sold Buick cars and had one of the earlier gas pumps located inside the building. Henry Jr., or ‘Hank’ as he’s known hereabouts, took over his father’s business about 1922. It was then located where the shop portion is now located at the back of the Grams lot which extends from Water St. back to the highway. In those days, however, a tavern was in the main Grams building with another saloon known as the ‘First and Last Chance Tavern’ being situated right next door where the driveway to Grams’ shop is now.”
Grams Implement was around until the early ’70s. The firm had stopped being an Allis Chalmers dealer but did farm repair, small engines, welding, etc. Its motto for a time was “We weld everything but a broken heart.”
The property at 626-628 Water, which now uses its 607 West Main Street address, got a facelift in 2020. Owner Daniel Orto added new siding and windows and made general repairs.
There is a profile on Linkedin that lists Daniel Orto as vice president of sales for Air Technology Solutions, based in Loves Park, Illinois. An article in Fire Apparatus Magazine in 2016 listed Orto as the company’s president.
According to the company website, Air Technology Solutions manufactures a vehicle diesel exhaust air-filtration system used by fire departments, public works departments, the military and other entities with diesel vehicles.
I emailed Orto for additional information regarding his plans for the Princeton property but have not yet received a response. City Clerk Mary Lou Neubauer told me last fall she was unsure how Orto was utilizing the building.