Previous posts discussed Princeton’s first drive-in gas stations and the better-known garages that sprung up to handle sales and service.
By the end of the 1920s most filling stations had become service stations. While some early garages focused primarily on auto repairs and sales, some also repaired and sold tractors and farm machinery. The earlier post about the garages, for example, showed how Princeton Motors also branched out into Princeton Implements.
Other garages provided little more than storage space during winter in the early years when cars were primarily fair-weather vehicles.
Here are more of Princeton’s early garages. My research only extends to the 1960s, but I’ve added other information when possible and will update as new information becomes available.
S&S Motor Service
The former Huser Daddy Antiques building, 800 State Highways 23-73, was built in 1946 and first housed the S&S Motor Service founded by Herb Swanke and Arnie Shwonek.
Princeton Times-Republic, Aug. 1, 1946 – “Work is progressing rapidly on the new cement garage building being erected by Herb Swanke on the lot opposite the airport.”
Princeton Times-Republic, Dec. 5, 1946 – “The S&S Motor Service is the name of Princeton’s newest business enterprise, the garage and service station opened for business this week by Herb Swanke and Arnie Shwonek. The business occupies a modern cement block building, 90×30 feet in dimensions, located at the intersection of Highway 23 and County Trunk D, opposite the airport. Although handicapped by scarcity of many building materials and some items in equipment, they have been able to assemble a very complete plant for repairing and servicing cars, trucks, and other automotive equipment. Both Swanke and Shwonek are experienced automobile mechanics.”
Building materials were scarce in many communities after World War II. The business lasted less than two years. The building was sold at auction in May 1948 to Swanke.
Princeton Times-Republic – May 6, 1948 – “Herb Swanke, one of the former owners, was the successful bidder Saturday morning at the sale of the building and other assets of the S&S Garage. Herb is a capable automotive mechanic, experienced in car, truck and tractor repairing and servicing. … The sale was brought about through the dissolution of the partnership of Herb Swanke and Arnie Shwonek.”
Swanke closed the garage and leased the building to Ace High Bottling Company, which had been located on Short Street, in February 1950. Ace High, in turn, leased part of the building to Vance Swanson for his feed business.
Princeton Times-Republic, May 11, 1950 – “There was a near misfortune out at Swanke’s Garage, now Van Swanson’s, early this week when a weakened footing gave way and part of the building collapsed. Fortunately, no one was injured, but it will mean added expense in readying the building for Van’s feed mill.”
Swanson’s mill, operated for years as the Swanson Farm Store, held its grand opening in July 1950 with Vance and Harold Swanson in charge. Business conditions improved over the next couple of years to warrant an expansion in 1953.
Princeton Times-Republic, Nov. 19, 1953 – “The first major business construction project in a number of years is well under way in Princeton at the Swanson Farm Store with the construction of a 30- by 40-foot concrete block building attached to the present store building. Having a full basement and first floor the building will be used for an additional mill and storage space as well as repair and storage for farm machinery. Vance Swanson, owner of the building, state that he expects to go into the farm machinery business in addition to his present feed, seed and grinding business.”
Vance Swanson, secretary-treasurer of Swanson’s Farm Store Inc., announced in September 1956 that negotiations were underway to sell the feed mill to the Green Lake Farmco cooperative. Swanson said he decided to sell following the death of his wife, Ella, a few months earlier.
Swanson continued to lease a portion of the property for his John Deere implement business. “Farm Store was established in 1949 in a remodeled garage at the entrance to Princeton by Swanson,” the newspaper reported. “Offering the finest facilities, the feed mill has become a vital part of the farming community.”
Princeton Times-Republic, Oct. 4, 1956 – “The sale of Swanson’s Farm Store Inc. was made final on September 25th, according to Vance Swanson, secretary-treasurer. The purchasers, the Green Lake Cooperative Supply Company, immediately took over and business will be carried on in the same manner of before. Carl Reickert of Berlin is the manager, and Marvin Otto and Shirley Gibbs will operate the mill. Mr. Swanson and his son, Harold, have rented the downstairs of the building, which they will use as a repair shop. They plan to continue renting the NYA building for their John Deere line of machinery and part and repair shop.”
Farmco held a grand opening in November.
Princeton Times-Republic, Nov. 8, 1956 – “The Grand Opening of the Farmco Feed Mill takes place this Friday, November 9th, and everyone is invited to attend, according to Carl Richgels, general manager of the Green Lake Farmco Cooperative.”
Princeton Times-Republic, May 5, 1966 – “Green Lake Farmco Cooperative in Princeton is in the process of constructing a 44 x 90 bulk-bag fertilizer storage building at the west side of the main mill which is located on Highway 23-73. The wood frame building is expected to be finished in two or three weeks. Duane Kulin is the general contractor. The need for more storage space necessitated the construction of the warehouse.”
That is as far as my research extends. Swanson closed his implement business and went into real estate, and Green Lake Farmco became F/S Cooperative, I believe in the early 1970s but have not yet confirmed that. I will update as my research advances.
Huser Daddy antiques occupied the space in recent years before closing in 2021. Soul Hammer, an art gallery and workshop, opened in 2022.
Henry O. Grams (Sr.) purchased the Last Chance saloon from Andrew Drill in March 1915 and said he planned to remove the old buildings and erect a modern two-story concrete building for a garage and machine shop with access from Water and Main streets (628 West Water or 607 West Main Street).
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 installed a new machine for storing car batteries through the winter months. He sold the garage and saloon building to William Knaack in July 1916. Two years later, when he marched off to war, Knaack rented the garage to Amandus G. Tassler.
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 added an office, facing Main Street, to the garage and machine shop in 1936, the same year Addison Berwick opened a furniture repair and upholstery shop over the garage, and remained in business for many years as Grams Welding and Machine Co.
Princeton Times-Republic, July 26, 1945 – “Henry Grams of the Grams Welding & Supply Co. announces that his firm has secured the agency for the well-known Allis-Chalmers line of farm implements.”
Henry Grams 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 remained in the family until 1978. 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.”
Princeton Times-Republic, June 29, 1978 – “Paul Shell and his wife Betty have recently purchased the Grams Implement business on Main St. from Russell (Red) Clark. The business will remain a welding shop and service of lawn mowers to Princeton and surrounding area. … The familiar name of Grams Implement will remain the same.”
Pearl Street Garage
I don’t know much about the garage operated by the Schaal Bros. north of their hardware store at 602 West Water Street at least into the 1920s other than that the garage sold Goodyear tires and had roadside gas pumps.
Princeton Republic, July 17, 1913 – “Eugene Whittemore is the new mechanic at the Pearl Street garage. Gene says he knows the Ford from A to Z and then some.”
Ads in the Republic in July 1924 noted there were still auto stalls for rent in the Schaal Bros. garage, but I’ve found no stories about the business closing.
Perry & Woehlke
Perry & Woehlke were early Ford dealers who set up shop at 535 West Water Street in December 1914 but disappeared from the pages of the newspaper after less than a year.
Princeton Republic, Dec. 3, 1914 – “Perry & Woehlke, the Ford automobile dealers of Markesan, Princeton and St. Marie, wish to state to the public in and around Princeton that they will be open for business in the city of Princeton on Jan. 1st, 1915, in the building two doors west of the Princeton State Bank with a full line of Ford automobiles.” (The building two doors west of the bank is the Sondalle Law Office, 535 West Water Street, in 2021.)
Princeton Republic, August 5, 1915 – “Mr. W.E. Perry is now the Ford car dealer for Markesan and Princeton. He now carries a stock of $1,200 in Ford parts. Mr. Perry will continue to have Mr. Drake of the Drake Garage take care of the Ford cars sold in the Princeton territory.”
The earlier post about gas stations mentioned that Herman Mosolf opened a filling station and garage on Highway 23 (now Canal Street) in 1923. Millerd Mosolf was the proprietor in July 1941 when the garage was appointed the local authorized dealer for the Champion, Commander and Studebaker cars.
Princeton Times-Republic, April 25, 1946 – “Millerd Mosolf, who is a graduate of Geer College school of refrigeration, Chicago, announces that he has opened an appliance shop in the building formerly occupied by the Mosolf garage on the West Side. He has the agency for the well-known Crosley refrigerators.”
J.F. Warnke & Sons
I know no more about this garage than this one listing in the paper:
Princeton Republic, Jan. 2, 1919 – “The new garage which has been under construction by the J.F. Warnke & Sons has been completed by contractor Wm. A Gorr and crew. The building is located on the west side and adjoins the tub factory. Carl Warnke Jr. in charge.”
Mueller Implement Company
The history of the Mueller Implement Company goes as far back as December 1869 when wagonmaker Gottlieb Luedtke got a patent for an axle gauge. Luedtke built a two-story wagon shop at 637 West Water Street. After it burned in 1873, Luedtke built a two-story stone block on the same site, which was adjacent to the Tagatz blacksmith property.
Luedtke manufactured wagons, buggies, carriages and surreys.
Meanwhile, Gottlieb J. Krueger, longtime merchant president of the First National Bank of Princeton, was looking for a new partner in the dry goods business to replace J.F. Warnke. Krueger teamed up with former employee Erich Mueller to form Krueger & Mueller in 1888.
Princeton Republic, Feb. 12, 1903 – “Krueger & Mueller have dissolved partnership, and G.A. Krueger will hereafter conduct the business alone. Mr. Mueller will go in business with (Village) President Luedtke.”
While Luedtke focused on buggies, carriages and surreys, Mueller sold Singer sewing machines, organs, pianos, washing machines and gasoline engines. When B.J. Oelke bought a three-horsepower Fuller & Johnson gasoline engine for his meat market in March 1905, Mueller handled the sale and installation.
Mueller married Luedtke’s daughter, and after Luedtke passed away from a heart attack in 1914, Mueller took full control of the family business. He also served multiple terms as village president and won the first mayoral election when Princeton became a city in 1920. He served as president of a local bank and sat on most major boards in the community. Plus, for a time he owned much of the “crooked end” of Water Street, having purchased the former Gardner Green buildings with a frontage of 175 feet.
Mueller’s inventory changed with the times. In April 1909, his inventory included buggies, cream separators, pianos and sewing machines.
Princeton Republic, May 13, 1915 – “Notice: We have received two more of the powerful Sphinx cars and are ready to demonstrate the same to you. Do not buy before you have enjoyed a ride in this easy riding car. Erich Mueller.”
Mueller over the years also sold Essex, Oldsmobile, Maxwell and other makes of cars but not at high volume.
Mueller’s ad in the Republic in June 1915 advertised “automobiles, Singer sewing machines, DeLaval separators, gas engines, Defiance tires, pure copper cable, lightning rods, corn planters, corn cultivators, Oliver gangs, Oliver walking plows, lawn mowers, lawn swings.” He also operated the Princeton Piano Store.
By January 1920 Mueller was handling the International Harvester line of farm equipment, including the McCormick, Deering and Milwaukee Grain, Hay, Corn and Tillage machines. His general line consisted of gas and kerosene engines, grain drills, feed cutters, feed grinders, I.H.C. and New Racine threshing machines, Titan tractors, corn shredders, binder twine, and more, or as an ad stated, “a complete line running from sewing machine needles up to Titan tractors is always in stock.”
Princeton Republic, July 14, 1921 – “Last Tuesday at the local Opera House farmers and citizens, through the efforts of dealer Erich Mueller, were accorded a rare treat when the James Barn Equipment Co., of Fort Atkinson, demonstrated their product by moving picture show. Their representative was present and gave an excellent speech on cooperation among farmers, on the care of cows and the arrangement of the barn.”
Mueller announced in January 1924 that he was changing his business name from Erich Mueller to Erich Mueller & Co. He also added the Radiola line of radios to his line of pianos and organs.
Princeton Republic, June 22, 1933 – “Erich Mueller is erecting a solid concrete building on the west end of his lot which will be used for the housing of farm implements and tools.”
Henry Manthei joined the firm after marrying Mueller’s daughter, Elizabeth, and became a partner in before Erich Mueller passed away at age 82 in July 1945.
Henry continued to operate it under the name of the Mueller Implement. He said he would make several improvements, including a new display room, an extension of warehouse facilities and the addition of a service department for tractors and farm machinery.
After Henry died in 1960, sons Arnold and Robert “Bob” Manthei took over the business. Bob died in 1967, and the family sold to longtime employee Lloyd Fredrick, doing business as the Fredrick Equipment Company, in 1968.
Princeton Times-Republic, March 7, 1968 – “When Lloyd Fredrick took over the Mueller Implement Company on March 1 the oldest existing family business in Princeton, changed hands. … Lloyd Fredrick, who was an employee of Mueller Implement for the past six years, will continue with the same quality line of equipment and the same fine service as the Mueller Implement featured.”
At the time it was the oldest Harvester dealership in Wisconsin, according to the Princeton quas qui centennial booklet published in 1973.
Fredrick Equipment Company closed in 1980. The building today is used for storage.
Although Art Dreblow did not sell autos at the implement business that he opened at 631 South Fulton Street (a daycare center in 2021), near the intersection of County Road D and state highways 23-73, in 1948, I’ve added the firm here because he eventually also tried the gas business … and because I got a kick out of the appearance by Marj Mlodzik, recent president of the Princeton Historical Society, in the final paragraph!
Princeton Times-Republic, Oct. 2, 1947 – “Art Dreblow is making progress on his new farm implement warehouse being erected south of the NYA building.”
Dreblow celebrated “John Deere Day” at a formal grand opening in March 1948. He said the building represented “the latest ideas I modern design and construction” with huge plate glass show windows and floor space of some 2,400 square feet. “Art Dreblow is to be congratulated on giving Princeton its most modern business structure,” the newspaper said.
Princeton Times-Republic, June 3, 1949 – “Our good friend, Fred Kannenberg, had a rather exciting experience Tuesday evening. While on his way home after closing his store he heard the drone of a plane, apparently flying quite low over the city and then he heard a voice and an exclamation about someone falling out. Figuring the plane was about to make a forced landing, Fred drove out to the airport only to discover that sounds were coming from the outdoor movie at Dreblow’s Implement store.”
Dreblow installed two large gas storage tanks in May 1951 with plans to go into the cut-rate gasoline business there in June. In July the Dreblows announced plans to consolidate their appliance business at 624 West Water and implement business under one roof. The move was celebrated with another open house in November.
Princeton Times-Republic, Nov. 8, 1951 – “It was open house at Dreblow’s this week and many were the visitors to the new combination appliance and implement shop at the east edge of Princeton. In the midst of preparations for the big event, the two proprietors, Mr. and Mrs. Art Dreblow, had to take time out to announce the news of a new son in the family (Danny), but the open house went on as usual. The affair closes on Sunday evening, the 11th.”
Mrs. Mark (Marjorie) Mlodzik won first prize and a new Speed Queen iron in a poetry contest held as part of the open house:
“I would like to iron with the Speed Queen ironer because …
My feet wouldn’t hurt, and my back wouldn’t ache,
and I’d have enough time left to whip up a cake.
My clothes would be stacked up smooth, neat and clean,
all because Dreblow is selling Speed Queen.”
Princeton Times-Republic, Jan. 6, 1955 – “The Dreblow Appliance shop on the east edge of the city of Princeton was broken into on the night of Dec. 30 and electric mixers, several radios and other appliances as well as a number of cartons of cigarettes, a fountain pen, oil and a small amount of cash were taken. … This was the third time in the past few years that burglars have broken into the shop.”
The Dreblows unveiled a new business at noon Friday, May 23, 1958.
Princeton Times-Republic, May 22, 1958 – “Workers have finished at the scene and equipment is now being installed at the new Dreblow Drive-In for their summer opening this Friday, May 23. Free balloons along with free samples of root beer and Frosty Treat will be given out on Friday.”
The drive-in grew into a restaurant in May 1960. Dreblow’s Diner – Drive – In advertised “quick service, no car hops, no tipping, plenty of parking.”
embedded ad pdf
Dreblow continued to operate a gas station and purchased the Village Drive-In, north of the intersection of state Highway 23 and Old Green Lake Road in east Princeton, from Carl Keesling in 1963. He planned to eventually combine the two eateries, but fate intervened to change his time table.
Princeton Times-Republic, Jan. 2, 1964 – “A gaseous, smoky blaze erupted at Dreblow’s Laundromat & Diner Drive-In here last Monday night causing damage to the large building estimated in excess of $10,000. The full extent of damage will not be known until remodeling bids are turned in. Princeton’s Volunteer Fire Department worked throughout the night from about 8:30 p.m. until the next morning and succeeded in confining the blaze itself to a storage room between the laundry portion and the kitchen of the restaurant. But the intense heat and thick smoke inside the building caused devastating destruction, along with the huge amounts of water poured into the structure by firemen working in zero temperatures.”
Officials could not determine what caused the fire.
Dreblow moved the salvageable restaurant equipment from the burned building to the former Village Drive-In. He installed a smaller laundromat in the south portion of the building formerly occupied by the diner with 10 12-pound Speed Queen washers and five dryers.
Dreblow’s Drive-In reopened on Highway 23-73 in April and the laundromat on Fulton Street in July 1964. Dreblow considered renting out the north space but eventually continued a drive-in restaurant and gas station there in 1966 after remodeling.
With the community debating the need for a youth center, in April 1967 Arthur Dreblow announced plans to convert the former Village Drive-In into the “Never on Monday Club” for teenagers. A juke box, pool tables and games were available, along with hamburgers, french fries and root beer from 5-11 p.m. daily except Mondays.
The Dreblows converted the laundromat into the game room/youth center in 1971. They installed new windows and roof with shake shingles at the Fulton Street building that June, but the game room closed just before Christmas.
“We hardly had opened, however, when trouble started,” Ruth Dreblow recalled in a letter to the editor in January 1972. “The following incidents occurred within less than two months of opening: five windows were broken; the key for the pop machine was stolen and money for six cases of pop was stolen; the coin changer was broken into; three glasses on game machines were broken (one with a fist); the pool tables were broken into five times; and two holes were made in the wall.
“During this period, also several boys broke into the drive-in trying to find the switch for the gas pumps. In other incidents, locks were broken, and food, change and cigarettes were stolen from the drive-in.
“This is an impressive record for teenagers who needed a place to relax and enjoy themselves, wouldn’t you agree?”
(Teens found a new but also short-lived gathering place when Edward Lambert opened a recreation center for youth, Eddie’s Rack Shack, in the Dreblow building downtown, 620 West Water Street, on February 24, 1972.)
Dreblow’s Drive-In Restaurant was succeeded in July 1976 by Marion’s Wayside Restaurant, operated by Marion Mace of Markesan. The restaurant was open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week. The Dreblows continued to operate the gas station.
Art Dreblow passed in July 1976.
Marion’s Wayside Restaurant changed hands in July 1978 and became The Driftwood Restaurant, operated by Linda and DuWayne Pischke. Waitresses included Pam Bukowski, Sharon Wells, Laurie Silvia and Sue Mirr.
Ruth Dreblow kept the gas station until the former Dreblow businesses became the American Traveler Restaurant & Gas Station, 631 South Fulton Street, with Craig Obara as proprietor, in August 1979.
Obara and his partners later opened The Sport Shop, a sporting goods and bait shop.
The Space Station mini mart opened in October 1982. Space Station discontinued its grocery line a year later. An automotive service center, Mike’s Radiator Shop, opened in October 1984.
That is as far as my research extends.
In 2022 the building houses Grandma Sandy’s Learning Den day care, which Sandy Miller opened in September 2008. The day care succeeded the Wee Cycle shop, a store operated by Carolyn Zentmer featuring gently used children’s clothing, maternity clothing, toys, nursery furniture and more.
Thank you for caring and reading about local history.