I have had difficulty determining when the first building went up on the west half of Water Lot 24, which today is 609 West Water Street, home to the Ford’s Gathering building.
The land was in the original plat of Princeton and purchased from the federal government by Henry Treat in 1849. It passed through multiple hands up to Dr. Richard Hull. Hull sold the east half of the lot for $31 in April 1863 (Deeds, Volume 27, Page 531), indicating there probably was not a building there. (Today, it’s home to European Bake Shop, 603 West Water Street.)
Hull passed away in September 1863, and S.J. Lounsbury sold the west half of Lot 24 to Hanna Eckles for a whopping $500 in 1865 (Deeds, Volume 26, Page 239), indicating there likely was already a building there.
Hanna sold it to August Thiel for $275 (Deeds, Volume 26, Page 558). Thiel, who had operated a wagon shop on Farmer Street, rented the building to David Messing for his cabinet shop and sold the property to tinner Louis Baumann in February 1868. (Deeds, Volume 28, Page 398)
Princeton Republic, March 26, 1870 – “In the manufacture of tin ware or anything usually made by tinners one can be accommodated at Louis Baumann’s in the most satisfactory manner. He is a finished workman and follows the principle of small profits and quick sales, so that any repairing or new work wanted can be had of him at the cheapest rates. We could advise those wanting work done to give him a call and see if our words are not verified. For such men, all that is needed to assure success is a continuance in well-being.”
The tin man sold to Gottlieb Schmudloch, who opened a hardware store there, in January 1873 (Deeds, Volume 34, Page 266) for $475.
Schmudloch sold a share of his business to Carl Gruse in May 1884, and they sold the property to local wagon manufacturer/builder August Swanke five months later for $1,200. (Deeds, Volume 45, Page 163).
Princeton Republic, June 30, 1887 – “Another new brick block will probably soon be erected in Princeton. August Swanke proposes to put up a building on the property once owned by Schmudloch. The structure will be some eighty feet in length, two stories, etc. Part of the material for the foundation is already on the ground.”
Swanke, however, did not get around to removing the Schmudloch building, which Emil Lemke leased for a time for his dry goods store, and rebuilding until 1889.
Princeton Republic, Aug. 1, 1889 – “Fred Schewe has purchased what was formerly the Schmudloch building of August Swanke, and Tim Paull will move it to the south part of the village and place it probably on lot 2, block Q, where it will be arranged for a residence which Mr. Schewe will occupy. Mr. Swanke will erect a stone building on the lot made vacant by the removal of the Schmudloch building.”
Princeton Republic, August 8, 1889 – “We are carefully watching our village president, Aug. Swanke. We hear it said he is going to erect a stone block in that yawning ‘vacuity’ caused by the removal of the old Schmudloch pile. Stone has been hauled on the ground and it looks as if building soon might be expected.”
Princeton Republic, September 5, 1889 – “Mr. Swanke’s block is now being put up as fast as the mason work can be pushed. The block is 70 feet in length by 32 feet in width. It will prove another addition to the valuable, substantial improvements in Princeton.”
The joists for the second story were in place by the end of the month and the roof completed in October.
Princeton Republic, October 17, 1889 – “That brick and stone structure is now roofed and begins to show off finely. It is a credit to Mr. Swanke and a valuable addition to our city. Now if someone would build as nice a building east on the corner and make it complete, the citizens of Princeton would unanimously vote him a shower of thanks.”
Swanke originally planned two rooms in the new block; they were both rented before the building was completed in November.
John F. Warnke moved his stock of clothing into Swanke’s new block in early December and added a general line of dry goods and groceries. Ed. Reetz moved his harness shop into the new block two weeks later.
In October 1894, Swanke sold the building to Stanislaus Mackowski, whose dry goods store was located across Water Street, for $4,000 (Deeds, Volume 52, Page 322).
Mackowski emigrated from Prussia to the U.S. in 1882. He became a clerk in the general store owned by S.M. Eggleston in 1883 and worked there for eight years. In 1891 he entered the mercantile business with his brother Joseph as Mackowski Bros.
Oscar J. Weiss leased the 609 building for his jewelry store, which not only offered a complete and elegant line of jewelry but also eyeglasses, guns, fishing tackle, and other sporting goods, in 1895.
Princeton Republic, March 21, 1895 – “OJ Weiss has leased the store building opposite Schaal’s hardware store, which is soon to be vacated by S. Michel and will take possession about May 1. Complete and elegant stock of jewelry and optical goods. Also large line of fishing tackle, guns, etc.”
A fire damaged the store in 1896.
Princeton Republic, Feb. 27, 1896 – “Between four and five o’clock Tuesday morning fire was discovered in O.J. Weiss’ jewelry store, and before it could be put out it had damaged his stock of clocks, wallpaper, fishing tackles and musical merchandise to the amount of several thousand dollars. The fire was discovered by Gus Weinkauf, who has rooms on the second floor. He aroused Mr. Weiss, and giving the alarm, they broke open the back door and began fighting the fire with water brought from the river in pails. By the time the department arrived they had it well under control. Had the flames been discovered a little later, much more disastrous results would have followed. Mr. Weiss carried $500 insurance on his stock, which will not cover the loss. As soon as the insurance is adjusted, he will move his stock to the adjoining room, which is now being fitted for occupancy.”
Weiss moved to the three-story H.E. Megow block (541 West Water Street) in 1898, along with Mrs. Weiss’ millinery shop, and the Mackowski Bros. moved their stock of goods into their own building across the street from their old quarters.
Princeton Republic, Aug. 5, 1898 – “The room vacated by O.J. Weiss will be used by the Mackowski Bros. as a grocery department to their general store. The boys are owners of the block and will make arrangements to attract trade and add to their already flourishing business.”
Joseph Mackowski sold his share of the brothers’ business in 1906 and moved to Beaver Dam. Stanish, who was very involved in the community, continued to operate the Day Light Store until his death in August 1930 at age 66.
Stanish left the property at 609 West Water Street to his wife, Francis, who sold it to her son, John, for $4,000 in October 1931 (Deeds, Volume 93, Page 421). The Princeton Republic, however, kept referring to it as the Mrs. S.E. Mackowski store for several years.
Princeton Republic, Nov. 5, 1931 – “Erwin Bielfuss and W. E. Haferman, of Horicon, have gained possession of the Mrs. S. E. Mackowski store for the sale of a new line of groceries. The interior has been remodeled and given a new coat of white paint. New shelving has been installed and every article is in plain sight of the purchaser. Lattice work in the window and above the partition has been arranged which lends a beautiful appearance to the store. The new firm will do business under the name of Princeton Grocery I.G.A.”
Bielfuss and Haferman sold the business in 1933. Fred Bunce, from Minneapolis, was the new owner. He remained part of I.G.A. with Bunce’s Food Market.
Princeton Republic, March 8, 1934 – “The I.G.A. Store who occupied the Mrs. S. E. Mackowski store, lower Water street, are now located in the R. G. Wachholz store building (525 West Water Street).”
Mrs. Mackowski, in September 1935, sold the large, beautiful home at the northwest corner of Clinton and Wisconsin streets to C.J. Kreilkamp, principal of Princeton High School, though she maintained an apartment in the upper flat.
Bunce ran into bad luck at his new location in ’36.
Princeton Republic, July 16, 1936 – “Last Monday afternoon an explosion of a gasoline stove in the rear of the I.G.A. store the large plate glass window of the center section was blown out toward the street breaking into thousands of small pieces. People who had just passed by a second or two previous nearly escaped severe injuries. Mr. Bunce, his father and Elmer Rimpler had just left the rear of the store when the explosion occurred. No fire resulted from the explosion.”
Bunche left IGA and returned to the Mackowski building less than a year later. (Mr. and Mrs. Mel Gerlach, of Elkhart Lake, took over the IGA store.)
Princeton Republic, April 15, 1937 – “Fred Bunce, proprietor of the IGA store, who occupied R. G. Wachholz’s store for the past several years, moved his stock of goods into the Mrs. S. E. Mackowski building.”
Princeton Times-Republic, July 22, 1937 – “Clarence Oelke, local representative for the Fuhrmann Canning Co., of Berlin, announces that he will take in beans at the Mackowski building afternoons and evenings, except Saturday evening, until further notice.”
Bunce opened his Quality Grocery Store in the Mackowski building in September 1937. The following spring the Jumbo Ice Cream Shop made its debut.
John Mackowski sold the building to Wallace Brooks (Deeds, Volume 95, Page 623).
Princeton Times-Republic, March 2, 1939 – “Albert Kahl has opened his new store in the Brooks building, formerly the Mackowski building. He handles ice cream, cigarettes, cigars, soft drinks and also buys eggs and potatoes.”
Clarence Stiles opened the Princeton Appliance Store in the Brooks building in October 1939. In June 1940, Paul Ladwig (Sr.) rented quarters in the Brooks building to open a lunchroom and restaurant.
Princeton Republic, June 20, 1940 – “The Pal Café is the name of the new lunchroom and restaurant recently opened by Paul Ladwig in the Brooks building.”
In February 1942, Ladwig took over the Buckhorn bar and moved his restaurant to 531 West Water Street. He passed away the following May.
Princeton Republic, Jan. 27, 1944 – “The Parsons Beauty Shop will move into the Brooks building Feb. 1. Their new location is directly across the street from their present place of business.”
Princeton Times-Republic, Oct. 26, 1944 – “Mr. and Mrs. Leo (Louise) Schewe have opened their tavern in the Brooks building (607) and are prepared to serve the best in food and drinks.” (Puggy’s Tavern, formerly in American House building, 444 West Water Street)
Brooks sold the property to Joseph Hoffman in July 1946 (Deeds, Volume 111, Page 503).
Princeton Times-Republic, July 1, 1948 – “Louise Schewe, who recently sold her tavern business to Joe and Frances Hoffman, gave possession of the business to the new owners today. Mrs. Schewe has been associated with the hotel and tavern business here in Princeton for over thirty years and is noted for her culinary skill. Fortunately, Princeton people will not be deprived of her good cooking as she plans to open a restaurant here this fall in her building formerly occupied by Dr. A.G. Giese (427 West Water Street). In the meantime, she has accepted a position at Little Silver Lake Park, Wild Rose, where she will take charge of the restaurant.”
Eddie and Ruth Fromolz opened Eddie & Ruth’s at 607 West Water Street in 1950 and would remain in business for 28 years. They rented out the east room (611).
Princeton Times-Republic, Oct. 9, 1952 – “Princeton will add another business to its fast growing business section on or about October 25th. It was announced today Eddie Fromolz, owner of the store building said that a lease had been signed for the property formerly housing Parson’s Beauty Shop which has been vacant for some time. Then clothing shop, which will be known as the Skogmo Store, will be managed by Mrs. Don Olson of Montello and will feature ladies ready-to-wear clothing. … Eddie Fromolz said yesterday that carpenters are busy remodeling the store, putting in a new doorway and that the partitions have been changed to give a good-sized store area for the new Skogmo store.”
Princeton Times-Republic, Nov. 6, 1952 – “The newest in clothing stores for Princeton and the surrounding territory opens Friday with a grand opening sale. The new Skogmos Store, a division of the famous Gamble Stores, will open its doors for their grand opening sale November 7. It is located on the west end of Water Street in the building formerly housing the Parson’s Beauty Shop.”
Princeton’s TV Service Center opened at the former Skogmos site in November 1957 after the Olsons relocated to 536 West Water Street. Harold Wessel managed the TV repair shop for Tom Kiser, of Ripon.
Princeton Times-Republic, July 27, 1967 – “More painting and remodeling going on downtown. The Fromolz building is receiving a face lift this week.”
Weber’s Sewing Center was replaced in July 1974 by Skogmos’ Krazy House for the annual Crazy Days promotion.
R&S (Renn and Schwark) operated a plumbing and heating business in the west room for several years. After Arthur Schwark sold his share of R & S plumbing and heating to partner Arnold Renn, who remained there as Renn & Son from 1975 to the early 1980s, when the business moved to 322 South Second Street.
Eddie and Ruth celebrated their 25th anniversary in 1975.
Princeton Times-Republic, July 10, 1975 – “On July 1, Edmond and Ruth Fromolz were in business for 25 years. They came to Princeton from Beaver Dam in 1950 and opened Eddie and Ruth’s tavern downtown. They remember first selling beer for 10 cents and liquor for 25 cents and serving food. … Their hours have remained the same, opening at 8 a.m. and closing when the last customer left. They have always taken Thursdays off. … They hope to sell their business soon and retire.”
Princeton Times-Republic, Jan. 13, 1977 – “Don’s Bar in downtown Princeton was the scene of another fire shortly before 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 5. … Smoke also permeated Eddie & Ruth’s Tavern and Renn’s Plumbing and Heating store, which are located just west of Don’s Bar.”
Gieseke Enterprises Inc., with David Gieseke as agent, obtained the liquor license for 607 West Water in August 1978 following the Fromolzes’ delayed retirement.
Eddie & Ruth’s Friendly Tavern became Dugout Tap, which held its grand opening Oct. 20-21, 1978.
Princeton Times-Republic, Nov. 30, 1978 – “The Dugout in downtown Princeton was opened by Dave and Sue Gieseke on Oct. 20 as a ‘family place.’ The business was formerly ‘Eddie and Ruth’s’ owned and operated by the Edmond Fromolzes for the past 28 years. The name developed as a result of the countless framed pictures of baseball players lining a wall in the Dugout, which Gieseke collected for the past 30 years. Some of his prized pictures are of Hank Aaron, the first year he played, and Roy Campanella, his last year of play.”
The bar changed hands again in April 1982 when Jeff Erbrecht opened Erb’s Filling Station.
Ralph and Betty Dowen opened the Hard Times Saloon at 607 in July 1983.
The City Council in November 1983 granted the license at 607 to Matthew Ladwig and Timothy Sosinsky. Riverside Avenue was known for its live music. The license passed to Marilyn Neilsen in 1986 and Debra Wilson in 1987.
Princeton Times-Republic, June 9, 1988 – “Princeton has a new non-alcoholic bar, ‘The Place to B,’ located at 607 Water Street. The Place to B is run by Beverly and Dick Dorsch of Princeton. The Dorsches welcome all ages to join in the fun at The Place to B. They feature non-alcoholic beverages as well as pool tables, dart machines, video games and of course a juke box.”
The building was a bar again in 1989 when the Dorsches ran Riverside Retreat. They closed in October 1990.
The city granted Theresa Bryant the liquor license at 607 West Water in 1991.
Princeton Times-Republic, May 30, 1991 – “If you like live bands the place to go is Don-ters in Princeton. Don-ters has the distinction of being the only tavern in the area featuring live bands. The owners, Donald and Theresa Bryant, bought the bar formerly known as Riverside Retreat.”
The Bryants closed the bar in 1994. The liquor license was issued to Julie Lee in 1995 but went unclaimed in 1996, until August.
Princeton Times-Republic, Aug. 29, 1996 – “A beautiful deck overlooking the Fox River was the inspiration to the owners of the new business in Princeton to name the business The Fox Hole. The Fox Hole opens today, Thursday, August 29th. It is located on Water Street in downtown Princeton. Deborah Fritz and her son, Jeremy Mattson, are the proud owners. Deborah Fritz owns the Antique Mall with her husband, Roger, and Jeremy just finished four years of college. … ‘When I worked here, the place was very busy, and I would love to see it popular again,’ said Deborah Fritz. She worked for the former owners, Don and Terry Bryant when it was Don-Ters about six years ago. The building has now been empty for about two years.”
The liquor license passed to Kevin Strahan in August 1998, and The Fox Hole advertised a grand opening on Saturday, Oct. 24, 1998, with drink specials, karaoke and music by Connie Cool and Nancy Too.
The liquor license passed to Jon Erdmann and Kenneth Vermeersch in 1999 but was not issued in 2000.
This completes my survey of the first 150 years (1849-1999) – the 19th and 20th centuries – of the businesses of Water Lot 24. We will leave the 21st century research to future historians.
If you have corrections or suggestions, please let me know.
Thank you for caring and reading about local history.
Rochelle Ford, who with husband Rick closed Ford’s Gathering at 609 amid the pandemic in 2020, once told me that a researcher had learned the Krueger funeral home used the basement of the former Swanke building for embalming, and that a still was found there during prohibition. I can neither confirm nor deny, but it is a fun story.
Knickerbocker Landing succeeded Ford’s Gathering in 2021.