The brick building at 603 West Water Street that today houses Renard’s European Bakeshop was built in 1901 and replaced a wood frame building that was the second building erected for commercial purposes on Water Street.
The history of Princeton published by the Princeton Republic in 1869 tells us the Frederick Durand operated the first store in Princeton. It stood at about 527 West Water Street.
“The next and second storeroom was put up on the southwest corner of Water and Pearl streets. … The building was erected by Byron Chute only a few weeks later than Durand’s store for a Dr. Sargent, who rented it to A. Randall & Bro., who occupied it with a stock similar to Durand’s. This firm continued in business some years, when the building, stock and all, was consumed by fire. The town records were also destroyed at the same time, being in the same building.”
No other information is given about the lot or occupants.
A new store replaced the burned building.
“The irrepressible Philo M. Knapp has the honor of erecting the 11th building put up in the village of Princeton, which was to be dedicated to the cause of traffic, at a time without date to the best recollection of several informants but certainly at a time when the builder was known as the ‘Illinois lawyer.’ Like most other things coming into the hands of our old-time friend, this building was transferred to the possession of others, and passed into the hands of Nathan Robinson, who put up the first tin shop in Princeton. After a while Robert Tenyek became owner, after which it remained vacant for several years, but finally passed into S.M. Eggleston’s possession, who sold it to David Messing. Mr. M. has occupied it about one year as a cabinet shop and residence upon its original site on the south side of Water Street, near D.M. Green’s elevator.”
Property records at the county register of deeds office tell the same story, tracing the sale of Lot 24 from original purchaser Henry Treat to Thomas Sargent and then to Harley Farmington, who sold lots 23 and 24 to Waldo Flint in July 1850 for $25 (Deeds, Volume C, Page 386).
Ownership of the east half of Lot 24 passed from Dr. Richard Hull to Gottlieb Jahnke for $31 (Deeds, Volume 27, Page 531), from Nathan Robinson to Robert Ten Eyck (Deeds, Volume M, Page 408), to Ira Sherman (Deeds, Volume 26, Page 518), and then to Silas Eggleston.
Silas Eggleston paid $140 for the property in May 1867 (Deeds, Volume 33, Page 303). He sold it for $450 in February 1868 (Deeds, Volume 28, Page 370) to David Messing, who built an addition for his cabinet, furniture, and coffin shop one door west (approximately 605 West Water Street).
Princeton Republic, March 26, 1870 – “The manufacture of furniture is, in and of itself, a trade that requires a good degree of mechanical skill that can only be obtained by continued and faithful labor, intelligently directed. Beauty as well as utility should be studied in all house furnishings. To do this, experience in the art is necessary. Our townsman, Mr. David Messing, has studied this for sixteen years and perhaps is the best workman in cabinet wares in the county. Anything wanted in the furniture line can be had at his factory of as good style and finish as can be found in the larger cities, and all work done by him either in making or repairing is warranted.”
Messing put on a new front to his aging building on the corner in October 1886, but the Republic’s editor thought much more could be done with the property.
Princeton Republic, June 30, 1887 – “Oh, for the hour to come when a fine building can be erected on the Dave Messing corner.”
When August Swanke planned a new brick building just west of Messing’s property in 1889, Messing’s buildings had to be moved a few inches east, “those ancient habitations having been placed a little over the line,” the Republic said.
E.E. Root and Carl Worm occupied Messing’s newly repainted building in the early 1890s, and the Misses Tassler and Schwenzer opened their millinery shop there in 1901.
Messing sold the property to Ferdinand Keipe and William Schade for $2,200 a few months later (Deeds, Volume 60, Page 54). The new owners announced they would build the impressive brick building the Republic had championed for years.
Princeton Republic, August 1, 1901 – “Leimer & Co. purchased one of the buildings which stood on the lot recently purchased by Messrs. Keipe and Schade of D. Messing and moved it onto a lot which they rented from Mrs. L.S Harmon and will use it as a warehouse for butter tubs, etc.”
Princeton Republic, August 8, 1901 – “The steamer J.E. Leimer is hauling brick from Portage for Keipe & Schade’s and W.R. Yahr’s new buildings.”
Princeton Republic, Oct. 31, 1901 – “Wm. Schade’s substantial building is nearing completion and he expects to have it ready for occupancy in six or seven weeks. The east half of the ground floor will be used for a saloon to be run by Mr. Schade, the west half will be rented for a store, and the upper part is being finished off for living rooms. The fine weather is being taken advantage of and work is being pushed on the new bank building, and it is expected they will have it completed and ready for occupancy by the middle of December.”
Princeton Republic, Dec. 19, 1901 – “Wm. Schade has moved his family into the rooms in the second story of his new store building and has opened a saloon in the east room on the ground floor. The west room will be occupied by G.A. Weinkauf with his stock of hardware and jewelry.”
Princeton Republic, July 14, 1904 – “Theo. Dumdie, of Wausau, has leased the building on Water Street of Wm. Schade and will conduct a boarding house and saloon. Mr. Dumdie was born in Princeton but moved away about 18 years ago. The name of the house will be The Fox River House.”
Schade announced in November 1905 that he was “ready to accommodate all wishing to board by the day or week” at the Fox River House.
Princeton Republic, Sept. 26, 1907 – “Gene Fenelon, of Ripon, has transferred his farm to Wm. Schade, proprietor of the Fox River House. Mr. Fenelon’s farm consists of 200 acres and is one of the finest grain and stock farms of the town of Ripon. Mr. Fenelon takes as a part consideration in the transfer the Fox River Hotel, altho Mr. Schade will be in possession until the first of next April, when he and the family will go to their new home on the farm.”
Fenelon paid $8,000 for the property (Deeds, Volume 69, Page 37). He sold it for $9,000 to John and Mary Kerski in February 1909 (Deeds, Volume 69, Page 538).
John Novak (Nowak) traded his house for the building at 603 West Water in 1915.
Princeton Republic, Feb. 4, 1915 – “A deal was consummated last week between John Kerski and John Novak whereby the latter became the owner of the former’s hotel and saloon, known as the Fox River House. Mr. Kerksi taking in exchange the residence of Mr. Novak. Mr. Kerski and family, we understand, will leave for Montello in the near future.”
Princeton Republic, May 4, 1916 – “Last week the later part a deal was made between John Novak and Walter Nowatzke whereby the later took over the ownership of the former’s saloon and hotel which is known as the Fox River House. Mr. Nowatzke took over the ownership last Monday morning and is conducting same with the assistance of his brother and sister. Mr. Novak, it is intimated, will leave for some other city but just where, we have not learned. The building was not included in the deal.”
Princeton Republic, April 26, 1917 – “Emil Klawitter rents the saloon building occupied by Walter Nowatzki and will take possession on May 1st. The hotel part of the building, we understand, will be conducted by the owner, John Novak.”
The property was sold at auction on May 31, 1919.
Princeton Republic, June 5, 1919 – “At the auction of the John Novak property last Saturday afternoon, Sam Kohnke was the highest bidder and is now the owner of the property. The highest bid was $5,625.” (Deeds, Volume 79, Page 212)
Kohnke farmed around Princeton for more than twenty years, purchased a home on Clinton Street and worked as a carpenter with Bill Gorr for another twenty seasons.
“For thirty years he served on the election board, but that’s as close as he came to getting into politics,” Madaline (Dreblow) Schroeder, a former neighbor, wrote in the Princeton Times-Republic in April 1952. “He says politics is developing more comedians than radio ever did. … He says he’s disturbed not because he thinks the country is going to hell, but because now it looks like such a short trip.”
Princeton Republic, March 18, 1920 – “Gustav Yonderian, the tailor, has rented the upper rooms of the Sam Kohnke building.”
Princeton Republic, July 29, 1920 – “J.F. Warnke & Sons who have conducted their jewelry business in The First National Bank building for the past number of years has rented the west room of the Sam Kohnke building and will move there in the future.”
During prohibition, the Princeton Common Council approved an ordinance allowing the city to grant licenses for the sale of nontoxicating beverages. Former saloons often became soft drink parlors. Klawitter was among the local parlor operators charged with selling liquor during prohibition, but a state Supreme Court ruling cleared him.
Princeton Republic, July 27, 1922 – “The last relic of pre-Volsteadian days in Wisconsin faded last Tuesday when the state supreme court in a finding in the new famous Alby case ruled that all saloon bars in the state must go. The decision of the supreme court finds that along with the prohibiting of the sale of intoxicating liquors the prohibition amendment rules out the ‘distinctive saloon custom of standing at the bar while drinking.’ Thousands of soft drink parlors of the state are affected by the ruling of the court.”
Princeton Republic, Feb. 3, 1927 – “Stanish Soda was awarded a license by the city council last Tuesday evening to open a business in the Sam Kohnke building.”
Princeton Republic, Jan. 29, 1931 – “Frank Zelinski takes over ownership of John Nowacki’s soft drink parlor in the Sam Kohnke building.”
After prohibition ended, Zelinski and then Robert Semro operated taverns in the Kohnke building. Semro in June 1937 purchased the Pal Restaurant, 532 West Water Street, from Max Ladwig and converted it into what became the Uptown Tavern. (Ladwig said the sale would enable him to spend more time on his Pleasant Valley dance pavilion and tavern.)
Princeton Republic, June 17, 1937 – “Herke and Eddie Bartol will take possession of the tavern vacated by Mr. Semro on the first. The Parkside Tavern and Service Station, which they have so successfully operated, will be taken over by Floyd Kallas and Freddie Bartol.”
Princeton Times-Republic, March 20, 1947 – “We are informed that Elmer Dreblow has bought the Sam Kohnke buildng, now occupied by Bartol’s Bar and the Wilsey Furniture Store.”
(Dreblow had entered the painting and decorating business with his father, Theo., and brothers, Oscar and Arthur, and gradually took over the business after his father’s death. Elmer Dreblow passed in 1950.)
Bartol’s Bar remained on the southwest corner of Water and Pearl until 1957.
Princeton Times-Republic, June 6, 1957 – “We wish to announce that we have moved to our new location and welcome all old patrons as well as new ones. We are now in the former Buckhorn building purchased from V.A. Yahr, located on the south side of Water Street, between Randula’s Restaurant and Yahr’s Clothing Store. It’s just five doors east of our former place. We thank you for the privilege of serving you for twenty years in the other place. – Eddie Bartol”
Don Olson opened Don’s Bar, “serving the finest in foods and liquors,” in 1958.
Princeton Times-Republic, Nov. 5, 1959 – “Don Olson, proprietor of Don’s Bar, celebrated his first anniversary here recently by serving a baked pig prepared by … Joe Demler formerly of the Princeton Home Bakery here. … Don called his feed a ‘spanferkel’ or ‘spunfrekel’ or ‘spinfekel’ – anyway, it was mighty tasty according to those who partook of the baked pork.”
Fire caused major damage and remodeling at 603 in the winter of 1974-75. Don’s Bar returned, but so did fire in January 1977.
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. The fire reportedly started in a clothes dryer which was operating at the time in the kitchen-utility area of the upstairs apartment of the owners Don and Verona Olson. … By the time firemen arrived minutes later, smoke was pouring out of the windows and attic area. The city bucket truck was used to hoist firemen and hose to the second story level. Firemen were hampered in their efforts to extinguish the blaze until the suspended ceilings in the apartment were torn down. … The Olsons lost nearly everything in the kitchen and living room area. An unoccupied apartment in the rear of the building received only smoke and heat damage, the downstairs bar and liquor store received water and smoke damage. Smoke also permeated Eddie & Ruth’s Tavern (607) and Renn’s Plumbing and Heating store (609), which are located just west of Don’s Bar, in the same structure. There were no injuries and no estimate of damage at this time. Traffic in the downtown area was re-routed around the business district while firemen worked for nearly 4 1/2 hours.”
The Olsons sold to Tom and Melissa Kuenn, who opened Kuenn’s Korner Inn at 603 West Water in November 1977.
Princeton Times-Republic, Jan. 15, 1978 – “Don and Verona Olson, who have owned and operated Don’s Bar in Downtown Princeton for 19 years, have sold the business and building to a young couple from Milwaukee, Tom and Melissa Kuenn. As of Nov. 17, 1977, the business has been run by the Kuenns with the Olsons staying on until Dec. 17th to introduce the new owners to salesmen and familiar patrons. … The Discount liquor store (605) to the right of the bar specializes in collectors decanters.”
I will update as my research progresses into and beyond the 1980s.
It was Raasch’s in 2003, according to the Water Street Chronicle, and then the Firehouse. The building then sat vacant for several months before being revived as the bakery.
That’s where we’ll leave the lineage of 603 West Water Street for now. If you can help verify or correct any of the information, or help fill in the blanks, please let me know.
Thanks for reading and caring about local history.