One of Princeton’s more historic buildings has been getting a facelift over the last several months as work progresses on a new boutique hotel, named “Parlor Hotel” on the plans displayed in the window, at 544 West Water Street.
The old building was the second stone structure in the downtown, erected in 1868 by Gardner Green and A.P. Carman, and over the years has housed several iconic businesses while undergoing multiple renovations. It was a general store operated by the Luedtke family from 1875-1919. To my generation and others, it was Swed’s. It housed Tracy Porter’s Stonehouse Farm Goods outlet for a time in the 1990s. It more recently was home to Princeton Audio.
The history of the lot begins, as with all land in the original plat, with Henry Treat’s land purchase from the federal government in 1849. Lot 1 of Block D, which includes the Parlor Hotel and Blue Moon restaurant (538-542 West Water Street), was included in the land sold by Treat weeks after he returned from the land office in Green Bay.
Lot 1 – West half (Parlor Hotel)
Treat sold the lot to Vincent Goldsmith for $50 in March 1850 (Deeds, Volume C, Page 79). Goldsmith raised the price to $150 in 1851 when he sold to Louis Lamont (Deeds, Volume D, Page 183), who divided the lot.
Edward McGee owned the west half of the west half of the lot a few months later, and David Loomis owned the east half of the west half. They both sold to Joseph Pease and Philo Knapp, who sold the entire west half of the lot to Ora Webster for $300 in June 1851 (Deeds, Volume E, Page 60).
Gottlieb Jahnke scooped up the property in April 1860 by paying the back taxes of just over $300 (Deeds, Volume 22, Page 472).
Jahnke sold a slice of land 25 feet wide and 99 feet deep on the west corner of the property to David Green for $25 in January 1864 (Deeds, Volume 29, Page 323). Green sold it for $100 to his brother, Gardner Green, in 1868 (Deeds, Volume 31, Page 83).
Green and Carman had operated a dry goods store in the brick building at 513-519 West Water but in 1868 built a two-story stone building at the northeast corner of Water and Pearl streets to house their store and the Wilde-McClurg drug store.
Princeton Republic, May 14, 1868 – “Green & Carman’s stone building is coming up slowly.”
Princeton Republic, August 3, 1868 – “The new stone store of Green & Carman on Water Street is nearing completion. The building is one of the most solid kind and though not imposing in character, owing to its squatty appearance, yet it will be one of the best, if not altogether the best business room in Green Lake County. Large, long, roomy and airy, it will be a credit to its proprietors and the village.”
Princeton Republic, September 14, 1868 – “Gard Green has his new stone building nearly completed. Green & Carman and Wilde & McClurg are anticipating a good fall trade in their new home.”
Princeton Republic, October 5, 1868 – “Green & Carman have just set up a new Fairbank’s hay scales at their new stone building.”
Princeton Republic, October 19, 1868 – “Green & Carman and Wilde & McClurg are moving into their new stone building.”
The Republic reflected on the building when it published its history of early Princeton in 1869: “Last spring Gardner Green began the erection of a stone building on the northeast corner of Water and Pearl streets, which was finished in the fall, and was immediately occupied by Green & Carman, dry goods dealers, and Wilde & McClurg, druggists. This is one of the most pleasing salesrooms in the county and is fireproof. The roof might catch fire and burn away yet the goods in the rooms below would remain untouched.”
Green and Carman sold their stock and store to Royal Treat in December 1869, who combined the merchandise with his stock of dry goods, groceries, boots and more. Wilde & McClurg remained in the east room of the store until McClurg departed and Wilde sold to Richard and Gustave Mueller.
Gardner Green repurchased the property in August 1872 as Treat prepared to leave for cranberry country (Deeds, Volume 32, Page 534). Green sold it to William F. Luedtke, doing business initially as Luedtke Bros., for $2,400 in June 1875 (Deeds, Volume 36, Page 442).
Princeton Republic, July 3, 1875 – “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 Mueller Bros. will the occupy the other side of their drug store.”
Luedtke Bros., however, was about to lose a partner.
Princeton Republic, Feb. 19, 1876 – “Does dishonesty pay? A merchant of Princeton, Mr. August Luedtke, has had reason this week to study the above proposition, ‘does dishonesty pay,’ and, judging from the turn taken in his affairs, it is more than probable he has become convinced that ‘honesty is the best policy.’ We noticed some months ago the loss of a sack of pepper from the sidewalk in front of Warnke & Co.’s store. The pepper was traced to Luedtke Bros.’ store but could not be found until this week. Chris Piper, who had for a long time smelled it, and knew that it was in a certain cellar, traced it to a barrel in that cellar apparently filled with onions. A few onions being removed from the top of the barrel, the pepper was found. August paid for that pepper at the rate of about three and a half dollars per pound, so that, to retail it at the regular price, 30 cents per pound, there must be considerable shortage. August studied the matter over and decided to leave town for a time, so on Wednesday he ‘lit out’ and has not put in an appearance here.”
The Muellers built their own drug store at 528 West Water in 1885 as William Luedtke began a long-term project to update his building at 544.
Princeton Republic, Jan. 21, 1886 – “Ton after ton of stone is being deposited on the ground for Wm. Luedtke’s new block, which will be erected next season.”
Next season, however, did not come until 1890.
Princeton Republic, Jan. 9, 1890 – “It is said Wm. F. Luedtke will soon commence valuable improvements on his premises. He proposes to cut off the front of his stone store and even up the front into line with the buildings erected since the erection of his building. He will also widen his building several feet to the east line of his lot. This will be a fine improvement indeed.”
Princeton Republic, April 10, 1890 – “Wm. F. Luedtke visited Portage last week and made the purchase of over fifty thousand brick to be used in the erection of that building and the improvements he will make at his corner the coming season.”
Princeton Republic, April 24, 1890 – “Business commenced earnestly on W.F. Luedtke’s corner Monday and excavating for a foundation of that new building is now in order.”
Princeton Republic, May 15, 1890 – “Last week about Thursday, W.F. Luedtke commenced in good earnest the work of demolishing as much of that old stone building as is necessary to erect that substantial building that is going to take its place soon.”
Princeton Republic, June 26, 1890 – “Tim Paull has erected an arrangement for hoisting stone and mortar by horsepower at Luedtke’s block. … That magnificent block of brick and stone is fast raising above the layer of joists for the second story floor. The carpenter work is being pushed under the management of Gus. Krause. Mr. Luedtke keeps his eyes open as to details and is determined to have a building substantial in every particular.”
Princeton Republic, August 7, 1890 – “W.F. Luedtke’s stone building is fast nearing completion. The building is 36×90 in size, two stories high, and will have a fine plate-glass front. The first floor is divided into two rooms. Mr. Luedtke will occupy the corner store, and the other will be rented, as will also the rooms over the east storeroom. When finished this will be one of the finest business blocks in Princeton.”
Princeton Republic, August 14, 1890 – “The words ‘W.F. Luedtke, 1890’ are carved on a beautiful tablet of white marble of key-stone shape and set in front of Mr. Luedtke’s new block. It is a splendid addition to the architectural beauty of the front.”
Two business would occupy the renovated and expanded building, with Luedtke operating the west, or corner, store, and Edward T. Frank the east store, with groceries. Frank moved out in 1893 and was replaced in November by John F. Warnke selling dry goods and more.
Albert Graf moved into the east room with a stock of groceries in April 1895. Warnke retained the back of the store for his butter, egg and produce business. Graf died just a few months later, however. His father, Erdmann, kept the store open for a while before Warnke again filled the entire store in 1897.
Princeton Republic, Jan. 30, 1902 – “The past week W.F. Luedtke has had the room occupied by J.F. Warnke’s grocery store painted and calcimated, giving it a neat, fresh appearance.”
Victor F. Yahr opened the “Princeton Grocery and 5-10 Cents Store” in the east section of the O.R. Luedtke building on Cattle Fair Day in March 1914. Yahr offered auto delivery to all parts of town.
Princeton Republic, Jan. 13, 1916 – “Last Thursday morning at about 3:30 a.m. fire was discovered in the east part store building of O.R. Luedtke, occupied by V.F. Yahr. The fire started on the shelving of the store thru an unknown origin. Considerable damage was done to stock and building which is covered by insurance. The Fire Dept. responded promptly to the call and extinguished the fire with their chemical engine.”
Yahr’s dime store was the last business to occupy the east store. (In 1923 Hyman Swed, who had occupied the Luedtke building for about five years, completed his purchase of the property. He renovated the two rooms into one.)
Luedtke, who had been in business with his son, O.R. (Otto), as Luedtke & Son for about 12 years, died in 1902 at age 54 of heart failure. Otto, who was educated in Princeton and graduated from Milwaukee Business College, and other family members kept the business going.
Princeton Republic, Feb. 26, 1903 – “O.R. Luedtke, the general merchant, has placed a form in his window, which has a beautiful wax head. It makes a display and is something which is not seen in small towns. It is a step toward up-to-date window trimming and we congratulate Mr. Luedtke on this acquisition.”
Otto Luedtke passed in 1918 at a sanitarium in Milwaukee. He had been to Hot Springs, Arkansas, in December 1917 for three weeks and had tried the Moor Baths in Waukesha.
The Luedtke estate sold the business’s stock and rented the building to dry goods merchant Hyman Swed.
Princeton Republic, May 30, 1918 – “A deal was consummated last Wednesday between the O.R. Luedtke Estate and Hyman Swed whereby the latter takes over the stock of general merchandise of the former. Mr. Swed has also rented the estate building and took immediate possession. He will also continue the business he is now conducting in the Rev. A. Hoyer block (508 West Water).”
Princeton Republic, July 25, 1918 – “Hyman Swed and family, formerly residents on E. Main Street, have moved their household goods in the second story of the O.R. Luedtke building and are now residents there.”
Swed operated stores at 544 and 508 West Water until March 1919 when he advertised a big removal sale to reduce stock in anticipation of occupying but one building. “We have already closed the store in the Rev. Hoyer building and the stocks are too large to combine,” Swed said.
(Alfred Warnke refitted the building at 508 West Water for a moving picture house, The Loyal Theatre.)
Princeton Republic, Jan. 18, 1923 – “In a deal which came to a close last week, Hyman Swed became the owner of the O.R. Luedtke Estate building (Deeds, Volume 85, Page 155). The new owner has had possession as a renter of the west half of the building for the past number of years while V.F. Yahr occupied the east half. We are informed that Mr. Swed contemplates extensive improvements in the way of remodeling the front, removing the center partition, etc. He will occupy the entire building when improvements are completed. Mr. Yahr will occupy his building on the south side of Water street (537 West Water) and he too will make considerable improvements before his occupancy.”
Princeton Republic, June 14, 1923 – “Hyman Swed, who is about to make extensive improvements on his store building, commenced operations last Tuesday. When all completed, Mr. Swed can boast of having a building to compare favorably with business houses in cities much larger in size than Princeton.”
Princeton Republic, Aug. 2, 1923 – “Hyman Swed, for the past number of weeks engaged in remodeling the front of his store building as well as the interior, has same very nearly completed and represents a fine appearance and is a splendid asset to Princeton’s business buildings. The front is constructed of the very latest design with large plate glass windows which are held in place with large copper strips and a wider copper Cornish. In appearance they can well be compared with those found in larger cities only. New store fixtures will replace those in use at the present time and a much larger stock of merchandise will be carried by Mr. Swed.”
Swed ran a four-page ad in the Republic on Oct. 29, 1936, following a major remodeling that pushed the newspaper to a record 16 pages.
Princeton Republic, August 27, 1936 – “H. Swed recently improved the interior of his store to a considerable extent. New display counters were built placing goods in a plain view to patrons. Then, too, part of the old shelving was removed and replaced with modern and up to minute fixtures. The grocery department is neatly arranged and in plain sight. Mr. Swed can well boast of one of the most modern business places in this section of the state.”
Morris Swed became partners with his father in the family business.
Princeton Times-Republic, Jan. 24, 1946 – “Morris Swed is now associated with his father, Hyman Swed, in the ownership of the Swed store, one of Princeton’s oldest and largest mercantile institutions.”
H. Swed & Son operated the corner store until 1969 when Hyman Swed passed away and the name was changed to Swed’s Store.
Princeton Times-Republic, July 27, 1989 – “After 76 years Swed’s Store will be no more. Mr. and Mrs. Morris Swed have sold their building and announced their intentions to close as of August 15, 1989. They plan to do some of the things that time did not permit while serving their customers in their general store, a combination of groceries, clothing, shoes and selected goods.”
Tracy and John Porter opened Stonehouse Farm Goods in the former Swed’s store in 1996.
Princeton Times-Republic, May 16, 1996 – “A new, unique store is open in downtown Princeton. Stonehouse Farm Goods is owned by John and Tracy Porter. They have opened the store at 544 W. Water St. Stonehouse Farm Goods features many items that are designed by the Porters. A wide range of products include furniture, hook rugs, needlepoint pillows, quilts, framed art and books.”
Track lighting, soft mood music and butterflies helped set the stage for customers. “This symbolizes a fresh new start for us,” Tracy Porter said as guests released the butterflies at a welcoming party in May.
Area residents were already well aware of the Porters’ enterprise. They had purchased a farm on County Road WW and turned Stonehouse Farm Goods into a nationally known brand. The property included a home built in 1892, sheep and other animals, and a newer building where 35 employees, including 20 artists, assembled, painted and shipped products to stores nationwide.
By the time they opened the storefront on Water Street, the Porters’ were doing business with about 300 retailers, including Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and ABC New York.
The firm’s 115-page, spiral-bound 1995 Stone-house catalog featured nearly 400 items, ranging in price from about $90 for a 3-by-3-inch picture frame to $7,200 for a nosegay-decorated, linen wardrobe with scallop-edged shelves.
“Last year, Stonehouse Farm Goods had sales of nearly $5 million,” the Chicago Tribune reported in February 1995.
I will continue to update the history of 544 West Water as my research progresses beyond the 1990s.
Lot 1 – East half, west room (Blue Moon, 538-542)
After Lamont divided the lot in 1851, he sold the east half of Lots 1 and 2 to N.D. Hall for $50 in March 1852 (Deeds, Volume D, Page 584). Hall sold to John Lawrence for $100 in October 1856 (Deeds, Volume N, Page 340). Lawrence sold to Christopher Lieck (Liek, Lueck) for $360 (Deeds, Volume U, Page 414). Lieck sold to Maulick for $300 in November 1863 (Deeds, Volume 22, Page 240).
I believe, though am less than certain, that the first building to occupy Lot 1 of Block D was erected by Edward Magee and described in the history of early Princeton published by the Princeton Republic in 1869:
“Edward Magee built a small frame building on Water Street, now owned and occupied by Christian Neidt as a saloon and residence, just east of the new stone store. Magee occupied this building some two years as a residence, when it passed through the hands of Daniel Loomis and Watson Gardenier to Joseph Pease. From Pease it went into the possession of a Mr. Lawrence by a tax deed, having in the meantime remained vacant. From Lawrence the building became the property of Gottlieb Liek, who moved it around facing the street, putting on a new front and otherwise improving it, when he started a saloon, and afterwards sold out to Christopher Maulick, who in turn sold to Christian Neidt, the present owner and occupant.”
Christian and Mary Neidt operated a rowdy saloon that drew the ire of local constables and the Republic’s temperance-minded editors.
“We learn the liquor license of C. Neidt, of this village, will be taken from him by the town board to put a stop to the frequent rows in that hole in the wall,” the Republic reported in 1872.
Princeton Republic, July 20, 1872 – “Some weeks since we mentioned a fight at Neidt’s saloon, and an effort to arrest Mrs. Neidt, which was a failure, owning to the sickness of Mrs. Neidt. – The sheriff, on last Saturday, with some urging, induced her to accompany him to Justice Marckstadt’s office, where she was fined $20 and costs, which she paid, thanking Sheriff Cooke for his gallantry.”
The Neidts gave up the saloon and sold to August Ponto in November 1872 (Deeds, Volume 33, Page 632) for $1,500.
Ponto teamed with Fred Schendel to build a new building in 1877 with Ponto operating a saloon in the west room (538) and Schendel renting the east room (536) to the Collins Brothers of Berlin. (I am uncertain whether the Magee building was razed or stood just west of the new building and was razed in 1890 when William Luedtke renovated and expanded the stone store.)
Princeton Republic, June 2, 1877 – “Fred Schendel has the excavation for the basement of his store block nearly completed.”
Princeton Republic, Nov. 23, 1877 – “Fred Yahr’s men are driving along the work of putting a tin roof on the Schendel-Ponto block as fast as snow and rain will allow.”
Princeton Republic, Dec. 21, 1877 – “The Ponto-Schendel block approaches completion.”
Ponto sold to August Zauft for $3,350 in 1884 (Deeds, Volume 45, Page 85).
Princeton Republic, April 17, 1884 – “August Ponto has sold his block and saloon to August Zauft for the snug sum of $3,300.”
Zauft sold to Wm. Luedtke for $3,500 in May 1886 (Deeds, Volume 47, Page 118). Luedtke sold to John J. Radtke in February 1894 for $3,100 (Deeds, Volume 52, Page 70).
Princeton Republic, Feb. 22, 1894 – “W.F. Luedtke has sold the property just east and adjoining his brick block to John Radtke. John will move his saloon therein. This is another recent important deal in real estate in this village.”
Radtke sold the building to C.J. Haas, of Fond du Lac, in October 1911 (Deeds, Volume 72, Page 308) but proprietor Louis Miller continued to operate the saloon there. Haas’ estate sold to Emil Klawitter in 1923 (Deeds, Volume 81, Page 261).
Princeton Republic, Nov. 1, 1923 – “A deal which has been pending for the past number of weeks came to a close last week Friday when Emil Klawitter, this city, became the owner of the Mrs. C.J. Haas building on Water Street. The property is located directly east of the H. Swed store building. Mr. Klawitter contemplates conducting a restaurant and ice cream parlor as soon as the building can be fittingly arranged for that purpose.”
Klawitter sold his tavern to Mike Checki, formerly a superintendent of a logging camp, for $3,000 in early 1936 (Deeds, Volume 95, Page 234).
Princeton Republic, Feb. 6, 1936 – “In a deal transacted last Saturday, Mike Checki became the owner of the Emil Klawitter tavern, located east of the Hyman Swed store building. At the present time the tavern is occupied by Frank Kalupa, who will remain in the building until July 1.”
The Checkis sold to Max and Florence Ladwig for $8,300 in May 1947 (Deeds, Volume 115, Page 90).
Princeton Times-Republic, July 3, 1947 – “Moxie’s Bar is open for business and with its modernistic fixtures and lights presents a most attractive appearance. Max Ladwig is to be congratulated for transforming this outmoded establishment into an up-to-date tavern. Along with the best of drinks Max assures us that he will always be prepared to serve food – hot dogs, sandwiches, etc. Welcome back to Princeton, Max!”
Princeton Times-Republic, July 31, 1947 – “Those two brass vases on Moxie’s Bar were originally empty shells from German 77 mm guns and were picked up on the Verdun battle field by Wesley Ladwig. Wesley was attached to General Pershing’s headquarters as an interpreter. The vases are artistic creations of hammered brass.”
Ladwig, who at some point opened Moxie’s Supper Club just west of Ripon, sold the Water Street property a few months later.
Princeton Times-Republic, Nov. 27, 1947 – “Eugene Schmitt, formerly of Milwaukee, has made a deal for purchase of the tavern operated by Max Ladwig and has filed his application for a license with the city clerk.”
Princeton Times-Republic, Dec. 18, 1947 – “The Messrs. Eugene Schmitt and Dick Cramer have taken over the ownership of the Moxie’s Bar, formerly operated by Max Ladwig. … Schmitts will occupy apartments over the tavern.”
Schmitt sold Frenchy’s Tavern to Bruce Schneider in 1949. Schneider sold Schneider’s Bar a few months later.
Princeton Times-Republic. Nov. 2, 1950 – “Mr. and Mrs. Bruce Schneider announce the sale of their tavern on Water Street to Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Ottoway of Ripon. The tavern is scheduled to change hands on Nov. 11.”
Otty’s Bar remained there for 15 years. After Clarence Ottoway passed in July 1965, the property was sold to Don and Verona Olson, who owned the Skogmo store one door east, in 1967. The Olsons tore down the wall, remodeled the front and expanded into their enlarged space.
That’s as far as my research extends. I will update when more information is available.
Lot 1 – East half, east room (Blue Moon)
Ponto, who purchased the Neidts’ saloon in 1872, sold the 20-foot strip off the east side of the property to Rudolph and Julius Breitenfeld for $430 in October 1875 (Deeds, Volume 36, Page 469). They sold it for $430 to Frederick Schendel in February 1876 (Deeds, Volume 37, Page 73).
Schendel rented his east room to the Collins Bros.
Princeton Republic, Jan. 2, 1879 – “The Collins Bros,, of Berlin have opened a branch store in the Schendel block, Princeton, where they offer bargains in ready made clothing and gents furnishing goods, also a fine line of silk handkerchiefs, cravats, ties, etc. etc.”
The Collins moved to the Thiel block by the end of the year. They were followed by a series of short-term occupants until Warnke Bros. & (Gottlieb J.) Krueger moved in in October 1886.
Princeton Republic, Aug. 16, 1888 – “John Warnke has sold out his interest in the dry goods business of Warnke & Krueger to Mr. Eph. Mueller, Mr. Mueller, or probably his son, Eric, entering into partnership with Mr. Krueger. It is rumored that John Warnke will go to Germania and go into business there.”
G.J. Krueger and Erich Mueller – Krueger & Mueller – used acetylene to light their store in 1898, just as Schendel did at his City Hotel, aka Commercial Hotel, next door east of the store.
Schendel sold the building and lot to Krueger and Mueller for $3,450 in April 1900 (Deeds, Volume 58, Page 274). Mueller sold out to Krueger in February 1903. (Krueger, by the way, lived in my house on Wisconsin Street.)
Princeton Republic, Feb. 12, 1903 – “Krueger & Mueller have dissolved partnership, and G.J. Krueger will hereafter conduct the business alone. Mr. Mueller will go in business with President (Gottlieb) Luedkte.”
Krueger, who was president of First National Bank of Princeton and a leader in the St. John Lutheran Church for many years, maintained the dry goods store until he retired and sold the property to Bertha Kelm in November 1923 (Deeds, Volume 73, Page 399).
The store in summer 1925 was used as the receiving site for wax beans. About twenty-five women were employed to trim the ends from the pods before the beans were shipped to a canning factory in Pickett.
A hardware store moved into 538 West Water in 1927.
Princeton Republic, Jan. 27, 1927 – “Hugo Kelm and crew of carpenters and painters for the past number of days engaged in remodeling his building, formerly the G.J. Krueger stand, is gradually nearing completion. When finished it will be occupied by G.J. Knaack hardware store. New shelving, drawers and wall cases have been provided, and an elevator to be installed. The second floor is arranged for storage and tinners shop.”
Princeton Republic, Feb. 17, 1927 – “G.J. Knaack commenced moving his stock of hardware into his newly acquired building, the Hugo Kelm premises, last Monday.”
Kelm’s heirs sold the building to Knaack for $3,850 (Deeds, Volume 118, Page 623) in July 1948, but Knaack retired a short time later.
Princeton Republic, April 14, 1949 – “One of Princeton’s old established businesses changed hands the first of the week when G.J. Knaack sold his hardware business to Messrs. John Dutton and Steve Paradowski of Milwaukee. The new owners took immediate possession. … Mr. Knaack purchased this business of Marquardt & Artman thirty-five years ago. The store was then located in the building now occupied by Gerlach’s IGA store (525 West Water Street). He later moved to his present location.”
Princeton Republic, July 7, 1949 – “The interior of the Princeton Hardware and Supply Company’s store is being improved with new display fixtures including shelving, aisle counters and new lighting fixtures.”
The hardware store changed hands in 1952 when Dutton and Paradowski turned over the keys to the business to Leo Oestreich and Vernon Jackson. The store later moved to the northwest corner of Water and Washington streets.
T.J. Wilsey purchased the property from Knaack’s heirs in July 1955 for $7,000 (Deeds, Volume 137, Page 569) and housed his furniture store there. The next tenant at 536 West Water had arrived in town in 1952.
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. Mrs. Verona Olson, of Montello, is the owner and operator of the store. The store will feature a complete line of ladies’ ready-to-wear items, with many competitively priced dresses, slips, skirts and other apparel. They will also handle children’s ready-to-wear clothing. Mrs. Olson and her husband, Don, who operates a Gamble store in Montello, came here in May of this year from Appleton, where they had been in business. The store building has been completely redecorated.”
The Olsons moved from the 600 block to 536 West Water in 1956 and then one door west, to 538, in 1964, displacing Wilsey Furniture each time.
Princeton Times-Republic, Nov. 15, 1956 – “Yesterday, the Skogmo Store began featuring specials to open the four-day ‘grand opening’ celebration of their new location. … Mrs. Verona Olson moved into their new location in the former Wilsey Furniture store Nov. 3. Remodeling and redecorating have been done by the Olsons, and many new sections have been added. Mrs. Olson will be assisted by her sister, Mrs. Bud Apitz of Appleton, and Mrs. Eugene Yasick during the event, which will also be the fourth anniversary of the Skogmo store in Princeton.”
Princeton Times-Republic, May 7, 1965 – “Skogmo’s new headquarters downtown will be conducting a gigantic grand opening sale during the next eight days, according to Verona Olson, owner. Skogmo’s recently vacated the Dreblow building and moved next door to the former Wilsey Furniture Store where has extensive remodeling has transformed the building into one of the most complete clothing stores for women and children in the area. In addition, the upstairs of the new store is being used as a bargain center as well as headquarters for the Handcraft line of ‘seconds,’ which the store handles.”
Princeton Times-Republic, June 17, 1965 – “The Wilsey building downtown, occupied by Skogmo’s Store, has been sold by Joe Wilsey to Don and Verona Olson. Verona is proprietor of the clothing firm. She announced that there would be some interior remodeling in the near future.”
Wilsey moved to the Stelter building across the street in July. Skogmos remodeled the front of the building at 538 West Water in fall 1966.
The Olsons purchased the building at 542, renovated it with a new front to match 538, removed a wall and expanded in fall 1967. (The address today is 538 West Water.)
Princeton Times-Republic, July 27, 1967 – “Verona Olson recently purchased the building formerly occupied by Otty’s Bar, next door to the building presently occupied by Olson’s Skogmo Store. Plans are already in progress for remodeling the front of the newly acquired building to match the front of Skogmos, and the wall between the buildings will be removed as the first step in the interior remodeling plan. At a later date the upstairs in the former Otty building will be remodeled for store space, also.”
Princeton Times-Republic, Feb. 6, 1969 – “Verona Olson moved to Princeton over sixteen years ago and opened a ‘Skogmo Store’ in the Fromolz (Brooks) building. After four years the increased business necessitated a move across the street into the Dreblow building which offered more space. Again with increasing business and inventory, the building became too small, and another move was made into the building where the business is located today. One and a half years ago they outgrew their facilities once more, so the Ottoway building (538) located next door to the Skogmo store was purchased, and after extensive remodeling, the two became one large, modern, well lighted store.”
The Olsons retired in 1979.
Princeton Times-Republic, Aug. 2, 1979 – “After 27 years in business in Princeton, Verona and Don Olson plan to sell their business and retire. They own Olson’s, a department store, in downtown Princeton. They came to the Montello area on May 1, 1952 and opened a Gamble Store in Montello. That same year Verona opened Skogmo’s in Princeton in the Fromolz building recently vacated by Renn and Sons Plumbing. After about four years, the business outgrew the location so a move was made to the former Fabric Shop location in Dreblow’s building. Joe Wilsey’s furniture store was rented and then purchased when he moved. About that time Don bought a bar in Princeton. He sold this about two years ago, having been in the tavern business for 19 years. When Ottoway passed away, the Olsons purchased the building which housed the bar next door. The wall between the two buildings was torn out and the store enlarged. That was in 1967. The present frontage of the store is about 45 feet and it is 90 feet deep with an upstairs. There is a large well kept back yard. Several years ago Verona suffered a heart attack and the doctor told her to ‘take it easy,’ so she hasn’t been able to spend as much time as she would like in the store. … The Olsons would like to sell the entire business but up to now that wasn’t possible. On Aug 9 they will being a sale of merchandise at reduced prices. Fixtures will also be sold.”
The building remained vacant for several months.
Princeton Times-Republic, Aug. 7, 1980 – “Exciting things are happening in downtown Princeton! Passersby are keeping their eyes on those paper covered windows at what was formerly Olson’s Clothing Store. The signs say that The Family Center will be opening there.”
Princeton Times-Republic, Sept. 25, 1980 – “The Family Center clothing store, located at 538 Water Street, is open for business. It is located in the former Skogmo store building.”
Princeton Times-Republic, Oct. 23, 1980 – “November 5th through November 15th are the dates for the grand opening of the Princeton Family Center, a one-stop shopping center for the entire family, located in downtown Princeton. Leo McSherry, of Waupaca, the new owner, is not new to the mercantile business. He also owns the Waupaca Family Center.”
Princeton Times-Republic, June 19, 1986 – “Darold Beier, new manager of the Family Center of Princeton, is from Wonewoc, WI and a graduate of Center High School of Wonewoc. The business has been purchased by Mr. G’s Inc. of Viroqua and Beier started working for them at the Richland Center store as a sales clerk. The firm owns nine stores in all.”
Princeton Times-Republic, July 10, 1986 – “The Family Center of Princeton has a new owner, Gene Gabrysiak.”
Princeton Times-Republic, Feb. 4, 1988 – “The awning of The Princeton Family Center gave way to the heavy snow on Friday, Jan. 29. Timing was right, and no one was injured by the snow packed aluminum awning, but employee Marie Gates was trapped inside the store as the awning blocked the entrance.”
Gabrysiak closed the store in 1989.
Princeton Times-Republic, April 27, 1989 – “Princeton’s Family Center, 538 Water St., is in the process of liquidating its stock. According to the business owner, Eugene Gabrysiak of Viola, Wisconsin, the building which he leases from Verona Olson, is up for sale. Gabrysiak stated that his current lease is up September 1, 1989, and that he will remain in business until the store’s merchandise has been liquidated.”
As far as I can tell, the store stood vacant until California transplants Deena and Denny Ballagh began restoration work in January 1996.
They hired several Amish artisans to return the building to an earlier era. The ceiling was left at the 16-foot height, large windows set in the front, which more closing resembled the original front erected by Ponto and Schendel, and the existing hardwood floors repaired and sanded. An eight-foot stone fireplace was added.
Princeton Times-Republic, March 18, 1997 – “The last couple of weeks there has been a lot of activity at the building that used to be Skogmos in downtown Princeton (next to Stonehouse Farms Goods Store). A restaurant is going in its place. However, it is not going to be the Duck Walk Inn out of Wautoma, as was announced at the Stonehouse Farm Goods grand opening. The new occupants are Deena and Denny Ballagh, formerly from Laguna Beach, California. … Deena and Denny have worked for other people in the restaurant business for twenty years, but now want an opportunity to work for themselves. … The restaurant name, Blue Moon, was derived from the fact that Deena and Denny were married on a Blue Moon, last year on June 30th in fact. A Blue Moon is the second full moon in one moth and is so rare that it only occurs about every three years.”
The city granted a liquor license to the new restaurant and gift shop, Once in a Blue Moon, in May 1997.
The newspaper recalled the restaurant’s beginnings in a feature story in December 1998: “Settling on an abandoned store on Princeton’s Water Street, (the Ballaghs) began their rebuilding project that would turn this shell building into the concept they were looking for. With the size set and the interior of the building completely gutted, the general feeling of the interor space was addressed. Deena wanted an open plan with a country feeling to it. Small, intimate, airy, dozy, casual and charming were the words used to describe her concept. The ceilings were left at the 16-foot height, large windows were set in the front of the space, good existing hardwood floors were sanded down, a large fireplace was built for the room, and the exterior was sheathed in a neutral stained wood. Construction, which employed several Amish artisans, started early January 1996 and was completed by June 1996. Kitchen equipment, tables, chairs and country cabinets, benches and artifacts were found and placed in the room.”
The Ballaghs continued to operate the Blue Moon until their retirement in 2022.
Not surprisingly, the City of Princeton Historical Walking Tour plaques on both the Parlor Hotel and Blue Moon restaurant buildings include factual, historical errors about the buildings. Those errors were addressed in previous blog posts.
Thank you for reading and caring about local history.