The history of the first 100 years of the “crooked end of Water Street” is filled with so many twists and turns that it’s easy to get lost amid the five buildings each known as a “Green block” and each housing one to three businesses.
We can trace ownership of Water Lot 23 – today home to SkinLove spa (613 West Water Street), Janet Parrell Creations (615) and Dr. Kelley White’s dental office (617) – through the property deeds, and we know the lineage of each building, but tracing the occupants is more challenging – especially the rooms in the old elevator building that stood at about 617 West Water.
If you think I’ve lost my way at any point, please let me know. There are gaps yet to be filled, and I apologize if I misplaced anyone’s relatives!
The linchpin to understanding the Gardner Green empire, which later was purchased by Erich Mueller, is the original wood frame building that stood on Water Lot 23. It was moved here from St. Marie about 1863-1865.
(The concrete block building that occupies the property today was built in the 1980s by Sam Garro. Today it is home to the dental office of Dr. Kelley White.)
One of the regrets I have about my first book is that I did not dedicate a chapter to David and Gardner Green; both played significant roles in the development of Princeton. They owned the local mill and mill channel for a time, introduced the flour roller system to the mill in 1885, and expanded the channel to improve the waterpower that eventually brought electricity to Princeton.
David was the local director in the effort to secure the financial commitments to bring the Sheboygan and Fond du Lac Railroad to Princeton in 1872. He and Gardner both operated major businesses, such as the Green & Carman general store and a lumberyard, and were involved in commercial ventures, large and small, in Princeton and throughout the region. Gardner built at least five business buildings and 13 residences in early Princeton.
About 1863-1865 David Green moved a building from the quickly disappearing community of St. Marie to Water Lot 23 in Princeton. He set it on the river and used it as an elevator accessible to the steamships transporting area farmers’ wheat to market.
Owners of the local grist/flour mill also owned shares of the elevator property, but the Water Street frontage was not developed until 1880 when Gardner Green moved the elevator to the street and converted it into three business rooms.
Here is the history of the building as reported by the Princeton Republic way back in 1887:
Princeton Republic, June 16, 1887: “The old elevator building, a name familiar here in Princeton, and now occupied by M. Manthey & Sons, who are doing a flourishing grocery and shipping business, has its history. That old building commenced making a record in the then-pretentious city of St. Marie, whose commercial marts have long since closed and glory faded into a rather modern antiquity. It was erected and first occupied as a store by Buck & Cheney and stood near the historical St. Marie bridge – another fact of the past but a myth today. Following Buck & Cheney, one Kissam had a store in the building. The subsequent history of the building shows that it at one time was adorned with a $1,000 mortgage in favor of a bishop of the Episcopal Church of Wisconsin. Another short step in its record shows that it came into the possession of Dave Green, and immediately its days as a St. Marie edifice were numbered. About 1865 the proprietor concluded to move the building to the prosperous village of Princeton, whose shadow of prosperity had cast its withering upas upon the city of St. Marie and left the latter without a future – only the inspiration of an hour and it was gone forever! In those days, the country far and near were notified when a building was to be moved, and, as usual, the farmer and teamster responded in this case, and ox teams by the scores were hitched to this building, the word was given, the drivers plied their whips, and the edifice, creaking a ‘good-bye’ to lonely St. Marie, started for Princeton property. Arriving here it was placed upon piles out in the river, finished off for an elevator and was used for years in that capacity, taking in grain from the farmers and discharging the same into the river boats. But alas, the steam horse entered Princeton and other commercial channels were opened and business at the elevator ceased. A few more years elapsed and Gard Green, having acquired title in the building, it was again moved from its foundations of piling north to the street, metamorphosed again into storerooms and is occupied as above stated. But the old and substantial building is again doomed to disturbance. A few days ago, Tim Paull commenced applying his jack screws, and up went the old veteran two feet higher, and higher walls and cellar follow.”
(By the way, this is the building that I believe researchers in the 1970s-1980s era mistook as the building at 630 West Water Street, just across the street, leading to the Princeton Historical Society board’s mistaken, and oft repeated, tall tale about its museum’s history. The building at 630 West Water was built by Gardner Green in 1876.)
We will return to our chronology, picking it up when Green moves the elevator to Water Street, but first I want to recap how the property went from Henry Treat, who purchased all the land in the original plat of Princeton from the federal government in June 1849, to the Greens.
From Treat, Harley Farmington sold Lots 23 and 24 to Waldo Flint for $25 in July 1850 (Deeds, Volume C, Page 386). The property, or slices of it, next passed through the hands of John Shipley, Samuel Smith, Richard Williams, James Jones, Israel Eagan, James Barr and Ezra Rosebrook within two years of being platted.
David Green and Philemon Wicks purchased the property at sheriff’s auction for nonpayment of taxes in May 1863 (Deeds, Volume 26, Page 315).
Green moved the building from St. Marie, converted it into an elevator and commenced shipping grain. He sold one half of Lot 22 and one half of the west 43 feet of Lot 23 to mill founders Waldo and Alvin Flint for $1,000 just before Christmas in 1865 (Deeds, Volume 30, Page 35).
The Flints sold their share and other holdings to Philemon Wicks for $4,000 in May 1866 (Deeds, Volume 25, Page 513), who sold to John Weiss for $6,000 In September 1867 (Deeds, Volume 31, Page 37).
A.P. Carman divested his interested in the property to David Green for $200 in November 1878 (Deeds, Volume 39, Page 580).
John Weiss sold his share of Lots 22 and 23 and other property to Mrs. August (Henrietta) Swanke for $2,380 in June 1878 (Deeds, Volume 40, Page 80). The Swankes sold their share of Lots 22 and 23 to Gardner Green for $350 in May 1879 (Deeds, Volume 40, Page 446).
Princeton Republic, May 29, 1879 – “Gard Green has become sole owner of the ‘old elevator’ property, having just purchased Swanke’s interest.”
Now we’ll set aside the deeds for a bit and return to the building at 617 West Water Street to begin tracking its occupants.
617 West Water
Princeton Republic. May 13, 1880 – “Gard Green is moving the old elevator and warehouse from the river front to the street, next to McCormick’s shoe shop, where it is to be finished up for a store or business room of some kind.”
Green created a one-story room adjoining the two-story elevator building to the west to create three business rooms that seemed to be in constant flux.
Princeton Republic, Sept. 16, 1880 – “G. Green is fitting up the old elevator building for use as office, storeroom, etc.”
Princeton Republic, Oct 14, 1880 – “Workmen are busily transforming Gard Green’s building into a business block.”
Princeton Republic, Nov. 4, 1880 – “Chittenden & Morse have established themselves in a very comfortable office in the building recently re-fitted by G. Green. Mr. Manthey also occupies new quarters in the same building.”
Princeton Republic, April 27, 1882 – “Gard Green has commenced the foundation for a new addition in the rear of the room now occupied by M. Manthey, all of which will eventually make a storeroom when completed 40 feet in length, which Mr. Manthey will occupy for his growing business.”
Princeton Oct. 12, 1882 – “Attorney Cox has moved his law office into Gard Green’s building, the room he occupies being the one lately vacated by Chittenden & Morse.”
Princeton Republic, April 12, 1883 – “Mrs. Maggie Rich has opened a stock of millinery in the room just east of Manthey’s grocery house. Our Princeton friends will give Mrs. Rich a call.”
M. Manthey & Sons moved their groceries, produce and eggs business from Green’s building to John Buschke’s building at 616 West Water in 1888.
Princeton Republic, March 14, 1889 – “John Warnke, having purchased the stock of clothing at the room formerly occupied by Manthey & Sons, is arranging the stock and increasing inducements to patrons.”
Princeton Republic, Oct. 24, 1889 – “J.W. Kohnke has moved his shoe shop to the west room of Green’s elevator building.”
Warnke moved to August Swanke’s new block at 609 West Water in 1889, and the Mantheys, with businesses in three Water Street locations, returned to the Green block in 1890.
Princeton Republic, Feb. 10, 1898 – “Last Friday evening about 9 o’clock, A.A. Manthey opened the door of the rooms occupied by him in the old Green building and found them filled with smoke. He then opened the door leading into the back room and found that room a mass of flames. He rushed to the street and gave the alarm, and the fire company was on the ground in short time. The boys got a good stream playing on the flames both from the front and the rear, and soon had the flames under control. The building is damaged considerably. Mr. Manthey’s loss is about $150 in stock. Had it not been for the still night it is probable that several buildings would have been burned. The origin of the fire is a mystery.”
Manthey moved one door east, and Green not only repaired the building but also built a 12-by-22-foot addition to the rear.
Princeton Republic, May 26, 1898 – “That storeroom in Green’s building so badly burned a few months ago has been recently rebuilt and a fine suite of rooms arranged which will soon be occupied by H.W. Edw. Buck, where he will move his stock of gents’ furnishing goods and his tailoring establishment.”
Gardner Green paid David’s widow, Mary, $1,500 in April 1899 for David’s share of Lot 22 and all of Lot 23 (Deeds, Volume 55, Page 529) and continued to make improvements.
Princeton Republic, Sept. 21, 1899 – “Gard Green has done more in the way of improvements to the town during the past few months than any other man. He has metamorphosed the old elevator building and adjoining structure, until they present a good uniform front, which will be covered with tin imitation of brick work. The building farthest down the street, when completed, will contain a suite of living rooms above and a well-lighted office. The east part of the basement will be fitted up for laundry work, and Mr. Green assures us that he will keep a woman employed there doing all kinds of ordinary washing, so that people will know just where to get such work done. The room between the Savings’ Bank (I believe this is the American Express office) and Ed. Buck’s will be occupied by Mrs. Weiss as her millinery store. The upper part of what was the old elevator has been partitioned off into living rooms, which are being mostly painted and papered for the occupancy of __, well, we came pretty near telling, but time in its ceaseless course will let our readers know. The 150 odd feet of buildings fronting that part of Water street and owned by Mr. Green will be a good addition to the town, when arranged as planned.”
Princeton Republic, Oct. 26, 1899 – “Gard Green has put an entrance door in the storeroom next to tailor Buck’s place of business that is a study for the old masters; the inside of the room will be trimmed with green and gold and tinted with picture moulding. There is nothing too good for Gard.”
Princeton Republic, Dec. 22, 1899 – “R. Espig has new candy store one door east of the American Express office.”
The Princeton Fire Department was called to Green’s building again in May 1900.
Princeton Republic, May 24, 1900 – “Saturday evening about half past nine o’clock fire was discovered in the building on lower Water Street owned by Gardner Green and occupied by the American Express company, Mrs. O.J. Weiss, the milliner, and Edw. Buck, the tailor. When discovered the flames had made considerable headway, and the entire building seemed destined to go to the ground. In a few moments after the alarm had been turned in, the fire department was hard at work lending its efforts to prevent the flames from spreading, and the fact that the fire was confined to that particular building shows how effective was the work. It was not long before the flames were under control, but it was well into the night before the boys found it safe to leave the place. The back part of the building suffered the most, although the interior was badly burned in some places. Mr. and Mrs. Weiss were in Kingston at the time, and did not hear of the fire until Sunday, it being impossible to reach them by telephone earlier. Part of the millinery stock was saved, but the bulk of it was saved so far as known. The stock of Mr. Buck, who was also away at the time, was considerably damaged by water. Just how the fire originated is not known, but it is strongly hinted that it was the work of an incendiary. This theory is borne out by the fact that a roll of cotton batting was found under the building thoroughly saturated with kerosene, which would indicate that the destruction of the place was premeditated. Fortunately, it had rained in the afternoon and there was no wind at the time the fire broke out, and this with the good work of the firemen saved it to a considerable extent. Mr. Weiss estimates his loss at about $1,200. He had been carrying $1,000 insurance on his stock until three or four months ago, when he reduced the amount to $500, which amount he was carrying at the time of the fire. He had moved a stock of goods from a store he had been running in Montello into the building the fore part of the week, which made his loss greater than it would otherwise have been. The loss of Edward Buck on tailoring stock and household goods will amount to about $100, covered by insurance. Mr. Green, who was in Oshkosh at the time of the fire, estimates the damage to the building at about $300, on which he had no insurance. Mr. Green is repairing the damaged building and will have it ready for occupancy by Saturday, when the former tenant will resume business at their old quarters.”
Weiss declared bankruptcy. Buck left for Fond du Lac in July 1900, and the express office moved to the depot in September.
Charles Kinkel moved his tailor shop from the 500 block to the space vacated by Buck at 617 West Water.
Princeton Republic, Dec. 13, 1900 – “Dreblow and Pischke have moved their stock of goods into the store formerly occupied by O.J. Weiss and will have an opening sale Friday, Dec. 14.”
Theodore E. Dreblow and Gust Pischke split in 1903, with Dreblow opening in the 400 block selling wallpaper and paint and Pischke remaining in the office at 617.
Mrs. Carl Worm opened a millinery in the former Kohnke room in September 1905.
Green sold the west 43 feet of Lot 23 along with other property to Ferdinand A. Wilde, another of Princeton’s early settlers, in February 1909 (Deeds, Volume 62, Page 276).
Wilde passed the property to his daughter, Niva, who had married attorney and Congressman J.H. Davidson, in December 1918 (Deeds, Volume 68, Page 369).
Niva Davidson sold all of Lots 21 and 22 and west 43 feet of Lot 23 to Erich Mueller for $2,750 in February 1920. (Deeds, Volume 80, Page 455).
Princeton Republic, Feb. 19, 1920 – “In a deal consummated on last Tuesday between the Gard Green estate and Erich Mueller, the later took over the former’s entire property fronting Water Street with a frontage of 157 feet. The buildings were occupied by Messrs. Schroeder and family, Priske, Kinkel and Dreblow. Mr. Mueller, we understand, purchased same with the view of again reselling reasonable.”
Princeton Republic, March 24, 1921 – “Wallace Rutkowski will open shoe repair shop in the store building two doors west of Mackowski’s general store (611).”
Princeton Republic, July 14, 1921 – “Erich Kleist, of Oshkosh, plans to open cobble shop here in the Erich Mueller block.”
Princeton Republic, July 21, 1921 – “The Princeton Shoe Hospital, formerly the Dreblow Paint Shop, is now open is now open to do all your shoe repairing with a full line of up-to-date machinery. I have had eight years’ experience. – Erich Kleist”
Kleist moved to the new clothing store next to the Ford garage in the 400 block in November 1922.
Princeton Republic, Sept. 27, 1923 – “Adolph Radtke will open cobbling business in stand vacated by Erich Kleist.”
At some point that I missed, Dreblow returned to the Green building.
Mueller posted a notice in the Republic on Feb. 23, 1928, that he had “decided to dispose of my real estate on Water Street, known as the Gard Green block,” including the three rooms occupied by Dreblow and Kryzenske (615-617) and the buildings at 623 and 627 West Water.
Mueller sold the 615-617 complex to tailor Charles J. Kinkel and cobbler Adolph T. Radtke in August 1928 (Deeds, Volume 89, Page 214).
Princeton Republic, August 9, 1928 – “In a deal transacted last week between Erich Mueller, Charles Kinkel and Adolph Radtke, the two latter take over the ownership of the former’s property located on Water street and occupied by the Theo. Dreblow paint and wallpaper store. The new owners will occupy the Kryzenske place for their tailor shop and cobbler shop, respectively. Mr. Dreblow will remain in his present place.”
Princeton Republic, Nov. 27, 1930 – “L. J. Whittemore & Son have made arrangements for the opening of a repair shop in the building of Kinkel and Radtke and will comprise everything in repairing jewelry, watches and clocks.” The business remained there through at least 1937.
Dreblow remained in his space until 1936, when the Dreblow Decorating Company moved to its new home in the old building at 612 West Water.
Princeton Times-Republic, Nov. 21, 1940 – “The Princeton Cleaners is the newest addition to Princeton’s list of commercial activities. Lee Schafer, of Portage, is moving his dry-cleaning plant here from Portage and will locate in the Kinkel building. … Charles Kinkel, known as one of the best tailors in this area, will give his attention to the repairing department.”
Princeton Times-Republic, Nov. 28, 1940 – “Ralph Swenson is busy installing his dry-cleaning plant at the Kinkel building and announces he will be ready to take in work Friday morning.”
The Princeton Cleaners moved to the Borzick building in 1941. The Mosolf Electric Shop moved into the Kinkel-Radtke building.
Kinkel, 64, died in a car crash near Ripon in 1941. His obituary in the Princeton Times-Republic noted he had been engaged in the tailoring business in Princeton for about 40 years and was known as a skilled workman.
His estate sold Kinkel’s half of the property to Radtke (Deeds, Volume 104, Page 560). Radtke sold to Edward Renn in September 1941 (Deeds, Volume 103, Page 575) but bought it back in October 1945 (Deeds, Volume 113, Page 253).
Princeton Republic, Dec. 9, 1943 – Miss Shirley Gruber announces the opening of her new dance studio in the Kinkel and Radtke building Saturday, Dec. 11th. Miss Gruber teaches tap and acrobatic dancing.
After Radtke, who had been a cobbler since 1923, died from a heart attack in January 1950, Joe Klapoetke took over the shoe repair shop in March. The Republic said he “installed quite a bit of new and modern equipment for repairing shoes and plans to handle a line of family shoes and rubber goods as well.”
The property passed to Radtke’s widow, Lena, who sold it to Fred Radtke for $4,500 in November 1951 (Deeds, Volume 129, Page 49). Fred sold to Gerhardt Radtke for $2,000 in January 1953 (Deeds, Volume 132, Page 79).
Princeton Times-Republic, June 28, 1951 – “Frank Novak, of Ripon, is opening a shoe repair shop on Water Street where Adolph Radtke had his shoe repair shop for many years.”
Herb Wedell’s electric shop was in the east half of 617 in 1951.
615 West Water
Adolph Radtke sold the east nine feet of the west 43 feet of Lot 23 to Melvin Parsons in August 1946 (Deeds, Volume 111, Page 551).
Princeton Times-Republic, Oct. 10, 1946 – “Melvin Parsons has bought the lot west of the Roberts barber shop and plans to erect a new building to house his business as soon as materials are available.”
It took five years before Parsons was ready to build.
Princeton Times-Republic, May 31, 1951 – “Mel Parsons has started the construction of his new beauty shop building this last week. The new one-story building with partial basement is to be built of concrete block and is being put up between Roberts’ barber shop and Herb Wedell’s Electric Shop.”
Princeton Times-Republic, Aug. 30, 1951 – “Monday evening the Hairdresser Association official opened Melvin Parsons’ new beauty shop. They presented him with a bouquet of flowers, a gift of money and attached the national emblem of the association on the door.”
Esther Parsons sold the building at 615 West Water to R.M. Gonyo in October 1960 (Deeds, Volume 201, Page 389). He sold to Delbert Staffeldt in November 1968 (Deeds, Volume 219, Page 489).
The building today houses Sewing Center.
613 West Water
The history of early Princeton published by the Princeton Republic in 1869 gives us our first report on the building at 613 West Water Street: “In 1865, the McCormick brothers erected a shoe shop near Green’s elevator, and it has since been used as such.”
The remodeled building, today home to Skin Love spa, is the oldest frame building in downtown Princeton.
John McCormick purchased the 20-foot lot on the east side of Lot 23 from Ezra Rosebrook in March 1853 (Deeds, Volume U, Page 393). The property passed to Bartholomew and Emma McCormick, then Peter, Frank and James, Agnes and Josephine McCormick, all the way to 1924.
Princeton Republic, Jan. 11, 1878 – “Peter McCormick wishes to announce to his friends and the public in general that he will open a Boot & Shoe Shop in the old McCormick building … the first of next week, where he will be prepared to make first-class work, guaranteeing good fits and perfect satisfaction.”
Princeton Republic, May 13, 1880 – “Gard Green is moving the old elevator and warehouse from the river front to the street (617 West Water Street), next to McCormick’s shoe shop, where it is to be finished up for a store or business room of some kind.”
Peter McCormick was still advertising custom boots and shoes “at the old McCormick stand” in 1880 but later moved to Eau Claire. He returned in January 1888 for the funeral of his brother Thomas, who died apparently of a heart attack while working in a logging camp in Chippewa County. His wife and four children still resided in Princeton.
The McCormick brothers were both Civil War veterans. Thomas “was a shoemaker by trade,” the Republic reported, “and a year or so ago went to Eau Claire and worked with his brother, Peter, for some months, but … had been at the camp for several months.” He was buried in the Catholic cemetery in Princeton, as were brothers Peter (1926) and John (1889).
Johnny Carr moved his barber shop to the McCormick building in 1885.
According to the Sanborn fire insurance maps, the building at 613 West Water housed a confectionary in 1892 and 1898 (I. McKenney) and cobbler in 1904 (Carl Worm) and 1914 (John Tessner).
Princeton Republic, June 20, 1895 – “A son of Wm. Schroeder, about 11 years of age, was caught in the act of pilfering candy from the store of I. McKenney, while that gentleman was absent yesterday afternoon. The boy had climbed up a plank into the back window but was seen by someone passing by. Unless bail is furnished, he will be held until the next term of court.”
Princeton Republic, Sept. 22, 1904 – “C.A. Worm will open a cobbler’s shop in the McKenney building the last of next week.”
Princeton Republic, April 23, 1914 – Ad: “Take notice: For your very best shoe repairing, see John Tessner, the New Shoe Maker.”
The McCormick building finally left family ownership in 1924.
Princeton Republic, June 5, 1924 – “Recently in a deal consummated between John Roberts and the McCormick estate the former took over the property of the latter on lower Water Street recently vacated by V. Kryzenske shoe shop. The building will undergo improvements in the interior as well as exterior.”
Princeton Republic, June 26, 1924 – “John Roberts, who has recently acquired the ownership of the building adjoining the Mackowski store on the west and has remodeled the interior as well as the exterior, wishes to inform his friends and patrons that he has taken possession last Monday.”
(I have misplaced or missed the McCormick-to-Roberts deed but will resume the search at a later date.)
Roberts continued cutting hair and shaving gents into the 1950s.
Roberts sold the shop at 613 West Water to his son, J. Kenneth Roberts, for $2,000 in June 1952 (Deeds, Volume 130, Page 77). Kenneth Roberts, who also became an insurance agent, sold to Edward “Tiff” Kolleck in May 1953 (Deeds, Volume 132, Page 467).
Tiff sold to another barber, David J. Resop, in March 1968 (Deeds, Volume 213, Page 546).
I will update the more recent occupants and owners as my research progresses.
Thank you for reading and caring about local history.