lOTS O’ HISTORY – WATER LOT 22 (623-627 WEST WATER STREET)

Followers of this blog know that although Royal Treat is considered the founder of Princeton, his brother Henry was its first landowner.

The federal land patent that became the original plat of Princeton was granted to Henry Treat, not Royal, in June 1849. Royal, however, obtained pre-emptive rights to former American Indian land west of the Fox River that could not be settled until the treaty displacing the Menomonee took full effect and the land surveyed.

Shortly after paying $1.25 per acre for the land that would become the heart of Princeton, Henry sold Water Lots 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 16, 21 and 22, along with three other residential lots, to his older brother Royal for $120 (Deeds, Volume C, Page 444).

Henry left town for Kansas in a year or two, but Royal stuck around until 1873 and shepherded the community’s growth in its early years.

Royal Treat sold Water Lots 21 and 22 to Salem Wright for $60 (Deeds, Volume C, Page 311) in June 1850. The land remained undeveloped, however, and eventually went from Anson Randall to a sheriff’s auction for delinquent taxes.

Ira Sherman paid 1 cent for Lot 22 (Deeds, Volume O, Page 26) at the auction and sold it to David Green and A.P. Carman for $32 in January 1866 (Deeds, Volume 25, Page 513). Others who temporarily owned a share of the property over the next 10 years included mill founders Alvin and Waldo Flint, attorney Philemon Wicks, miller John Weiss and wagon manufacturer August Swanke.

Carman gave up his half for $200 in November 1878 (Deeds, Volume 39, Page 580), and David Green sold an undivided half Lots 22 and 23 along with other property to his brother Gardner Green for $3,050 in May 1879 (Deeds, Volume 40, Page 446), which is where we will begin the history of the buildings on Water Lot 22. 

Gardner Green, who built the hardware store at 630 West Water in 1876 and a house at 631 West Water in 1877, continued developing the “crooked end” of Water Street in 1880 when he moved the grain elevator, which was one of the buildings moved to Princeton from St. Marie in the 1860s, from the Fox River to the street (Water Lot 23, 615-617 West Water) and converted it into three business rooms.

In 1883, Green developed Water Lot 22 with frame buildings at 623 and 627 West Water. He became sole owner of Lot 22 in April 1899, paying David’s widow $1,500. (Deeds, Volume 55, Page 529).

Gardner Green sold the property to F.A. Wilde in February 1909 (Deeds, Volume 62, Page 276). Wilde passed the property to his daughter, Nina, wife of Congressman James Davidson, in December 1918 (Deeds, Volume 68, Page 369).

Davidson sold all of Lot 21, all of Lot 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.”

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.”

Mueller sold the west 43 feet of Lot 23 and east 5.5 feet of Lot 22 to Charles J. Kinkel and Adolph T. Radtke in August 1928 (Deeds, Volume 89, Page 214) and the remainder of Lot 22 to Walter Borzick for $2,400 in June 1937 (Deeds, Volume 95, Page 503).

After multiple remodels, both buildings on Lot 22 today are private residences.

Lot 22 – East (623 East Water)

After converting the former elevator into shops in 1880, Green built a platform west of the building 617 West Water in 1881 to display farm machinery as an extension of the Green-Carman lumber yard and farmer’s bazaar, which stretched from Water Street to Main Street and included the hardware store (630 West Water) Green built in 1876.

He replaced the platform with a building in 1883 about the same time he and Carman sold the lumberyard, hardware store and property on north side of Water to J.P. and W.F. Viel.

Princeton Republic, April 12, 1883 – “Gard. Green is about to erect another building on Water Street, on the vacant lot west of the old elevator block. Rumor saith that possibly Warnke Bros. may occupy the said building.”

Princeton Republic, May 10, 1883 – “Gard Green has commenced the erection of that building for a storeroom. It will be 30×70 feet in size. O.N. Harmon has charge of the carpenter work.”

Princeton Republic, July 12, 1883 – “Warnke Brothers and Krueger are moving from the Schendel block into the splendid, spacious and new room just finished for them by Gard Green.”

Green suffered the first of three fires in his new buildings in 1885.

Princeton Republic, Jan. 29, 1885 – “Our village was thrown into unusual excitement last Friday morning by the announcement that some party had undertaken to set fire to the building belonging to G. & D.M. Green and occupied by the firm of Warnke Bros. & Krueger, dry goods merchants. A little past ten o’clock Thursday evening (Jan. 22), Mrs. Schiefelbein was out back of their saloon, some four or five doors east of where the fire was set. She saw someone light a match, as she thought, but supposed it was someone who had a lantern and thought no more of it. A few minutes later Mr. Schiefelbein went out and seeing an unusual blaze in that place stepped back into the saloon and told his son Will and Albert Worm, who were present, to hasten out and see what the fire meant. They found a barrel lying on its side on the ends of other barrels setting there, filled with a furious blaze. The barrels were under the east side of the floor occupied by Warnke Bros. The basement or cellar of the building reaches from the front back about two-thirds the length of the store floor, the room extending back to the river. Under the floor in the rear of the cellar several old barrels were deposited and on these lay the barrel in which the fire was kindled. The blaze charred the timers and floor above but was extinguished before the flame caught. The wind was blowing with unusual velocity from the southwest. Had the fire got beyond control not a business building in the village could have been saved. Who started the blaze is a matter to be unsolved.”

The Republic did not report any arrests following the fire.

Warnke Bros. & Krueger moved out of the Green building in fall 1886 and were replaced in May 1887 by W.A. Alexander selling farm equipment made by the Plano Manufacturing Company, which 15 years later merged with four other firms to form International Harvester.

The 1892 Sanborn fire insurance map shows a store selling flour at 623 and another with agricultural implements at 627 West Water Street.

John C. Thompson, former editor and publisher of the Princeton Republic, rented the room in 1891 to sell flour and groceries. He moved to Oshkosh in 1894.

I believe, but am less than certain, that Martin Manthey opened a meat market there in 1895.

Princeton Republic, Jan. 17, 1895 – “M. Manthey has opened a first-class meat market at his stand on lower Water Street.”

Princeton Republic, June 20, 1895 – “Chas. C. Sembach and son, Fred C. Sembach, formerly of Marquette, have purchased the meat market of M. Manthey and took possession Tuesday. The younger Sembach has been in the employ of Mr. Manthey for some time past.”

The Sembachs, however, closed about a month later. Rumors said they left for Chicago. Manthey reopened the market.

We know W.J. Mesick sold farm implements at 623 (and 627) in 1898.

In 1901 Charles D. Price, a jeweler who opened a store next door at 627 West Water that year, lived in the east half of the building, and B.J. “Barney” Priske sold wallpaper and paint from the west half.

The 1898 Sanborn fire insurance map shows agricultural implements at 623 and 627 West Water Street.

August Rochwite, of Wautoma, opened a bowling alley in the building when the Price family relocated in 1902.

Princeton Republic, Feb. 6, 1902– “C.D. Price has moved his stock of jewelry to Amherst. Mrs. Price will leave for Amherst the last of this week or fore part of next week.”

Princeton Republic, Feb. 20, 1902 – “August Rochwite has moved his family here from Wautoma and is occupying the house recently vacated by C.D. Price. He is now busy at work on the bowling alley which he expects to open about March 1st.”

Rochwite was greeted warmly when he opened on March 12.

Princeton Republic, March 20, 1902 – “Mr. August Rochwite of Wautoma has opened a bowling alley in the Green block. The alley has been very popular since its commencement. The boys seem to think it is just the right kind of sport, and all take a great interest in it. We hope that some good competing teams will be organized in the near future and that we may successfully cope with some of our neighboring towns. Mr. Rochwite is well known in Princeton and needs no introduction. He will do all in his power to please the public and make his enterprise a success.”

Princeton Republic, May 15, 1902 – “August Rochwite, who started a bowling alley here three months ago, has sold his old alley and bought a new double Brunswick. He states that it will be ready in three weeks.”

Rochwite’s “Princeton Club Bowling Alley” reopened in July.

Princeton Republic, Dec. 18, 1902 – “Aug. Rochwite has the distinction of making the highest score ever in Princeton. 267, on Rochwite’s alley.”

Princeton Republic, Feb. 26, 1903 – “Miss Mary Tassler made a score of 195 on Rochwite’s alleys last night. This is the best score made on the alleys in this city by a lady.”

Rochwite closed his lanes after a competitor opened in the 400 block. A meat market replaced the bowling alley in 1904.

The 1904 Sanborn fire insurance map shows a meat market and wallpaper store at 623 and dwelling at 627 West Water Street.

Princeton Republic, May 26, 1904 – “J.B. Oelke has opened a new meat market in the Green block.”

Oelke was succeeded by A.A. Krueger, who cut off a couple of fingers in a meat grinder in 1909.

When the Sanborn fire insurance map was compiled in 1914, B.J. Priske occupied the west room of 623 but the east room was vacant. I believe, but am less than certain, Richard Luedtke was the next occupant.

The 1914 Sanborn fire insurance map shows a vacancy and wallpaper store at 623 and store/dwelling at 627 West Water Street.

Princeton Republic, April 13, 1916 – “Richard Luedtke went to Fond du Lac and Milwaukee last Monday to purchase the necessary apparatus for his meat market which he will open in the Green block in the near future.”

Princeton Republic, April 27, 1916 – “R.A. Luedtke opened his new meat market for business in the Green block last week. He has the interior fitted with new furniture and supplies and in whole presents a clean and sanitary market.”

When Gustave A. Krueger retired from the meat business in 1917, he leased the market he built at 524 West Water in 1886 to Luedtke, who moved out of the Green building in August 1917.

Gardner Green’s estate sold his former empire – Water Street frontage totaling 157 feet, including the former meat market and Priske store at 623 – to Erich Mueller in February 1920.

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.” The property included three shops in the old elevator building at 617 West Water, the Priske wallpaper and paint store and “ice cream station” at 623 West Water, and the building at 627 occupied by the William Schroeder family.

Princeton Republic, Sept. 13, 1928 – “Erich Mueller is making extensive improvements on his building on lower Water Street. Karl Manthey, gents furnishing store, will occupy one of the buildings in the near future.”

Princeton Republic, April 11, 1929 – “Manthey & Manthey, gents’ furnishing stock, recently changed hands when it was sold to Mr. Stein, of Montello, who will take the stock to Montello. Karl Manthey, the junior member of the firm conducted the business for the past number of years.”

Mueller sold all but the east 5.5 feet of Lot 22 to Walter Borzick for $2,400 in June 1937 (Deeds, Volume 95, Page 503).

Borzick, previously of Harrisville, had been among the first Princeton tavern owners to get beer licenses following the end of prohibition in 1933.

Princeton Republic, June 10, 1937 – “A real estate deal was closed on Tuesday whereby Walter Borzick became the owner of the building occupied by his tavern and the B.J. Priske wallpaper and paint store. He bought the property from Erich Mueller.”

Princeton Times-Republic, Sept. 16, 1937 – “Wally’s Tavern is another of our popular thirst parlors with a full line of choice beers, wines and liquors and the courteous service that always ensures success. Walter Borzick, the proprietor, is a young man with a pleasing personality and has succeeded on the merits of his line and service.”

While tenants continued to come and go in the east room prior to Borzick, Priske apparently remained an anchor in the west room.

Princeton Times-Republic, Sept. 16, 1937 – “For years (B.J. Priske Wallpaper & Paints) has been recognized as a headquarters for lines in paints and wallpaper, and B.J. Priske is known as a capable painter and decorator. Every item that goes to make up the large and varied stocks of paints and wallpaper has been selected with a view to its utility, and that is probably the reason this store has earned the reputation for handling quality lines.”

Mosolf Radio & Electric replaced Priske in the Borzick building in May 1940. The Princeton Cleaners followed a year later.

Princeton Times-Republic, June 5, 1941 – “The Princeton Cleaners have moved into the Borzick building occupied by the Mosolf electric shop, and the latter has moved into the quarters vacated by the Cleaners.”

These photos, circa 1930s, are provided by Rosalie (Borzick) Money, whose father, Wally, operated Wally’s Tavern at 623 West Water Street for nearly 20 years. The photo at bottom left advertises the tavern’s Ladies’ Rest Room.

Borzick put his tavern and building up for sale as early as 1943 but remained in business for the remainder of this first-100-years survey.

Princeton Times-Republic, June 1, 1950 – “Wally Borzick has leased his tavern to Matt Klawitter, former operator of the Pye Alley, which burned to the ground last December. Matt expects to open up July 1st. … Wally Borzick’s comment on what he was going to do now was to go fishing.”

Rosalie (Borzick) Money, Wally’s daughter and a K-8 classmate of mine, now residing in Texas, recently told me the family moved into the adjoining living quarters remodeled by Wally’s father, Frank, about 1954 and continued to rent out the tavern.

On May 2, 1972, the Princeton City Council granted Robert Cupery and his daughter, Mary Daab, operator and bartender licenses. They took over the Last Chance tavern formerly operated by Mrs. La Shay. Cupery, I believe, did business as The Tavern. The city council denied Cupery’s request to transfer his license to the former City Center Tavern in 1974.

The property was sold to Erv Rivers, who operated first as Erv & Donna’s and then as Erv’s River Inn.

The Borzick building, circa 1970s.

Princeton Times-Republic, Aug. 7, 1975 – “Since early July Mr. and Mrs. Erwin G. (Dorina) Rivers, Princeton, are the new operators of the tavern on the premises at 623 Water Street. The former operator, Robert Cupery, surrendered his license.”

Lot 22 – West (627 West Water)

With seemingly few problems finding tenants for the building at 623 West Water in 1883, Green built another building a few months after completing the first.

Princeton Republic, Nov. 15, 1883 – “Gard Green has commenced the erection of a building on the vacant lot between his residence (631) and Warnke Bros. & Krueger’s store. It will be used for the sale of agricultural implements and sewing machines, and we understand will be occupied by Wm. Born and E.E. Cox.”

Princeton Republic, Nov. 29, 1883 – “The frame of Gard Green’s building is about up.”

Born & Cox were followed by farm implement dealer W.J. Mesick, who moved into 627 West Water in 1893.

Princeton Republic, Dec. 1, 1893 – “W.J. Mesick has purchased the building (445 West Water) he has occupied for years, but on account of a lease made previous to the purchase has moved into Green’s block and rented the place he occupied. That stream of patronage that was always flowing to his corner can now head for Green’s block.”

Princeton Republic, July 19, 1894 – “W.J. Mesick is disposing of large quantities of farm machinery now-a-days in spite of the hard times.”

Mesick returned to his building at the southeast corner of Water and Washington streets, across from the American House, in January 1899.

Princeton Republic, May 11, 1899 – “Gard Green is fixing up the building formerly occupied by W.J. Mesick as a farming implement store for Sammy Michel, who will open a dry goods store about the 20th of this month.”

Michel previously was in the August Swanke building at 609 West Water. The following report is unrelated to the history of Lot 22 but includes another potential “first” in Princeton:

Princeton Republic, July 16, 1891 – “Probably the first instance of administering the rite of circumcision, in accordance with the Jewish belief, occurred in Princeton last Friday at the home of S. Michel. The religious operation was performed upon twins, children of Mr. and Mrs. P. Sondel, of Lake Geneva, the twins being grandchildren of Mr. Michel. Rabbi Dr. Rotter, of Milwaukee, performed the rite.”

In January 1900, Dreblow & Pischke (Theodore and Gustav, respectively) moved their stock of dry goods into the room Sam Michel had occupied in the Green building. They moved two doors east after a few months and were followed at 627 West Water in February 1901 by Charles D. Price with a jewelry and bicycle shop. He did not last a year.

Princeton Republic, Jan. 30, 1902 – “C.D. Price has moved his stock of jewelry to Amherst.”

Half, and sometimes all, of the building was used primarily as a residence for many of the next 40 years. The entire building was listed as a dwelling when the 1904 Sanborn fire insurance map was published.

William Schroeder’s family lived there for a time. Schroeder operated a hardware store there, too, after being displaced at 630 West Water when Eric Mueller purchased that property in 1913. (Schroeder operated the Busy Dollar excursion boat with his brother until 1917 and built boats).

Princeton Republic, March 20, 1919 – “On Saturday afternoon at one o’clock, March 22, there will be a sheriff’s sale of personal property taken on execution from the hardware store of William Schroeder. … There will be two cream separators, one heater, and many useful articles for the farmer.”

Gardner Green’s estate sold his former empire – Water Street frontage totaling 157 feet, including the Schroeder residence at 627 – to Erich Mueller in February 1920.

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.” The property included three shops in the old elevator building at 617 West Water, the Priske wallpaper and paint store and “ice cream station” at 623 West Water, and the building at 627 occupied by the Schroeders.

Princeton Republic, August 9, 1928 – “Erich Mueller, who recently rented the rooms recently vacated by the Wm. Schroeder family to Vincent Krysensky for his cobbler business, is about to make improvements to the front and interior of the building. Mr. Krysensky will take possession in the near future.”

Families occupied the east side over the next several years, and Krysensky’s shoe shop lasted another 17 years.

Meanwhile, Wilhelm Kohnke purchased Fred Siepert’s harness business at 505 West Water in July 1945 and renamed it the Kohnke Harness Shop. He moved to 627 West Water in November 1945.

Princeton Times-Republic, Nov. 22, 1945 – “George Ladwig will open a paint and wallpaper store in the Reetz building now occupied by the Kohnke Harness Shop. Mr. Kohnke will move his harness shop to the building he recently purchased of the Mueller estate and now occupied by the Kryzenske shoe shop and the Wm. Jahns family.”

Kohnke operated the harness shop there for 10 more years.

Princeton Republic, March 6, 1947 – “Wm. Kohnke says that the person who took the two bull rings from his harness shop had better come and get the other wrench as the one he took does not fit both rings.”

This completes our survey of the first 100 years of Lot 22 and is as far as my full research extends, but we are going to peek forward a little bit simply because I already have recorded some additional information.

After closing the harness shop, Wilhelm and Emma Kohnke sold the building at 627 West Water to Raymond and Ruth Gruenwald for $2,000 in March 1955 (Deeds, Volume 137, Page 65).

Princeton Republic, March 24, 1955 – “Ray Gruenwald, of Rt. 1, Princeton, has recently purchased the building housing the Bill Kohnke harness shop on the west end of Water Street. Gruenwald will continue his electrical contracting and farm appliance work from that location.”

Ray Gruenwald had operated his business from the family home on state Highway 73, just north of the Dayton Cemetery about 5 miles southeast of Princeton, until opening the shop on Water Street in May 1955.

Gruenwald remodeled the old building and in 1960 built a concrete block addition.

“When we first got the place there was a long bridge coming off the top level from the house to an outhouse about where the (riverside) road is now,” Jan Gruenwald Manweiler, Ray’s daughter, told me in 2020. “Dad put on the cement block addition when mom was pregnant with Jac. We all worked together to have it livable when Mom came home from the hospital.”

I will continue to update the Lots O’ posts as my research advances. If you have corrections or can fill in the blanks, please let me know.

Thank you for reading and caring about local history.

Here’s how the buildings at 623 and 627 West Water Street look today.

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