LOTS O’ HISTORY – WATER LOT 21 (629-631 wEST wATER sTREET)

This photo from the Princeton Historical Society files shows the house built by Gardner Green in 1877 at the “crooked end” of Water Street. The west wing, right, was first used as an office and later converted into a harness shop. The shop still stands today, but the residence was torn down sometime between 1914 and 1927.

The Princeton Pioneer Club held its first meeting in February 1874 in the Hubbard House at the southeast corner of Water and Washington streets. More than a hundred people attended the inaugural gathering of early settlers of the towns of Princeton and St. Marie.

The group would continue to hold annual gatherings, first in Princeton in winter and later more often around Green Lake in summer as it expanded to include pioneers of Marquette and Green Lake counties, into at least the 1920s. Each of the early reunions included speeches by some of the more loquacious pioneers.

Gardner Green, who was just about to begin commercial development of Water Lot 21 – today home to a vacant building at 629 West Water Street and Wisconsin Special Properties at 631 West Water, was one of the speakers when the Princeton Republic attended the sixth annual reunion in January 1880.

The newspaper noted that much had changed since Green first visited Treat’s Landing, “and the parts of Wisconsin traversed as a wilderness then is now covered with beautiful homes of happy families, and only occasionally is seen a poor dirty Aborigine or native American.”

Princeton Republic, Jan. 29, 1880 – “The Reunion of the Old Folks came off at Thiel’s Hall, Princeton, on Thursday evening of last week, as advertised, and was fairly well attended notwithstanding the great snowstorm of that day. … It is safe to say that G. Green made the speech of the evening. His settlement dated in 1848. He came via Mackinaw and Milwaukee. He saw at Mackinaw wonderful trout, a great many times longer and larger than he had been accustomed to catch in the brooks of Vermont. He had eaten heartily of trout at Mackinaw and when we got to Milwaukee, the lake being very rough, and the boat going up and down on the troubled waters about fifty feet, as he thought, lying on his back in his berth, he felt sure those trout were trying to get back into Lake Michigan. After sticking his stakes at Marquette, that village being at the time the county seat of Marquette County, and embracing all of what is now Green Lake and Marquette counties, the citizens there sent him down to Princeton to spy out the land and see if the story was true that a burg was springing up there to compete for the county seat. Arrived in Princeton, he found a regular Nasby X Roads, with Philo Knapp for Nasby, R.C. Treat for Deacon Pogram and a certain Dr. as Bascom. But there is no use trying to give Green’s speech in the Republic; one would have to hear Gard to appreciate it, and judging from the way people roared and stamped, the speech was in season. After the social exercises were over a dance was had and enjoyed until the night was nearly spent.”

(I believe Nasby refers to the “Nasby Letters” written by David Ross Locke. You can find a more thorough explanation on Google.)

The “Portrait and Biographical Album of Green Lake, Marquette and Waushara Counties,” published in 1890 by Acme Publishing Company of Chicago, provides more details about the Green family.

Gardner and David Green were born in New Hampshire in 1823 and 1825, respectively, to David and Mary (Tuttle) Green.

“On both sides the ancestry can be traced back to the early colonial days,” according to the Portrait and Biographical Album, and Gardner was named for one of the family’s “merchant princes of Boston.”

The Greens’ great-grandfather fought in the Revolutionary War, and “at the close of the war he was paid in Continental money, and as it was worthless, he papered the walls of his bedroom with that currency,” according to the profile.

Gardner and David Green were educated in the common schools of New Hampshire. They stayed at home until Gardner was 24.

“In 1848 he determined to seek his fortune in the West, believing that it furnished better opportunities for young men than the older and more densely populated states of the East,” according to the Portrait and Biographical Album.

The brothers traveled by lake steamer from Buffalo to Milwaukee and then Marquette County (which at the time included the territory that would become Green Lake County). The Greens built a 40-by-60-foot warehouse on Lake Puckaway at Marquette with Gardner intent on handling all the wheat raised in the county. “His idea was to ship by water down Fox River to Green Bay and thence to Buffalo,” the biography notes. “For this purpose, he built a steamboat, but failing to get a water way, he disposed of the boat. He and his brother, who was his partner in the business, then built smaller boats and dealt in produce and lumber, hauling their freight by barges to Oshkosh, whence they shipped by way of the Northwestern Railroad to Chicago and on to the East. They did a profitable business in this line for thirty years, during which time Mr. Green made trips up and down the river almost daily.”

Green, who lived in Princeton about 35 years, retired from most of his shipping and trading interests about 1880 when he focused on development of the 600 block of West Water Street. He kept the house at 631 West Water but by 1890 lived primarily in Ripon.

“He has laid aside all business cares to a great extent, devoting his time only to his real estate interests,” according to the Portrait and Biographical Album. “He owns thirteen houses and four store buildings.”

“Great changes have taken place since Mr. Green left his home in the East and cast his lot with the pioneer settlers of Marquette County,” the album noted. “The Indians were far more numerous in this region than the while people, but they gave very little trouble to their pale-faced neighbors. They subsisted mainly on fish, game and wild rice, and their wigwams were scattered along the banks of the Fox River. The now flourishing town of Princeton contained, at the time of the arrival of Mr. Green, but one building, but several others were in course of erection.”

Water Lot 21’s history at the county register of deeds office begins with Volume C, Page 444, when Henry Treat, who purchased all the land in Princeton’s original plat (all east of the river) from the U.S. government in June 1849, sold Water Lots 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 16, 21 and 22, Lot 4 in Block B, and Lots 9 and 10 in Block N to his older brother Royal for $120.

Royal Treat sold Water Lots 21 and 22 to Salem Wright for $60 in June 1850 (Deeds, Volume C, Page 311). Wright sold Lot 21 to George Gifford for $30 in October 1851 (Deeds, Volume E, Page 8).

Ira Sherman purchased Lot 21 from Marquette County for 88 cents when the property and several other parcels were sold due to delinquent taxes in April 1854. Sherman sold Lot 21 to S.D. Hinman for $1,000 in July 1872 (Deeds, Volume 33, Page 487).

Hinman, a one-time partner of Royal Treat who mostly did business in Neenah, purchased the building formerly occupied by Edw. Teske & Bro. (built by Richmond Tucker) at 518 West Water Street in 1872 and moved it to Lot 21, where it caught fire and burned in March 1873 before being put back into use.

By that point, the Greens were well-established dealers in grain and lumber.

“Navigation is thriving on the river,” the Republic reported in 1869. “The Weston is gaining in favor and has a growing trade. The Fox is busy as Gard. Green can make it – running 20 out of 25 hours. The Montello, under the skillful hands of Capt. Peterson, is running night and day. The Verona is also busy as a bee, while the Princeton makes her regular through trips from Oshkosh to Mississippi.”

The Greens adapted, too, as the Sheboygan & Fond du Lac Railroad approached Princeton and would soon start affecting the river trade.

Princeton Republic, June 15, 1872 – “Mr. Gardner Green expects to bring the first carload of lumber over the railroad to this place as soon as the iron is down.”

Green and A.P. Carman established a lumber yard that stretched from Water Street to Main Street in the 600 block of the “crooked end” of Water Street. On a Tuesday in spring 1877, Green reportedly sold 27 loads of lumber in a single day.

Green purchased Water Lot 21 from Hinman for $120 in April 1874 (Deeds, Volume 40, Page 445). The local newspaper scribe teased Green about the house he built at about 631 West Water Street in 1877.

Princeton Republic, Dec. 21, 1877 – “Many questions have been asked as to the intentions of Gard Green, the proprietor of the two-story frame building in progress of erection on Water Street near Luedtke’s wagon shop. The owner thereof assures us that it his intention to operate a Normal School there.”

(The school reference was a joke. Normal Schools were the annual teacher training institutes organized by the county superintendent of schools. The institutes were held in a different community each summer. They were popular because they brought a couple dozen or more would-be teachers, mostly young women, to town for the duration of the program.)

The building served as a residence and office.

I believe, but am less than certain, that the front of the building we see today at 631 West Water Street was part of the building Green erected in 1877. The space was listed as an office in the 1892 Sanborn fire insurance map with a doorway to the adjoining residence.

However, I also cannot explain this reference from an 1882 paper: “Gard Green is building an elevator or something of that sort on his residence.” I think it refers to the turret, if that’s the correct term, we see in photos of the residence, but that is pure, unfounded speculation on my part. It could just as easily refer to the west wing, I suppose. Perhaps someday we’ll find a sentence or two in the Local Matters column that provides further clarification.

We do know the west room was in use by 1885.

Princeton Republic, Dec. 10, 1885 – “J.B. Fowler has commenced work at the boot and shoe business in the west wing of Gard Green’s building, next to G. Luedtke’s wagon manufactory.”

Dr. William Warner, the new physician in town, rented the space in the “west wing of D.M. Green’s residence just east of G. Luedtke’s establishment” in August 1891, about the same time the Greens made some improvements.

Princeton Republic, Aug. 6, 1891 – “D.M. Green is taking down that ‘frontispiece’ attached to the front of the wing of his dwelling and will erect a neat porch over the door.”

We can see the changes made in the 1892 Sanborn map.

The 1892 Sanborn fire insurance map shows Dr. William Warner’s office in the Gardner Green building at 631 West Water Street.

Bigger changes were ahead for the Greens, who sold the Princeton flour mill in 1893.

Princeton Republic, March 23, 1893 – “One of the largest deals in real estate that has been made in Princeton for some time has just been consummated. The roller flouring mills has changed hands, D.M. Green & Co. having sold the property nominally to the Teske Brothers but we understand that eventually E. Teske and Ed Zierke are to be the sole owners. The consideration was between $10,000 and $11,000. … D.M. Green has been the owner of the property for many years. His age and health are both obstacles in the way of managing such property as he would wish, and hence he has disposed of it and let it go into younger hands. Gard Green has of late years had an interest in the concern, but his health would hardly permit of his taking a very active part in the running of the mill.”

By that point, Gardner was living in Ripon full-time, and David was in Oshkosh. They would return to Princeton from time to time to check on their properties. When Charles Torwedo married Pauline Jaster in 1894, they rented the Green residence “just east of Gottlieb Luedtke’s.”

David M. Green passed in May 1894. His brother hired carpenters to build an addition to the rear of the store/residence. We can again follow the changes by viewing the Sanborn map of 1898.

The 1898 Sanborn fire insurance map shows improvements made at 631 West Water Street between 1892 and 1898, including the addition to the rear of the west wing.

The space next began a long run as a harness shop.

Princeton Republic, Oct. 3, 1901 – “J.E. Hennig Jr. has rented the room in Gard Green’s building west of Price’s jewelry store and will move his harness shop into it the latter part of this week.”

The 1904 Sanborn fire insurance map shows a harness shop in the west wing of 631 West Water Street.

Princeton Republic, Sept. 28, 1905 – “J.E. Hennig Jr., harness maker, is first door south of Luedtke’s Wagon Shop.”

Princeton Republic, January 11, 1906 – “J.E. Hennig Jr. has sold his harness business to Emil Hennig.”

The Sanborn fire insurance map of 1914 still shows a harness shop in the west wing of the building at 631 West Water Street.

Gardner Green passed in 1918. He had sold Lot 21 to Niva Davidson for $100 in October 1905 (Deeds, Volume 68, Page 104). She sold Lots 21 and 22, and the west 43 feet of Lot 23, to Erich Mueller in February 1920 for $2,750 (Deeds, Volume 80, Page 455).

This photo, circa 1920s, shows the Green residence and harness shop at the “crooked end” of Water Street. The residence was torn down prior to 1927.

Princeton Republic, Feb. 5, 1925 – “Fred Siepert, of Neshkoro, has recently sold his dwelling in Neshkoro and we are informed he will come to this city in the near future and open up a harness shop in the building directly east of Erich Mueller. Fred has been in the harness business for the past number of years.”

I have not yet found when the Green residence was razed, but it is no longer there when the 1927 Sanborn fire insurance map is published.

Siepert moved to Edward Reetz’s former shop at 505 West Water Street in September 1934, and the Boy Scouts marched into 631 West Water with big plans.

Princeton Republic, Sept. 19, 1935 – “The Erich Mueller building located east of his implement establishment is undergoing considerable improvements in the interior. When completed it will be occupied by the Boy Scouts.”

Princeton Republic, Oct. 17, 1935 – “The Boy Scouts, this city, are still engaged in remodeling and decorating the Erich Mueller building which they are to use jointly with the Girl Scouts for their gatherings. The partition, dividing the building has been removed, making it into one large room with a kitchen in the rear. Walls have been painted and a new floor laid. The furnishings which the Scouts used in their previous quarters will again be used. They are sending out a plea for donations for furniture. A stove, chairs, benches, tables, lamps or anything that can be used will be very acceptable. If, during the fall house cleaning housewives find any unused pieces of furniture which they will donate or lend they are requested to phone Miss Ione Krueger, Girl Scout captain, and they will be called for. At this time 35 have enrolled in the Girl Scout troop which has recently organized. Many of the mothers of the Girl Scouts have given their assistance in getting the rooms ready for these two worthwhile organizations.”

The Scouts lost their home a few years later.

Princeton Times-Republic, Nov. 20, 1941 – “Carl Kuehneman has leased the front part of the building occupied by the Boy Scouts next to Erich Mueller’s at the bend of Water Street and is preparing to open a barber shop. Carl has been associated with Tiff Kolleck for a number of years.”

Following Erich Mueller’s death, his heirs sold the lot at 631 to Kuehneman in December 1945 (Deeds, Volume 111, Page 352) and the remainder of Lot 21 to Wilhelm Kohnke (Deeds, Volume 111, Page 355).

(The City of Princeton Historical Walking Tour plaque incorrectly states that Kuehneman purchased the property in 1941. Although I would classify this error as “forgivable,” it is the 18th plaque – out of 23 – in the three-block business district that memorializes incorrect information about our historic buildings.)

Kuehneman operated the barber shop for three decades. He passed in 1979.

The Kohnkes sold to Elmer and Lillian Dreblow in September 1946 (Deeds, Volume 111, Page 568). The Dreblows sold a slice of Lot 21 to Edward Manthey for $550 in July 1949 (Deeds, Volume 120, Page 387).

Princeton Times-Republic, July 21, 1949 – “Ed Manthey got quite a boost Monday night in the erection of his new shoe repair shop building when some of his ambitious friends laid several courses of dry wall for him. The new building is being erected on the lot next to the Kuehneman Barber Shop.”

With Manthey in his shoe repair shop and Kuehneman in the barber shop, our first-100-years survey of Lot 21 is complete. I will update with more recent occupants as my research extends deeper into the 20th century later this year.

UPDATES:

Princeton Times-Republic, Feb. 17, 1955 – “Ernie Priebe is now operating the Manthey Shoe Repair shop in Princeton, and Ed Manthey, for 17 years a shoe man here, will enter an eye clinic in Milwaukee shortly to try and recover the use of his left eye. Mr. Manthey has been in the shoe repair business for 42 years, being in that business in Milwaukee before coming to Princeton. He started out in 1911 and in fact showed the writer some of the hand tools which he bought at that time and which are still in use in the shop today. Ernie Priebe formerly owned the Tastee Bakery and has been a business man in Princeton for many years. He took over the shoe repair work on Feb. 1.”

Princeton Times-Republic, April 28, 1955 – “Ed Manthey is back at his old stomping grounds sewing and nailing shoe leather, so the ‘crooked end’ of Water Street continues to boast of its share of tall story tellers.”

Edward and Elsie Manthey sold the property to Stanley Naparalla for $3,500 in September 1971 (Deeds, Volume 239, Page 330).

This post also completes our survey of the first 100 years of the buildings and lots in the 600 block of Water Street in our historic downtown. I still have one more lot to survey in the 500 block, but next let’s examine the water lots of the 400 block of Water Street, how they developed and how they recovered from a destructive fire in 1880.

Thanks for caring and reading about local history.

Water Lot 21 today includes a vacant building at 629 West Water, left, and the office of Wisconsin Special Properties at 631 West Water Street.

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