The building that stands at 441 West Water Street and houses Princeton Garage Antiques turns 100 this year, making it the newest commercial building on a lot with a rich history.

The first building to stand on Water Lot 30, at about West Water Street, was moved here from St. Marie, housed some county offices when Princeton was selected as the county seat in the 1860s and was destroyed along with 10 other buildings in the great fire of 1880.

The history of Water Lot 30 begins, as with all land in the original plat of Princeton, with Henry Treat obtaining the patent from the U.S. government for approximately 128 acres east of the Fox River in June 1849. He paid $1.25 per acre.

The lot passed to David Staples for $50 in November 1850 (Deeds, Volume D, Page 101), then Davis Waite for $100 in January 1851 (Deeds, Volume D, Page 224), then John E. Bigley, Brooklyn, New York, for $300 in September 1861 (Deeds, Volume T, Page 554).

Bigley sold Lot 30 to James H. Hubbard, of Princeton, for $150 in January 1862 (Deeds, Volume T, Page 627). In August 1862, Hubbard received a recruiting commission for the 21st Regiment, 32nd Infantry, organized at Camp Bragg in Oshkosh, and enlisted in the Grand Army of the Republic as a first lieutenant with Company C. Hubbard received a disability discharge in November 1863 but, if I understand the military records correctly, re-enlisted as a captain with Company G, 49th Infantry, in February 1865 and mustered out about a year later.

I do not know when the first building appeared on Water Lot 30, but we know from the Green Lake Spectator newspaper reports of the county seat battles in the mid-1860s that Princeton prepared a building that had been moved here from St. Marie for its courthouse and built a stone safe there for county records. We also know the building with the stone safe stood at the southeast corner of Water and Washington streets and later was the west room of the Hubbard House.

Water Lot 30 – West (Hubbard House)

Princeton Republic, Nov. 21, 1867 – “Dr. I. W. DeVoe, late of Cincinnatti, has permanently located here for the practice of surgery and medicine, occupying rooms in Capt. Hubbard’s building opposite the Jarvis House.”

Princeton Republic, April 2, 1868 – “Capt. Hubbard is fitting up the finest storeroom in his building opposite Jarvis House on Water Street in this village, a real honor to the place. We learn a Mr. Macnish, now of Brandon, will fit it up with a stock of drugs.”

Princeton Republic, August 31, 1868 – “A new billiard saloon is now in operation in Hubbard’s Hall, where the knights of the cue do nightly congregate to make geometrical demonstrations, punching ivory balls with hickory sticks, etc. The game of billiards is innocent amusement, though, on the whole rather costly. We hope the proprietor will not set up a bar in connection with his billiards.”

When the Princeton Republic did brief profiles of the Water Street businesses in March 1870, it noted that “Hubbard’s block is for the present idle, having lost the proprietor of the drug business carried on there last year under ‘mysterious circumstances,’ though we believe Mr. Hubbard keeps for sale the coarse grains, such as corn, oats, etc. He also has a freight house on his wharf where a large part of the goods are received via the river, and he has lately repaired and enlarged his dock accommodations preparatory to doing a large business the present year.”

Thomas McConnell, who purchased the Princeton Feed Store from Frank Holloway in 1870, had a grocery store at Hubbard’s corner for a time. Harness maker W.J. Rawson operated a shop there in 1871, and barber A. Parker offered his services there in 1872. Jeweler S.M. Kelley moved from the Radway building across the street to the Hubbard corner in November 1872.

Dr. I.W. DeVoe and P.W. Jackson opened a new drug store in October 1872 that would anchor the Hubbard block, the building that came from St. Marie, for the next eight years.

When Herman E. Megow arrived in Princeton in 1873, he opened a barber shop in the Hubbard building’s smaller room.

Princeton Republic, June 14, 1873 – “Barber shop. In Hubbard’s block, opposite the hotel. Herman Megow has opened a barber shop on Water Street opposite the hotel, where he may be found at all reasonable hours ready to do his duty in his profession.”

Hubbard announced in August 1873 that he planned to open a hotel.

Princeton Republic, Aug. 23, 1873 – “Capt. J.H. Hubbard is preparing to open a boarding house. The captain is setting up some very pleasant rooms.”

Princeton Republic, Nov. 22, 1873 – “Capt. J.H. Hubbard opens his new hotel next Monday. He has been for a number of weeks engaged in fitting up his house in good order so that travelers will find at his house first-class accommodations, at reasonable prices, and no pains will be spared to make it a traveler’s home. In connection with his house, Mr. Hubbard has the most comfortable and best built barns in the place. This is a great consideration to those travelers who care anything about the comfort of their horses.”

Hubbard expanded the building, constructed a new veranda and had the building painted in 1874.

Princeton Republic, May 16, 1874 – “Last Saturday the corner stone for the new improvement of the Hubbard House was laid. The genial proprietor proposes uniting his two buildings in one, this affording him a large house for hotel purposes.”

Hubbard held a grand opening and harvest dance in August. Tickets were $2. Despite Hubbard’s efforts, the Hubbard House never truly challenged the American House across the street for dominance in the local hotel industry. The owner left the business in the hands of various landlords over the years.

C.A. Wilkins and A. Eygabroad rented the Hubbard House in May 1875. They also ran the Montello stage route. W.J. Frank drove a two-horse hack to carry mail and freight from Princeton to Wautoma via Neshkoro three times a week (Monday-Wednesday-Friday).

Meanwhile, the firm of Jackson & DeVoe dissolved when P.W. Jackson stepped away. DeVoe next partnered with O.H. Lichtenberg, who operated the drug store in the west room, before retiring in March 1878. Lichtenberg brought Dr. Otto Hahn into the business for a brief time following DeVoe’s departure.

Princeton Republic, March 15, 1878 – “The Hubbard House barn will be moved from its present location to the bank of the river, in rear of the house.”

Hubbard’s list of landlords grew to include F.J. Grout, who purchased Eygaboard’s interest in the Hubbard House in January 1876 and gave way in about a year to G.W. Kolleck, who departed in April 1877; A.B. Burroughs, who departed in January 1878; J.H. Hubbs, who departed in July 1879; Chas. Van Volkenberg, who departed in July 1879; and Capt. Baldwin, who departed in December 1879 and was killed by a runaway team in July 1880.

Princeton Republic, Jan. 29, 1880 – “The American House is doing good business since the closing of the Hubbard House.”

Princeton Republic, April 1, 1880 – “The Hubbard House is about ready to be thrown open to the public by the Captain himself.”

The excitement of the reopening was extinguished two weeks later.

Princeton Republic, April 15, 1880 – “The devastating hand of the fire fiend has been laid heavily upon Princeton. Eleven buildings have gone up in flame and smoke. By far the heaviest conflagration this village ever experienced occurred last Sunday (April 11). A little after four o’clock smoke was discovered issuing from the Hubbard House barn. The alarm was promptly given, and our citizens commenced rushing toward the Hubbard House corner. It only required a casual glance to convince anyone that a conflagration of the most serious character was in store for us and where it would end was a matter of conjecture. The wind was moving at a moderate rate, and from a west by north direction. … Flames were bursting through the (barn) building, and attention was directed, and an effort made to save the Hubbard House, the rear end of which was some two or three rods from the barn. But soon the intense heat made this attempt abortive. Soon flames were issuing from the rear of Mart Wicks’ building which was just east of the Hubbard House and seemed to be rather nearest in the line in which the wind carried the flames. The smoke soon issuing from the rear of the Hubbard House showed the utter weakness of all human attempts to fight the fiend, and attention was turned to saving what could be secured from doomed buildings which lay in the path of destruction. Soon the Hubbard House and Wicks building were a sheet of flame.…

“The hotel part of the Hubbard House had been empty for some months until a few days since, when the Captain moved over from Dartford, and was just opening. Most of Captain Hubbard’s hotel furniture is lost, comparatively a small moiety being saved. Clothing of his family was nearly all burned except what was upon their backs. …

“Otto Lichtenberg occupied the west room the Hubbard block as a drug store. Most of the stock was saved although necessarily in a damaged condition. He had an insurance on stock of $1,500. Capt. Hubbard had no insurance; the burning of the premises being a total loss of some $3,300.

“Mr. Lichtenberg had several barrels of oil and kerosene stored away in the vault at the rear of his store – the old vault that has a history and once contained the records and valuable documents belonging to Green Lake County, in the days when Princeton was a county seat. Mr. Lichtenberg hoped the vault of stone and masonry would resist the fire fiend. But it did not. Since then, many articles are missing. It looks as though the light fingers of thieves had not missed their opportunity during the bustle and excitement.”

Lichtenberg, who had opened his drug store in the Hubbard House block in 1878, moved across the street to 501 West Water for a short time following the fire and then found a permanent home at 502 West Water Street.

Hubbard did not rebuild and instead made plans to head west. He first raised his steamboat that had sunk in Green Lake the previous winter.

Princeton Republic, April 29, 1880 – “Capt. Hubbard, having sold his interest in the steamer ‘Minnehaha,’ will, as soon as he can arrange matters, go to Dakota, and look for a new home. He will leave his family in Princeton while on his journey ‘to spy out the land.’”

Hubbard sold Water Lot 30 to F.T. Yahr for $700 in May 1880 (Deeds, Volume 40, Page 608).

Princeton Republic, 14, 1881 – “Capt. Hubbard held a sale last week and disposed of what articles he does not wish to take west. He has chartered a car to carry what he wants to commence with on the prairies of Dakota. He will start his car as soon as the western roads are clear of the effects of the snow blockade.”

The Hubbards settled near Iroquois, “Dakota,” not far from Huron, South Dakota, today, and the same area where Princeton native William Yahr did business in the ‘80s as settlers pushed westward. The Hubbard family’s bad luck followed them to their new home.

Oshkosh Northwestern, Aug. 6, 1886: “Near Iroquois James Hubbard discharged a German named Beck from his employ, greatly angering the latter. Hubbard left the farm for a short time to get money to pay off Beck. In Hubbard’s absence Beck returned, got a five-gallon can of kerosene, threw it over the straw in a sod stable and fired it, his own clothes catching fire at the same time. Seeing this, Mrs. (Mary) Hubbard and her two boys, twelve and fourteen years old (J. Harris and Louis), ran with water to extinguish the flames in the stable yard. When Beck saw this, he ran at Mrs. Hubbard, knocked her down and bit her hands terribly. One of the boys seeing Beck on fire threw some water on him. Beck then ran to the well and the last seen of him he was standing on the well curb. Mrs. Hubbard was so badly hurt that all her two boys could do was to take care of her. When the neighbors came, they looked for Beck and found him in the well, which is fifty feet deep. It was found that the well rope, which had a bucket at each end, was attached to him. He was hauled up and found to be dead, his neck being broken. Hubbard’s loss was about $200. Beck is believed to have been insane.”

Meanwhile, back in Princeton, Yahr initially used the burned Hubbard corner to display farm machinery and did not begin improving the lot until spring 1881.

Princeton Republic, May 19, 1881 – “Mr. Yahr is putting the old Hubbard dock in repair to facilitate the shipping and landing of freight from passing boats. The fire of last year left the dock in a rather dilapidated condition, and the two floods since have made it only worse until it had become a really dangerous place for loading or unloading either passengers or freight.”

Yahr hired carpenter Patrick Regan when it came time to rebuild.

Princeton Republic, Feb. 9, 1882 – “The old stone vault, the only thing that withstood the fire in June ’80 is being razed to the ground to give room for a building on that corner to be erected by F.T. Yahr for the use of Pooch & Born, the popular machine men.”

Princeton Republic, March 2, 1882 – “Carpenters commenced work on the old Hubbard corner this morning. F.T. Yahr is preparing to build a store building on the corner lot of the old Hubbard House for occupancy by Pooch and Born, as we hear, and on the lot east a blacksmith and wagon shop for Herman Mielke to occupy, so far as blacksmithing goes.”

Princeton Republic, March 9, 1882 – “F.T. Yahr’s blacksmith shop and corner store building were raised yesterday.”

Pooch & Born completed loading agricultural machinery into their new rooms opposite the American House in April and a few months later added Julius Hennig as a partner. Hennig and Born were out by January 1884 when Pooch & (Ludwig) Wichmer moved to the 600 block of Water. Miss Tillie Jahns, meanwhile, opened a dress-making shop in the rooms by the agricultural store.

(L.E.) Leighton & (Wilbur J.) Mesick were the next to set up a farm implement business in Yahr’s block. Leighton retired in January 1890, but Mesick soldiered on.

Princeton Republic, July 16, 1891 – “Tom Bartol drove from W.J. Mesick’s agricultural store with a new binder on Friday. The most of his old binder was consumed with his barn that was struck with lightning and burned at the time the hailstorm occurred two weeks ago. Some portions of the binder were saved from the ruins, and his insurance has made the machine complete again by purchasing new the parts that were destroyed.”

Princeton Republic, Sept. 21. 1893 – “The village board is doing a good thing at Wilbur Mesick’s corner. They have rebuilt the drain from the corner to the river, enlarging it, so as to carry off the surplus water from heavy rains. A stone wall is being built down next to the river to hold an embankment of dirt so the fire engine can be pushed on the dock in case it becomes necessary.”

Yahr, who had sold the east section of Lot 30 to H.H. Harmon in 1882, sold the west part of Lot 30 to Mesick for $1,800 in December 1893 (Deeds, Volume 52, Page 60).

The Sanborn fire insurance map of 1892 shows the Harmon furniture shop and a millinery at 441 West Water and agriculture implements store at 445 West Water.

Princeton Republic, Dec. 21, 1893 – “W.J. Mesick has purchased the building he has occupied for years but, on account of a lease made previous to the purchase, has moved in Green’s block and rented the place he occupied.”

Harry E. Tucker moved his barber shop into Mesick’s former space.

Princeton Republic, March 22, 1894 – “Julius Buchholz, a former businessman of Ripon, is the man who will place a new stock of groceries in the rooms being fitted for that purpose in W.J. Mesick’s building.”

Princeton Republic, April 12, 1894 – “Jule Buchholz, our live groceryman, will deliver goods to any part of the village free of charge.”

Princeton Republic, April 12, 1894 – “W.J. Mesick, having put in a splendid front well-lighted in the room occupied by H. Buchholz, will put the same kind of a front in Harry Tucker’s barber shop. It will not only make the whole building look better but will prove more valuable to the occupants on account of the additional light.”

Princeton Republic, March 19, 1896 – “Mrs. Friday will soon move her stock of millinery into the room in the Mesick building just vacated by Harry Tucker. W.J. Mesick will put in a new front in the store and also another large window for show purposes on the side.”

Princeton Republic, April 2, 1896 – “W.J. Mesick is making extensive improvements in the front of the store in his block soon to be occupied by Mrs. Friday. An entire new front is being put in.”

Princeton Republic, April 16, 1896 – “Mrs. Friday moved (from the H.H. Harmon building) into her new corner store in the Mesick block this morning.”

Princeton Republic, Jan. 16, 1896 – “A cigar stub thrown into a box of sawdust serving as a spittoon in Julius Buchholz’s store came near causing a disastrous fire Saturday night when the wind was blowing a gale. Those in the store noticed an odor of burning pine all the afternoon and looked high and low for the cause but did not discover the smoldering fire until almost closing time at night.”

After Buchholz closed his store in July 1898 and returned to Ripon, Mesick built an addition to his building in October 1898.

The Sanborn fire insurance map of 1898 shows the Harmon furniture store at 441 West Water Street and empty store and millinery at 445 West Water.

Princeton Republic, Jan. 5, 1899 – “W.J. Mesick has been moving back to his old place of business opposite the American House. He has rearranged the rooms he formerly occupied, adding considerable rooms thereto and otherwise improving the place.”

Princeton Republic, Feb. 23, 1899 – “W.J. Mesick has recently had a well dug in the rear of his business house and over the well is now being erected a building for the manufacture of pop. Emil Klawitter will run the new pop factory.”

Mesick continued to expand his line of farm implements but also sold rigs and buggies and helped erect and install windmills and pumps.

Princeton Republic, Sept. 24, 1903 – “W.J. Mesick, the implement dealer, will soon have the rear portion of his place of business raised a story, making it the same as the front part of the building, which will allow him considerably more room to store his large line of farm implements and machinery.”

The 1904 Sanborn fire insurance map shows the Republic printing office and general store at 441 West Water and post office and expanded space at 445 West Water.

Mesick sold his business, building and lot to Albert Steinke for $3,900 in September 1906 (Deeds, Volume 67, Page 264). The new owner took possession on Oct. 16. He maintained most of Mesick’s operation and in June 1910 submitted the winning bid of $274 to sell the village a tank, pump, engine, etc. for its street sprinkling operation.

Steinke sold to Michael Peters for $7,500 in October 1912 (Deeds, Volume 73, Page 97). Peters got $5,000 for the property when he sold to Thomas Cushing (Deeds, Volume 77, Page 425).

The 1914 Sanborn fire insurance map shows shoe shop and vacancy at 441 West Water and post office at 445 West Water.

Abe Fishkin moved his general store into the former Mesick building in April 1917.  The post office, meanwhile, moved from the Mesick building to the north side of Water Street in 1917.

Princeton Republic, Jan. 25, 1917 – “Postmaster J.E. Hennig is at the present time busily engaged in remodeling and beautifying the front sample room of the American House. The room has been neatly paneled and adorned at the ceiling with stucco work. The side walls are also prettily decorated with stucco work at the upper part, while the lower part is made to resemble glazed brick. At the present time the painters are engaged who are putting the finishing touches to it, and when their work is completed and upon the arrival of the new lock boxes, which are of the combination lock type the post office will be moved into said room. Mr. Hennig having rented same to the post office department for a period of 10 years.”

Princeton State Bank bought the old post office and implement property for $2,899.38 at a foreclosure auction in March 1917 (Deeds, Volume 77, Page 425) and sold it to Alfred Warnke for $3,100 (Deeds, Volume 80, Page 246) in 1919.

Princeton Republic, Sept. 25, 1919 – “On Thursday of last week a transfer of real estate was consummated between the Princeton State Bank and Alfred Warnke whereby the latter became of the owner of the building situated on corner of Water and Washington streets, now occupied by A. Fishkin general store. We understand Mr. Warnke contemplates the erection of an opera house on the site sometime next summer.”

The opera house plan never materialized. Instead, the lot became home to Princeton’s first gas filling station.

Princeton Republic, April 28, 1921 – “Alfred Warnke is busily engaged in razing the building recently vacated by A. Fishkin. We are informed the building for a gasoline filling station which will be erected in its place, which will be constructed in the very near future.”

Princeton’s first gasoline filling station was erected on Water Lot 30 in 1921-22.

United Consumers Cooperative sold gasoline, kerosene and oils from its Princeton Service Station, with F.B. Kallas as manager, in spring 1922. The station closed 10 years later as filling stations evolved into service stations and garages.

Princeton Republic, March 17, 1932 – “The Deep Rock filling station, opposite the American House, is being razed. Mr. Warnke, the present owner, proposes to build cement driveways on that property for the convenience of the Ford garage.”

The driveways became a parking lot that served the Princeton Motor Company until 1955 and then the Yahr supermarket for many years. It is a parking, storage and display area for Princeton Garage Antiques in 2021.

Water Lot 30 – East (Princeton Motor Company)

F.T. Yahr sold the east 38 feet of Water Lot 30 to Hiram H. Harmon for $500 in April 1882 (Deeds, Volume 41, Page 512).

Harmon was born in Massachusetts to Amanda and Oliver Harmon, who was a carpenter and joiner, in 1837. The Harmons purchased 120 acres in St. Marie Township in 1854. Oliver farmed the land until he passed in 1858.

Hiram was 17 when he came to Wisconsin with his parents and siblings. “He entered upon his business career as a farmer, purchasing 80 acres of land adjoining the old homestead which he operated for five years,” according to his biography in the “Portrait and Biographical Album of Green Lake, Marquette and Waushara Counties,” published in 1890 by Acme Publishing Company.

Harmon sold the St. Marie farm in 1864.

“It was his intention to remove to the West and there make his home, but in the spring of 1868 the death of his loved wife (Luanna Phelps) occurred and in consequence he changed his plans, continuing his residence in Green Lake County,” according to Portrait & Biographical Album. He married again in 1870 and moved to Princeton, where he worked as a carpenter.

“He then decided to devote his attention to some mercantile pursuit and in 1873 established his furniture store of which he is still the proprietor,” the album noted. “… In connection with the furniture department he carries on an undertaking establishment. His success is due to his practicability, enterprise and perseverance.”

Harmon’s first furniture shop was on the west side. He moved to the Demell block (515 West Water Street) in 1873 and to his final location in 1882.

Princeton Republic, March 30, 1882 – “F.T. Yahr had determined to build a wagon shop on Water Street, almost opposite the American House, and nearly opposite the Republic office, but the contagious spirit of improvement took H.H. Harmon in a tender spot and he saw it to his advantage to buy the property in question. He will immediately proceed to build a good two-story storeroom for his fast-increasing furniture trade. The building to be 30×42 feet on the ground, tin roof, and to be a very substantial building. Both gentlemen are entitled to a vote for thanks.”

Harmon initially rented out a space in his new building to three women for a dress-making shop but eventually needed to occupy his entire building. He also built a lumber shed, rooftop porch and boat house.

Princeton Republic, June 21, 1888 – “On Monday last this section was visited by a shower a little before five in the afternoon that was charged with an electric display that was not ‘down in the bills’ and hence wholly unexpected. About a quarter before five the lightning struck the stone schoolhouse on Main Street and in a moment following came down with terrific violence on H.H. Harmon’s furniture block, including the adjoining building occupied by Leighton & Mesick in the sale of agricultural machinery.”

Following the strike near the northwest corner of the Harmon block, “innumerable sparks poured over the front of the building so thick it appeared almost like a flame of fierce fire,” the newspaper said. The bolt ran down pipe into the sitting room “melting the wires on its way, throwing the pipe to the floor, bursted open the doors of the stove and dropped into the carpet, making a hole in the carpet as if a cannon ball had passed, but not clear through the floor.” Some of Harmon’s handmade furniture pieces were blackened and charred, polished furniture disfigured by the heat.

Harmon was involved in local politics, sat on several local public and corporate boards, and was a member of the school board for nearly 20 years. He died in June 1898 of acute Bright’s disease.

Following Harmon’s death in 1898, sons Roy and George said they would continue the business as usual. They sold within six months.

Princeton Republic, Dec. 1, 1898 – “J.M. Koeser has bought the stock of furniture belonging to the estate of H.H. Harmon. Thus, one of the oldest business places of Princeton is a thing of the past.”

Harmon’s heirs retained ownership of the property, however. The Princeton Republic moved in in June 1899.

Princeton Republic, June 22, 1899 – “Having for some time been in need of more room, both for the mechanical part of the work, and a suitable office in which to receive our patrons, we have moved our office into the Harmon building opposite the American House. By July 1st, we expect to open up a news stand and stock of stationery in connection with our office, having bought out the right and good will of H.E. Megow for selling several of the leading daily papers. We will keep copies of the best magazines and periodicals.”

Princeton Republic, June 29, 1899 – “Monday was moving day with us, and T.J. Paull and crew moved the presses and other heavy appurtenances of the office. We can assure you that if you have any building or heavy commodities to move, Mr. Paull is the man to get.”

This photo, circa 1907, shows Princeton pioneer Martin Manthey, termed by local historians as the first German to settle in Princeton. But today we are looking at the two buildings to the right in the background – the F.T. Yahr building, far right, and the H.H. Harmon building (obstructed) one door left, both built in 1882. The buildings replaced frame structures that burned in 1880 and were themselves replaced in the 1920s.

The Fair Store, operated by Picus Bros., returned to the Harmon building in 1900.  After the brothers dissolved their partnership, Louis Picus continued operating the store in the Harmon building until 1904 when he moved into Bert Shew’s new brick building at 439 West Water Street.

Roy Harmon, who returned from the west a few weeks earlier, opened a variety store in the Harmon building in July 1909. The following July was even more memorable when the fireworks display that Harmon set up in front of the store exploded and his clothes caught on fire as he jumped over the counter.

Princeton Republic, July 7, 1910 – “R.W. Harmon, one of our merchants, while attempting to extinguish fire started by the explosion of a mass of giant firecrackers which unaccountably caught fire, was severely burnt about the arms and body. While Mr. Harmon’s clothing was burning, he ran back to the river and jump into the water thus extinguishing the fire to clothing and himself. He at once was taken to the office of Dr. J.A. Froelich where his injuries received treatment. It is reported at this writing that he is recovering as rapidly as conditions warrant.”

The variety store went out of business within a year. Harmon went on to become editor of the Waushara Argus newspaper for several years.

Princeton Republic, July 20, 1911 – “A. Fishkin will open a general merchandise business in the Harmon building in the near future.”

Princeton Republic, August 3, 1911 – “Our neighbor, Mr. Fishkin, who recently came to this city to engage in the general merchandise business, has opened his doors for business the fore part this week.”

“I know the circumstances of the store; every six months or so a new tenant,” proprietor Abe Fishkin told readers of the Republic in his introductory ad the following week. “I know it will be hard for me to make you believe that my intention is to stay. I will try my best to convince you that I have come to make Princeton my future home. … I have leased this store for a good many years.”

Fishkin kept his vow to remain in Princeton but exited the Harmon building less than a year later, moving The Reliable Store into The Fair Store building vacated by Picus at 439 West Water in July 1912.

The Republic left the Harmon building for the second floor of the Buckhorn building in 1914.

Princeton Republic, Sept. 3, 1914 – “Carl Worm has rented the room formerly occupied by the Republic office, in the Harmon building, and will be engaged in the cobbler’s business. Carl has been in the business for a number of years and his wide experience in that line has brot him to the top notch and in a position hard to be excelled.”

Princeton Republic, Oct. 12, 1916 – “Wish to make known that I have opened up a shoe repairing shop in the room formerly occupied by Carl Worm in the Harmon building. Emil Mager.”

Princeton Republic, Feb. 13, 1919 – “Edw. Kolleck recently opened a barber shop in the Mrs. Harmon block opposite the post office.”

Harmon’s heirs sold the east 38 feet of Lot 30 to Herman Warnke in 1920 (Deeds, Volume 79, Page 429).

Princeton Republic, May 13, 1920 – “Alfred Warnke last Saturday bought the Mrs. S.J. Harmon block on Water Street. The first floor of the building at the present time is occupied by the H. Wuerch billiard parlors while the second story is inhabited by Mrs. Harmon. Mr. Warnke intends to raze the building, and in its place, he will erect a modern and up-to-date business block.”

Princeton Republic, July 1, 1920 – “Alfred Warnke, who recently purchased the Harmon block on Water Street, is busily engaged in razing the old building. In an interview with Mr. Warnke, he informed us his intentions are to erect and modern and up-to-minute garage in its place this summer. The building will be 40 x 80 and constructed of cement and brick front. The structure will include the alley way between the Harmon and Warnke building.”

Warnke’s garage plan did not work out quite as he expected.

Princeton Republic, Oct. 26, 1922 – “The Alfred Warnke building, located opposite the American House, still under construction has been leased by Alfred Sommerfeldt, who will conduct a gents furnishing store together with a complete line of shoes.”

This photo shows a worker helping erect the building at 441 West Water Street in 1922. Just right of the new building, which replaced the Harmon building built in 1882, is the United Consumers Cooperative gasoline filling station – the first in Princeton.

Princeton Republic, Nov. 16, 1922 – “The new Alfred Warnke building in course of construction is rapidly nearing its completion and will be occupied by A.A. Sommerfeldt, Gents Toggery and Shoes in a very few days.”

The gentlemen’s fashions apparently were stylish enough to attract the attention of a couple of thieves.

Princeton Republic, Oct. 29, 1925 – “Men’s suits totaling 50 in number were taken from the Sommerfeldt & Manthey gents furnishing store Thursday morning of last week by a party of yeggs who gained entrance by breaking the glass of a rear door and opening the night latch from the inside. The gang who did the looting consisted of two men as was evidenced by traces found in the morning. About $75 in cash was taken from the safe and the cash registered tampered with, but no cash had been left in this, it had been deposited in the safe the previous evening. A sum of money, about $100, had been placed in another compartment of the safe, but this was overlooked by the burglars. The burglars had parked their car in the vicinity of the brewery, and it is estimated that that several trips were made by the two men to carry away the loot. When making their last trip they evidently were frightened by an automobile passing by with hunters who were on their way to the lake, and a bundle of 37 suits was left behind and found in the morning near the riverbank. Mr. Marquardt, who lives near the banks of the river, says that he had heard footsteps near his residence at about four o’clock in the morning; also that he had heard the running of the car, but it of being no unusual occurrence, paid no further attention. The same gang tried to make off with a Ford car belonging to E.H. Priebe which was parked at his residence opposite the high school, but after pushing it a distance of about one block, abandoned the car because of being unable to start it. The car was found near the brewery in the center of the street the following morning. The loss sustained by these two young businessmen is estimated at about $2,000.”

Coat hangers, ties and belts taken by the burglars were found by children beneath a culvert on County Road H leading to Marquette. The culprits were not caught.

Warnke’s plans for a garage finally reached fruition in 1928.

Princeton Republic, July 26, 1928 – “In a deal consummated last week Friday between Mrs. Herman Warnke and Dickinson Bros, of Bloomer, Wis., the latter took over the ownership of the Warnke building now occupied by the K. Manthey gents furnishing store, C. Kinkel tailor shop and G. Radtke, cobbler. Dickinson Bros., we are informed, will arrange the building for a garage and will deal in automobiles and will take possession in the very near future.”

The Dickinsons also made a splash as the first people to base a Pheasant biplane at the new Princeton airport in 1929. “What a fine thing it is to have men of vision, men who blaze the way,” the Republic noted.

The Dickinsons did not blaze the way in the auto business.

Princeton Republic, Jan. 23, 1930 – “Last week in a transaction with the Dickinson Chevrolet Co., Mr. Lem Kalupa has taken over the entire interest of that company and has added the Chevrolet car to his agency. In a conversation with Mr. Kalupa, he gave us the information that a fine and up-to-date garage equipped with a handsome show room will be built by him on Main Street the coming spring.”

The Dickinsons transferred the garage building to E.H. Priebe, who expanded his Ford garage, which included the two brick buildings to the east as well.

Princeton Republic, August 9, 1928 – “E.H. Priebe has plans completed for an addition to the rear of his Ford service station. The specifications call for a 26 by 50 feet extension. The building will be two stories with basement under the entire new structure. The building will be of tile blocks and fireproof. Then, too, Mr. Priebe intends to improve the east wall of the present building. When fully completed the addition will afford up-to-date storage for cars and a convenient workshop.”

The property passed back to Alfred Warnke and other family members (Deeds, Volume 94, Page 433) when Priebe and the Dickinsons fell behind in payments and remained with them until 1954. Paul Weiske, of Montello, claimed the Ford agency and the garage.

Princeton Republic, March 26, 1931 – “At the foreclosure sale last Monday of the E. H. Priebe Ford stock of goods, machinery, etc., Paul Weiske, Ford dealer of Montello, was the successful bidder, his bid amounting to the sum of $3,800. Mr. Weiske purchased the object in view of opening a Ford agency in this city, if arrangements can be completed.”

Princeton Republic, June 18, 1931 – “Weiske Bros., who have secured the Ford agency for this city, are engaged in rearranging the building formerly occupied by E.H. Priebe. Partitions are being constructed and the shelving for the storing of extras are being placed. The basement of the building will be arranged for servicing cars. When fully completed, Weiske Bros., who come here from Montello, can boast of having one of the most complete garages in this section of the country.”

Paul Weiske led the Ford outfit, with brother Vincent, who had been employed in a machine shop in Milwaukee, as head of the repair department, and Luke Buchen as the bookkeeper.

Paul Weiske was killed in a one-car crash in April 1934.

The Princeton Motors garage occupied the building at 441 West Water Street and adjacent parking lot from 1931-1955.

Princeton Republic, March 4, 1937 – “The Princeton Motors, Ford Garage, formerly owned by Anton Weiske, of Montello, recently changed hands and is now owned by Vincent Weiske and Luke Buchen of this city. The latter two have managed the establishment for the past number of years and have enjoyed excellent business.”

Princeton Times-Republic, March 11, 1943 – “The Princeton Motors have installed a hydraulic hoist which will greatly facilitate tire inspections and also chassis lubrication.”

That completes our survey of the first 100 years of Water Lot 30.


Princeton Times-Republic, 1952 – “The Ford Garage will have a new concrete apron clear to the street and are planning on concreting the used car lot across the street from the Times-Republic.”

Alfred Warnke sold Water Lot 30 and the west 12.5 feet of Lot 31 to Victor A. Yahr in November 1954 (Deeds, Volume 136, Page 433).

The Ford garage moved to 511 West Main Street in 1955, and Yahr turned the former garage into a supermarket.

Princeton Times-Republic, Sept. 15, 1955 – “The former Princeton Motors will henceforth be known as Buchen Motors, as the name is changed this week. Luke Buchen, head of the firm, stated that the concern will hold its formal opening of its new building on Main Street Friday, Sept. 23.”

Princeton Times-Republic, Sept. 15, 1955 – “Victor Yahr of the Yahr Supermarket announced today that he will move his stock of groceries, fruits and other foods to the new location across from the post office, in the former Princeton Motors building which he purchased and has remodeled into a modern food store. His grand opening will be held Friday, Sept. 23.”

Yahr had an addition built in 1968 and new front in 1969.

Princeton Times-Republic, June 20, 1968 – “For the past three weeks, men have been hard at work on the new 960-square-foot addition being built at the back of Yahr’s Supermarket. According to Vic Yahr, owner and operator, the project will be fully complete sometime in the fall. … After the entire project is completed, the sales capacity of the store is expected to be almost double. Workmen at the new addition have been the Bornick mason crew. Marshall Builders will finish the construction.”

Princeton Times-Republic, March 27, 1969 – “That temporary shelter attached to the front of Yahr’s Supermarket store last week has been removed and reveals new mason work – a new red brick wall replacing those large glass plate windows. Shorter windows will be at a higher level.”

Yahr’s Supermarket, circa 1973.

Yahr’s Supermarket closed in 1978. The building stood vacant for nearly a year before being replaced by Bill’s Midtown Market.

Princeton Times-Republic, Nov. 15, 1979 – “Bill’s Midtown Market, formerly Yahr’s grocery in downtown Princeton, is opening its doors to business on Tuesday, Nov. 20. The store was closed for 11 months when Vic Yahr retired. The new owners are Bill and Pam Schmidt. Bill did operated a grocery store in Polo, Ill., before coming to Princeton. His wife is the former Pam Warnke, who is Title I teacher in the School District of Princeton.”

The Schmidts held their grand opening from Jan. 8-19, 1980, changed the store’s name to Bill’s Red & White Supermarket to match the exterior color scheme and closed just over two years later.

Princeton Times-Republic, March 25, 1982 – “Reflecting the times, another business dating to early Princeton days is closed. Bill’s Supermarket downtown Princeton closed its doors on Friday, February 26.”

The building was vacant for only a few months.

Princeton Times-Republic, June 3, 1982 – “Another business has opened in Princeton! The Deckers, Art and Cathy and their children Susan, 16, Kelli, 13, Matt, 11, and David, 11, of Westfield, opened Decker’s Family Foods, formerly Bill’s Red and White Market, in downtown Princeton today, June 3. … A remodeled modern food store is ready for the customers with a clean, fresh atmosphere. Paneling has been installed and lots of painting done.”

Art Decker had been a meat cutter for the previous owners. The new owners offered free delivery for senior citizens, carry-out service for customers and a Sunday brunch with hot ham sandwiches.

Princeton Times-Republic, Nov. 7, 1985 – “‘We really enjoyed doing business here and being part of the community,’ Art Decker said. ‘We have made a lot of close personal friends throughout our four years here in Princeton.’ These statements were made shortly before the Decker family closed the doors for good on their store Monday, Nov. 4. The intensity of the food industry to build bigger stores, retailing more and more foods at or below cost to lure customers into their business, the cost of doing a day to day business, all contributed to a declining customer count.”

Princeton Times-Republic, June 9, 1988 – “Curt and Connie Schafer, owners of Stag Graphics/Timber Wood Squab Ranch, purchased the former Decker’s Grocery Store building on Water St. and have extensively remodeled it. With a tentative date of June 15, they will move into the building and will also continue to use their present location due to the expansion of their business. Stag Graphics does pre-press graphics, and Timber Wood Squab Ranch raises, wholesales and retails squab, quail, rabbits, ducks, turkeys and partridges.”

I will continue to update the lot history as my research progresses.


Princeton Times-Republic, April 26, 2001 – “A new antique business is opening in downtown Princeton just in time for the start of the flea market season. A garden store will also open in the same building. Strong’s Landing, owned by Berlin industrialist Roger Daul, and Garden Party, owned by Dan and Julie Nichols, also of Berlin, will occupy the former Yahr building on Water St. in downtown Princeton. … Strong’s Landing will include eight rooms of antiques and collectibles, with an emphasis on European furniture. Garden Party will offer a large array of whimsical as well as useful items for the home and garden.”

If you have corrections or can fill in any of the gaps, please let me know.

Thank you for caring and reading about local history.

The building at 441-445 West Water was home to Strong’s Landing antiques store by 2004.
Water Lot 30 today includes Princeton Garage antiques and a parking and display area.

Leave a Reply