We complete our survey of the first 100 years (1848-1948) of the buildings and lots in the Water Street business district (blocks 400-600) with the history of Water Lot 25, today home to Botanica Spa at 545 West Water and Megow Park at 539-541 West Water.
The lot for many years was home to the Nickodem (545) and Megow (541) family businesses that became Princeton institutions.
545 West Water
The brick and stone building at 545 West Water Street turns 130 years old this summer! It was built in 1891 by Anton Rimpler and replaced a wood frame building – the 10th business block in Princeton – built in the 1850s.
Here’s how the property is introduced in the history of Princeton published by the Princeton Republic in 1869: “One Vincent Goldsmith had the honor of putting up the tenth building in which was to be displayed the wares, questionable or otherwise, both of nutritious and exhilarating qualities, to the wondering gaze of newcomers and old citizens, at a date of which our informant is blissfully ignorant, but somewhere in the middle ‘50s. The house of refuge to the thirsty was occupied by various parties at various times as a saloon but became the property of Gottlieb Jahnke about nine years ago, who improved it and has since occupied it as a saloon and residence.”
At the county register of deeds office, we learn Water Lot 25 passed from Henry Treat, who owned the land that comprised the original plat of Princeton, to Waldo Flint (Deeds, Volume C, Page 334), then Noah Hall (Deeds, Volume C, Page 503), John Seely (Deeds, Volume C, Page 503) and Edward McGee.
Vincent Goldsmith purchased the property from Edward McGee in November 1850 (Deeds, Volume D, Page 305) and sold it to Benjamin Smith for $100 in April 1852. Smith sold to George R. Sears (Deeds, Volume E, Page 542), Sears to Samuel Newton (Deeds, Volume M, Page 551), and Newton again to Jahnke (Deeds, Volume T, Page 186) for $180 in June 1856.
Jahnke was the first lock tender at the Princeton locks, involved in many of the German organizations in Princeton, including a military company that formed in 1868, and a longtime saloon owner. He spoke with a heavy German accent, according to Reuben G. Thwaites, secretary of the Wisconsin Historical Society, who interviewed Jahnke while canoeing the Fox River in the 1880s.
The conversation is included in “Historic Waterways: Six-Hundred Miles of Canoeing Down the Rock, Fox and Wisconsin Rivers,” published by A.C. McClurg & Co. in 1888.
“It was noon when we reach the lock above Princeton,” Thwaites recalled. “The lockkeeper, a remarkably round-shouldered German, is a pleasant, gossipy fellow, fond of his long pipe and his very fat frau. Upon invitation, we made ourselves quite at home in the lock-house, a pleasant little brick structure in a plot of made land, the entire establishment having that rather stiffly neat, ship-shape appearance peculiar to life-saving stations, navy yards and military barracks. The good frau steeped for us a pot of tea, and in other ways helped us to grave our dinner, which we spread on a bench under a grape arbor, by the side of the yawning stone basin of the lock.”
Jahnke hitched a ride with Thwaites to Princeton: “Going down our voluble friend talked very freely about his affairs. He said that his pay of $30 per month ran from about the middle of April to the first of December, and averaged him, the year round, about $20 and house-rent. He had but little to do and got along very comfortably on the twenty-five acres of marshland which the government owned, by raising pigs and cows, a few vegetables, and hay enough for his stock. He admitted that it was ‘a heap better’ than he could do in the fatherland.”
(Thwaites, as learned in Fox River history as anyone, described Princeton as “a thriving country town on a steep bank, with unkempt backyards running down to and defiling the river.” He did not mention St. Marie during his trip following the same waterways traveled by Father Marquette in 1673.)
R.P. Rawson operated out of Jahnke’s building at 545 West Water for several years.
Princeton Republic, March 19, 1870 – “R.P. Rawson has been here about twenty years and during that time has been in active business. For several years he sold goods and was accounted the best salesman in the place, but for the last five years he has been engaged in the insurance business, where his great acquaintance with human nature and his determined effort to succeed, has built up for him a business that will last and grow better while insurance continues to be done on just principles.”
The building later was home to the Union Harness Shop operated by W.J. Rawson and Herman Slater. It was succeeded by the Union Saloon.
Jahnke sold to Gottlieb Schiefelbein, who continued operating a saloon, for $1,800 in August 1882 (Deeds, Volume 41, Page 636). Schiefelbein sold to W.F. Luedtke for $1,650 in March 1883 (Deeds, Volume 44, Page 184).
Princeton Republic, March 15, 1883 – “W.F. Luedtke has purchased the old Jahnke saloon, at the foot of Water Street, of Aug. Schiefelbein, who will remove to his farm.”
Luedtke sold to Gottlieb Schiefelbein for $1,125 in March 1883 (Deeds, Volume 44, Page 192). Juliana Schiefelbein sold the property to Anton and Augusta Rimpler for $1,450 in January 1890.
Dry goods merchant Anton Rimpler, who had rented space in the Thiel building (508-512 West Water) for several years, hinted to the Republic that summer that he was considering replacing the old saloon building.
“If he puts his shoulder to such an undertaking, we will guarantee it will be a fine and substantial improvement,” the Republic predicted.
Rimpler followed through on his plan, and the Princeton Republic followed the construction with great interest, generating a wonderful timeline for local historians:
Princeton Republic, Jan. 15, 1891 – “There are strong indications that Princeton will boom again next season in the way of building. … We have also before referred to the prospective erection of another building to be erected by Mr. A. Rimpler on the corner of Pearl and Water streets, opposite W.F. Luedtke’s block. This will prove another splendid improvement. It will be about 24×75. The work will be pushed next summer.”
Princeton Republic, Feb. 5, 1891 – “Anton Rimpler is getting his material ready and will push that new block to completion early as convenient the coming season.”
As Rimpler prepared for the new building, he sold the original building to former Republic publisher John C. Thompson.
Princeton Republic, April 23, 1891 – “J.C. Thompson has purchased the building on Water Street of Anton Rimpler, where the latter will soon erect that new block. Mr. Thompson has engaged Tim Paull to move the building he purchased onto one of the lots just south of the brewery he recently purchased, where the building will be remodeled suitable for a dwelling.”
Princeton Republic, May 14, 1891 – “The Union Saloon building was started Thursday from the corner of Water and Pearl streets and Friday evening had reached its destination south of the brewery, corner of Farmer and Wisconsin streets. It will now be metamorphosed into a dwelling house by J.C. Thompson.”
Removing the former Jahnke building made room for the building we see today at 545 West Water Street.
Princeton Republic, May 14, 1891 – “Ground for Anton Rimpler’s new block has been broken and the work will be rapidly pushed.”
Princeton Republic, June 25, 1891 – “The walls of that new block of Anton Rimpler’s are nearing completion.”
Princeton Republic, July 2, 1891 – “A. Rimpler will purchase brick at Plymouth to finish the front of his new block.”
Princeton Republic, July 16, 1891 – “F. L. Haedrich, of Fond du Lac, is laying the brick work on Anton Rimpler’s block. Mr. Hedrich has done a good deal of work in Princeton within the last few years, and his work attests his skill as a mechanic. … The last story of the stonework on the new Rimpler block is about complete.”
Princeton Republic, July 30, 1891 – “The brick wall of Rimpler’s block is about completed, and a keystone of marble set in front with the name of Mr. Rimpler and the year the building was erected is an appropriate addition to the looks of the splendid block.”
Princeton Republic, August 27, 1891 – “The front glass of Rimpler’s substantial building has been put in. The front is decidedly fine in appearance and is a credit to the proprietor. The block is an elegant one.”
Princeton Republic, Oct. 1, 1891 – “Anton Rimpler has transferred his stock of goods from the room in the Thiel Block, which he has occupied so many years, into the fine new room in the block he has completed. His new quarters are ample in size and built with a view adapting them to the present needs.”
Rimpler, who was school clerk when the brick high school was built on the triangle in 1894 and served as president of the St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church congregation for many years, put in a new glass front in 1903 and leased the space to Frederick and Charles Nickodem (Nickodem Bros.) in 1905.
The brothers purchased the building in January 1907 for a whopping $7,000 (Deeds, Volume 67, Page 344). Rimpler died in June 1907.
Charles Nickodem came to America in 1883 and worked eight years as section foreman in the Antigo and Rhinelander area for the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad.
Fred Nickodem came to America in 1880, lived in Pennsylvania for one year, came to Princeton and worked in Edward Reetz’s harness shop. He began working as a clerk in Silas Eggleston’s store at 535 West Water Street in 1893. After clerking for two years, he and his brother bought an interest in the business and formed a partnership with Eggleston that lasted six years before the Nickodems bought out Eggleston and moved their stock three doors west to the Rimpler block.
Princeton Republic, Feb. 14, 1901 – “The firm of S.M. Eggleston & Co. has been dissolved, the Nickodem brothers having purchased Mr. Eggleston’s interest in the stock of goods. They have leased the building of Mr. Eggleston and will continue business in the old stand.”
Princeton Republic, Sept. 1905 – “The store now occupied by Nickodem Bros. will soon be vacated by them, and a stock company will be formed to conduct a general merchandise business in that building. Anyone having $100 or upward to invest in a good thing, with no chance of loss, which is guaranteed, will do well to call and see me and secure further particulars. – S.M. Eggleston.”
After relocating from the old stone building at 535 West Water, the Nickodems’ new general store at 545 West Water became one of Princeton’s most popular businesses.
Princeton Republic, Feb. 15, 1900 – “Nickodem Bros. are having a good run of business. One of our citizens counted over eighty people in their store at one time one day last week.”
Princeton Republic, August 25, 1910 – “Free talking and moving picture show on street in front of our store Tuesday, Aug. 30th, 1910. Nickodem Bros.”
I am confused about the Nickodem family business changes reported below, though we know for certain the store was commonly referred to as Nickodems’ into the 1930s.
Princeton Republic, Jan. 29, 1914 – “The firm name of Nickodem Bros. has recently been changed. This firm has been in business for a large number of years and have enjoyed a large patronage. Chas., the junior member, saw fit to retire from active business so sold out to Stanley Nickodem, a son of Fred, the senior member. The latter being with the firm for the past number of years has gained wide experience in the general merchandise business. Has also gained during his business career many friends for his good treatment to their patrons and for his excellent behavior, honesty and character. Chas., the retiring member, has during his business life gained friends and acquaintances by whom he was highly thought of for his pleasing manner and treatment. The new firm will hereafter be known as F. Nickodem & Son.”
Princeton Republic, March 2, 1922 – “Nickodem Bros., who for the past 27 years conducted a general merchandise business in this city dissolved partnership last week and the junior member became sole owner of the institution and will conduct the business in the same lines in the future. Fred Nickodem, the retiring member, will withhold from any business venture for the present and is undecided as to the nature of business he will enter in the future. Fred has during his many years of business life gained a large host of friends and acquaintances who are sorry to see him retire but wish for him success in whatever venture he may undertake at some future date. Chas. Nickodem, the present owner, is well known in this community for his fair and honest dealings and we bespeak for him the same good business the firm has enjoyed throughout their years in the merchandise business.”
According to the deeds, Fred purchased Charles’ former interest in the property in 1923 (Deeds, Volume 73, Page 395).
Princeton Republic, Feb. 8, 1923 – “In a deal recently consummated between the firm name Nickodem Bros., the senior member, Fred Nickodem, became the sole owner of their store building. The deal came to a close last Friday of last week. The new owner went to Milwaukee last Tuesday morning to purchase a new stock of merchandise and upon arrival of the goods Mr. Nickodem will continue in business as before. He extended the information that his stock will consist of staple goods mostly.”
Fred Nickodem operated the store until he died in July 1930 at age 72. Charles worked as a gardener at Lawsonia for 12 years and passed in February 1935 at age 75.
The Nickodem family kept the store open for a time, rented it to a canning company as a bean snipping site and sold their final stock of goods to Hyman Swed in November 1933. The lot and building, in bankruptcy, returned to the Rimpler family (Deeds, Volume 96, Page 616).
Before moving on, we should also note that the upstairs rooms of the Nickodem building were used for many years as home to the local American Legion post and Auxiliary.
Princeton Republic, March 16, 1933 – “A free circulating library has been opened at the Legion rooms above Nickodem’s store.”
The library moved to 427 West Water Street in March 1934.
Arthur Klotzbuecher moved into the building at 545 West Water in 1936.
Princeton Republic, May 14, 1936 – “Arthur H. Klotzbuecher, of Oshkosh, took possession of the Rimpler building, formerly the Nickodem store, and will open a bakery within the next few days. Mr. Klotzbuecher has 18 years’ experience in the business and comes very highly recommended as a first-class baker in all its branches. The interior of the building has been neatly repainted and presents a fine appearance. Mr. Klotzbuecher has a wife and two children.”
Princeton Republic, May 28, 1936 – “The new baker, Arthur H. Klotzbuecher, opened for business last Saturday. He is located in the Rimpler building directly west of the Megow meat market.”
The official grand opening of Princeton Home Bakery was held July 3 and July 4 and featured maple walnut cake with seven-minute boiled icing. The Klotzbuechers’ bakery sold the popular Just Rite Bread.
Noel Rimpler sold the building and lot at 545 West Water to Wallace Brooks in November 1938 (Deeds, Volume 103, Page 121).
Princeton Times-Republic, April 14, 1949 – “A deal was closed Monday by which Earl Okey of Plainfield succeeded Arthur Klotzbuecher as the new owner of the baking business established by the latter thirteen years ago. “
Princeton Times-Republic, April 10, 1958 – “The Princeton Home Bakery owned by Earl Okey has been sold to Joe Demler from Oshkosh. The new owners took over Monday, April 7. Mr. Demler has been in the bakery business for over 30 years.”
Brooks, who farmed in the town of St. Marie, owned the building until he passed in 1965. His heirs sold the west 24 feet of Lot 25 to real estate agent Paul Coil in February 1971 (Deeds, Volume 235, Page 223).
Moving east …
541 West Water Street
Lot 25 was included in the parcels that Henry Treat sold to Waldo Flint in June 1850 (Deeds, Volume C, Page 334. Flint sold a parcel beginning 20 feet west of the northeast corner of the lot to Isaac Hayes for $30 in August 1850 (Deeds, Volume C, Page 561), who lost $5 when he sold to William Smith for $25 in October 1850 (Deeds, Volume C, Page 558).
Ira Sherman purchased Lot 25 and other parcels from Marquette County at auction for delinquent taxes in May 1857 (Deeds, Volume O, Page 26).
Sherman sold the parcel about in the middle of Water Lot 25 to Princeton pioneer businessman Silas Eggleston for $140 in May 1858 (Deeds, Volume P, Page 519). Eggleston built a frame building on the 21-foot-wide lot.
The history of early Princeton published by the Princeton Republic in 1869 recounts the building’s start: “The fourteenth building in the line of business progression was put up by the indefatigable Silas M. Eggleston in ’58 or ’59, who, like Banquo’s ghost, would not (back) down at the bidding of sturdy opposition. The principal business carried on for perhaps a year, could best be gathered by the traveler as he closely scrutinized a moderately sized sign, groundwork dark green, upon which were traced in backwoods characters of a brownish yellow ochre, the words, ‘Princeton saloon,’ honestly reminding those who were green enough to enter, that they would come hence, ‘done brown.’ Soon after he purchased a small stock of goods at Portage, and has continued in the dry goods, grocery, crockery and notions trade, doing a remarkably successful business until now. Something over a year ago A.C., son of A.G. Hopkins, Esq., of the hardware firm of Hopkins & Son, of this village, became a partner with Eggleston, the firm name being Eggleston & Hopkins. They now have one of the largest stocks in town and are doing a driving business.”
Eggleston sold the property to Herman E. Megow for $900 in May 1881 (Deeds, Volume 41, Page 203).
Megow arrived in Princeton in 1873 and set up a barber shop in the Hubbard block at the southeast corner of Water and Washington streets. He patented a hair restoration product and was involved in the family cranberry business based in Berlin. He was in at least two other Water Street shops before buying Eggleston’s building.
Princeton Republic, May 19, 1881 – “Si Eggleston proposes to go out of the mercantile business for the present, at least, having sold his building to H.E. Megow, and is disposing of the goods he has on hand.”
Princeton Republic, May 19, 1881 – “Megow, since his purchase of Si Eggleston’s building, is having the same thoroughly fixed over with new front and other improvements that will make the old building look almost new.”
Princeton Republic, June 23, 1881 – “H. Megow has moved into his building and is settling down to business ‘under his own vine and fig tree.’”
Princeton Republic, July 14, 1881 – “Otto Giese has moved his stock of jewelry into Megow’s room.”
Princeton Republic, March 30. 1882 – “Carl Worm has secured shop room in Megow’s establishment, so we learn.”
Princeton Republic, March 12, 1885 – “W.J. Frank will soon move his stock of groceries to Megow’s building for the present. The building to be erected by the Mueller Bros. requires that Frank vacate the premises he now occupies.”
Megow, meanwhile, continued to offer his services as a barber, moving to 523 West Water in 1885.
Princeton Republic, June 11, 1885 – “H.E. Megow has moved his barber shop into the rooms recently occupied by Chris Hunold. The place has been re-painted, newly papered and otherwise fitted up till it is as neat as a palace.”
Megow, it seems, was in the middle of a career change.
Princeton Republic, June 10, 1886 – “H.E. Megow proposes to establish a business as an artist.”
Princeton Republic, August 19, 1886 – “H.E. Megow has been some some fine work lately in enlarging photographs. He displays much artistic skill in that direction with the pencil. One he has completed for a brother in Iowa is excellent.”
Princeton Republic, Dec. 16, 1886 – “Herman Megow has sold his barber shop to Otto Maulick and purchased the photo gallery of A.H. Noyes. Herman is conquering the mysteries of art, and in connection with his skill in wielding the brush will make the business flourish.”
Princeton Republic, April 28, 1887 – “Herman Megow has suspended a sign over the street that is conspicuous enough to arrest the attention of any person wanting photographs.”
Princeton Republic, May 3, 1888 – “H.E. Megow has fitted up rooms in his building over Frank’s grocery for his photograph business and is moving into them today.”
J. Michel moved his stock of dry goods into the Megow building in November 1890. The Strauss & Kaun Feather Renovating Co. located in the Megow building in 1894 “with one of the latest improved machines for cleaning all kinds of feathers.”
Princeton Republic, April 25, 1895 – “Phillips & Hartwell, of Germania, have opened a farm implement house in the Megow building, where they will show samples of all kinds of farm machinery, buggies, etc.”
Princeton Republic, July 29, 1897 – “A ‘department store’ will be opened up in Megow’s block soon. All kinds of farmer’s produce will be taken in exchange for goods.”
Megow made major changes to his building in 1898, including the addition of a third story.
Princeton Republic, June 9, 1898 – “H.E. Megow making improvements on his property on Water Street.”
Princeton Republic, July 14, 1898 – “H.E. Megow is making a convenient second story to that business room he is building.”
Princeton Republic, August 5, 1898 – “Herman Megow will have his photo gallery nearer the sun than others, viz: in the third story.”
Princeton Republic, Oct. 6, 1898 – “W.C. Baxter, of Oshkosh, leased H.E. Megow’s photography gallery.”
O.J. Weiss moved his stock of jewelry and other goods into the new block, along with Mrs. Weiss’ stock of millinery and the express office operated by Miss Gustin.
Princeton Republic, Feb. 16, 1899 – “The firm of O.J. Weiss & Co. is now Weinkauf & Co. Weiss and G.A. Weinkauf were partners. Will Whittemore will be employed by G.A. Weinkauf and will be located in Weinkauf & Co. jewelry store.”
Princeton Republic, Jan. 30, 1902 – “G.A. Weinkauf moved from Megow’s block and is now located in Wm. Schade’s block and will continue with general line of hardware, jewelry, musical instruments, etc.”
The Picus brothers opened The Fair Store in Megow’s block in May 1903.
Princeton Republic, May 21, 1903 – “A second-hand store has been opened in Megow’s building. They will buy hides, pelts and furs, also all kinds of scrap iron, metal rags, rubber, etc. as well as buy all kinds of second-hand goods.”
The Fair Store relocated to the 600 block in 1903. W.W. Wilson opened a shoe store at 541 West Water in October 1903.
A series of saloons followed.
Princeton Republic, March 10, 1904 – “Emil Klawitter is fitting up the Megow building preparatory to opening a saloon. It is expected that it will be open for business Saturday night.”
The Village Board in July 1904 accepted the $200 bond of E.A. Lueck to operate a saloon in the Megow block.
Princeton Republic, August 8, 1907 – “We understand that H.E. Megow is contemplating moving his building back so that it will be in line with other buildings on Water Street.”
The Village Board transferred the saloon license from H.E. Megow to J.F. Frost in March 1911.
Princeton Republic, June 14, 1917 – “Joseph Frost who has been in the saloon business for the past several years and located in the Megow building, will discontinue at the expiration of June 30.”
Princeton Republic, Oct. 21, 1920 – “Mrs. (William) Megow, of Washington, D.C., was an arrival the latter part of last week and is a visitor with her relatives, Judge and Mrs. H.E. Megow. Last evening at the Nickodem store she delivered a speech before a large and interested audience on socialism. Mrs. Megow is an able and fluent speaker and holds the interest of her listeners to the finish.”
Prohibition ended the building’s days as a saloon.
Princeton Republic, May 20, 1920 – “H.A. Megow, who has recently moved his meat market into the building of his father, is sparing no efforts toward making the shop fully equipped and neat in appearance. He is making daily improvements and when completed and newly painted will have one of the finest shops in this section of the state.”
Princeton native “Ham” Megow had resigned his position with Chris Hennig’s meat market in October 1903 and later gone west, visiting Wyoming and Colorado for six months and then settling in Denver.
Princeton Republic, March 30, 1916 – “Mr. and Mrs. Herman Megow, who have been residing at Denver, Colorado, for the past several years, returned here last week to again make Princeton their home. Mr. Megow, who is a butcher by trade and has followed that profession for the past number of years has acquired an enviable knowledge. He is now engaged at the People’s Meat Market.”
Princeton Republic, Feb. 19, 1920 – “At a meeting of the Princeton Meat Market Association last Saturday afternoon it was decided by the members to sell their entire shares of stock to Herman Megow Jr. Herman was employed by the association as manager and head butcher and has held that responsible position for the pas four years. He has considerable experience in that line not alone in Princeton, but larger cities throughout the country.”
Princeton Republic, May 6, 1920 – “Julius Schalow, Edw. Hardell and Gustav Schultz, owners of the building wherein the H.A. Megow meat market is conducted was sold recently to Wm. Schwenzer, who will occupy same in the near future with his pool and billiard hall. H.A. Megow will move his meat market into the building of his father one door east of the Nickodem Bros. store building.”
Herman E. Megow sold the property he had invested so much time and money into over the last 55 years to his son, Herman A., in January 1936 (Deeds, Volume 82, Page 238). The terms were “$25 and $25 each and every month beginning on the first day of February 1936 until the death of the party of the first part and upon his death to pay to his estate the sum of $1,000.”
Judge H.E. Megow passed away in Milwaukee in May 1938. “He was a public-spirited man, always working for the betterment of the community in which he lived,” the obituary in the Republic noted. “Familiarly known as Judge Megow, he had the distinction of holding the office of justice of the peace for fifty years. He was also president of the Princeton school board for ten years.”
Meanwhile, Herman A. Megow was growing Ham’s Market from a thriving enterprise into one of Princeton’s all-time iconic businesses.
When the Princeton Times published a Progress edition in December 1936, it noted that Megow had been in the meat market business for 22 years. “Home-smoked meats are one of Mr. Megow’s leading specialties,” the newspaper noted, “and custom-smoking of hams, shoulders and bacon forms an important branch of the business. Ham’s Market is also noted for its old country style Zuiebel Wurst, Met Wurst and Brauschweiger Liver Wurst.”
Princeton Times-Republic, Oct. 30, 1941 – “Ham Megow was favored with a full-page write-up in the October issue of Meat Merchandising, which is circulated among meat dealers all over the nation.”
Princeton Times-Republic, March 19, 1942 – “We understand that Ham Megow is the only Princeton man who ever walked on water. This he actually accomplished at a Fourth of July celebration here many years ago when he succeeded in walking across the river with the aid of tin pontoons fastened to his feet. The tin boats were made by a local tinsmith.”
Princeton Republic, Sept. 24, 1931 – “Albert Zabel, who for 15 years has been an outstanding photographer in the south half of Green Lake County with his studio located in Markesan, has leased the gallery and has come to Princeton to make his home and establish himself in the photograph business.”
Brown Studios of Portage took over the Albert Zabel Photo Studio in September 1937.
Princeton Times-Republic, Feb. 25, 1943 – “Arthur Marwitz announces the re-opening of the photo studio in the Megow building, over Megow’s Market, formerly operated by Albert Zabel.”
Princeton Times-Republic, March 7, 1946 – “Julius Krug, newly appointed Secretary of Interior, is partial to Ham’s famous sugar cured and hickory smoked bacon, according to his father, Julius Krug Sr., who is a frequent business visitor here in Princeton and invariably calls at Ham’s market to secure some of his delicious bacon for his son. He called last week and secured a couple slabs to send to his son at Washington. Julius Jr., in his college days and later while employed at Madison, was a frequent Princeton visitor, hunting and fishing in this territory.”
Herman A. Megow retired in 1953 and passed the meat market to his son, Norman.
“Princeton Times-Republic, Jan. 8, 1953 – “H. A. Megow, one of the old-timers among Princeton businessmen, announced the sale of his market on Tuesday to his son, Norman H. Megow, of Superior. Ham, as he has long been known, has been operating his market for the past 37 years in Princeton. Before that time he was in the meat market business in other communities, having started in the business in 1900 to give him 53 years at the trade. Norman Megow, who is now operating the shop, comes from the management of a market in Superior.”
Princeton Times-Republic, Dec. 16, 1965 – “Herman Megow had some repair work done to his three-story building on Water Street. The wrought-iron railing which graced the front of the upper story of the building is again in its place. The railing was made in 1898 by Ham’s uncle Frank Megow who lived in Iowa.”
Princeton Times-Republic, June 16, 1966 – “Norman Megow, owner of HAM’s Market, one of Princeton’s oldest and most established business firms, will close his doors within the next week or ten days, according to a statement released Tuesday. Megow said that he could no longer operate his business profitably, and that he had taken a job with Eaton’s Market in Green Lake.”
Princeton Times-Republic, May 23, 1974 – “Riverwood Antiques, located on the farm of Cy Colacino for the past five years, has moved to the old HAM Megow building, 541 Water St., Princeton. After standing idle for many years, furnished only with its memories of the past, this picturesque and historic building will once again open its doors in welcome to the public. Since the decision to move the shop was a sudden one, the building has been neither remodeled or redecorated, but stands with its scars of time and progress exposed. … Riverwood Antiques, operated by Mrs. Delores Colacino and her son Dan, will carry a full general line of antiques and collectibles with primatives and furniture a specialty. The grand opening will be tomorrow, Friday, May 24th.”
When the City Council discussed the problem in November 1994, members were told it would cost $10,000 to raze the building. Back taxes amounted to $1,800. A new organization, PRIDE in Princeton, led by Deby Greenwald, stepped up and led the effort to raise money to purchase the property, raze the building and develop a “village green.”
The city in March 1995 agreed to pay to take down the building, haul it away and cover the tipping fees with Partnership 21, which paid the back taxes, organizing the project.
The building was torn down on May 2, 1995. About 100 people watched, according to the local newspaper.
“At 4:30 p.m., the back hoe that was parked in the front of the building was positioned to the side of the building to stabilize it,” the Times-Republic reported. “Then the front door was kicked open so that an old dry sink could be removed. The sink will be made into a planter for the new village green. At 4:34 p.m. the demolition began. A cloud of dust rose as the sound of glass shattering and crashing down accompanied it. The crowd depicted looks of anticipation, sadness, happiness, and amazement as they watched the building come down a section at a time. At 4:50 p.m., one-half of the building was a pile of debris on the ground.
“Getting the second half down was quite tricky. As the shovel took its next bite, the building shook in protest. The back hoe shovel was driven down to compact the debris so the machine could line up for its next target spot. … At 5:27 p.m, the support back hoe repositioned itself to hold the corner of the building front which was all that was left standing. The main back hoe cleared debris and moved into position. The building tilted to the left and swayed back, and the crowd took a deep breath. The front back hoe went to work tearing the building ever so carefully away from the one next to it. At 5:45 p.m., the last of the building crashed to the ground as the crowd cheered.”
Moving east …
539 West Water Street
It’s a little piece of paradise amid the hustle and bustle of Water Street. A respite from the noise and hubbub of a busy city street.
OK, so maybe I am exaggerating slightly. Water Street isn’t all that busy most days, and our merchants would welcome a little hubbub, I’m sure.
Still, I stand by my description of Megow Park as a slice of paradise. It is a beautifully landscaped green space maintained by the Megow family that occupies over half of Water Lot 25. There are two small gazebos, a winding brick trail, memorials to a couple of well-known local families, seating for a quick meal from a nearby restaurant and a bench with a relaxing view of the river and marshland beyond. Plus, you can see the neighboring Nickodem building’s stone east wall built in 1891 and better appreciate the work that went into its construction.
While the three-story frame building that stood at 541 West Water is best known as the Megow building to local historians, the building at 539 West Water was also a Megow building.
The history of early Princeton published by the Princeton Republic in 1869 provides our first description of the history of the parcel’s development: “In the summer of 1850*, the building now owned and occupied as saloon and residence by August Mueller on Water Street was put up by P.M. Knapp, who occupied it a short time for a grocery, when it passed into the possession of Daniel and Hiram Loomis, and from them to Edwin D. Baker, of Milwaukee, and afterwards occupied as a saloon or barber shop by several parties. S.M. Eggleston commenced his prosperous mercantile career in this building, with a small stock, in the saloon business. The next owner and occupant was Elijah Clark, keeping a saloon part of the time, but soon sold it to Frederick Sommerfeldt, who moved it back and put up a new front, using it in the meantime as a saloon and residence. Sometime in ’64 or ’65, Sommerfeldt died, the widow in the meantime continuing the saloon. She in due time married August Mueller, who has kept up that business to the present time.”
(*Editor’s note: The 1869 history says the building was put up by Philo M. Knapp in the summer of 1850, but I believe that is a typo and should be 1860, based on the chronological order of the listing of Princeton’s first 20 commercial buildings in the 1869 history.)
The east section of Water Lot 25 was included in the parcels that Henry Treat, who purchased the 127.7 acres in Princeton’s original plat in June 1849, sold to Waldo Flint for $350 in June 1850 (Deeds, Volume C, Page 334). Flint sold 20 feet of Water Street frontage west of the northeast corner of Lot 25 to Vincent Goldsmith for $20 in August 1850 (Deeds, Volume D, Page 304).
According to the deeds, Nehemiah Howe sold to G.H. Loomis for in November 1851 (Deeds, Volume D, Page 494). Daniel and George Loomis sold to Edwin Baker for $120 in February 1855 (Deeds, Volume I, Page 337). Baker sold to Elijah Clark for $100 in November 1857 (Deeds, Volume P, Page 232). The property eventually reverted to the county for nonpayment of taxes.
Warning: Long, boring list ahead.
Matthew Wilson submitted the high bid of $60 for the property at a sheriff’s auction in May 1860 (Deeds, Volume T, Page 472). Wilson sold to Frederick Sommerfeldt for $100 in April 1861 (Deeds, Volume T, Page 184). Sommerfeldt’s heirs sold to August Swanke ($900, Deeds, Volume 40, Page 472), who passed the property to Herman Warnke ($900, Deeds, Volume 40, Page 343), who was followed by John Block ($1,000, Deeds, Volume 41, Page 219), then William Schmidt ($400, Deeds, Volume 41, Page 220), then August Swanke ($1,000, Deeds, Volume 44, Page 130), then Bernhard Schultz ($1,000, Deeds, Volume 44, Page 190), then Joseph Shurpit ($600, Deeds, Volume 44, Page 583), then Jacob Bartol ($995, Deeds, Volume 47, Page 104), and then, in December 1890, August Schiefelbein ($1,000, Volume 49, Page 180).
The space was used primarily as saloon and residence during those years. The building housed the real estate office of Pooch & Megow in 1898, and John W. Shew moved his grocery stock there in September 1898.
August Schiefelbein sold to Edward P. Megow, of Cranberry Center, for $1,200 in 1901 (Deeds, Volume 43, Page 537).
Princeton Republic, April 4, 1901 – “E.P. Megow, of Cranberry Center, will erect a two-story frame building, 18×60 feet, where the building now stands which is occupied by J.W. Shew. He will commence work about the 20th of this month.”
I don’t know whether Megow followed through on his plan because if he did, his new building was replaced just six years later. Also, there is no obvious change to the building between the 1898 and 1904 Sanborn fire insurance maps.
Princeton Republic, January 2, 1902 – “Jesse Eggleston has opened a grocery and candy store in the Megow building vacated by John Shew last year. Next door west of Nickodem Bros.” (Editor’s note: The Nickodems were still in the stone building at 535 West Water at this time, not at 545 West Water, which is considered the iconic Nickodem Bros. location.)
Megow was asking $1,375 for the property when he advertised it in the Republic as the “best location in the village” in June 1905. He sold it in April 1907 for $1,000 to Elmer D. Morse (Deeds, Volume 54, Page 566), who sold to Edward Teske Sr. for $1,225 in June 1907 (Deeds, Volume 67, Page 532).
Princeton Republic, August 8, 1907 – “The foundation for the building to be erected by Edw. Teske Sr. on Water Street is about completed and contractor Shew will soon commence the erection of the building. It will be a cement block structure with brick front.”
Mrs. Linda Worm operated her millinery store in the new building as early as 1914 and purchased the property from Teske in November 1921 (Deeds, Volume 83, Page 489). She sold in June 1925 to Hugo Stern for $3,800 (Deeds, Volume 87, Page 103).
Princeton Republic, June 18, 1925 – “In a deal consummated last Tuesday … Mr. Stern in turn bought the property of Mrs. Linda Worm wherein she conducts her millinery business on Water Street. … Mr. Stern will take over his newly acquired property about the first of July and arrange it for his jewelry store on the first floor and for dwelling on the second floor.”
Stern occupied the building for nearly 25 years.
Princeton Times-Republic, June 3, 1949 – “Hugo Stern announces that he has engaged Mr. and Mrs. Fred Stelter to operate his jewelry store which he has conducted for the past 25 years. Mr. Stelter is a jeweler of many years’ experience. He learned the trade in Germany and prior to coming to this country about a year ago, was engaged in the jewelry business in Leiden, Holland, for fifteen years. … Mr. Stern started to learn the jewelry business under Lee Whittemore about 36 years ago. He later attended a watchmaker’s school in Milwaukee.”
Princeton Times-Republic, Jan. 4, 1951 – “Fred Stelter exercised his option to purchase ‘Rusty’ Stern’s building on Water Street. The building which houses the Stelter Jewelry Store was purchased for an undisclosed sum.”
Ralph Hartman took over the Stelter Jewelry Store in January 1953.
Princeton Times-Republic, Jan. 28, 1953 – “Fred Stelter announced the sale of his jewelry business in Princeton this week to Ralph Hartman, of Cato, Wis. The Hartmans took possession early this week. Ralph is an experienced watchmaker and has studied the trade at the vocation school in Milwaukee and comes to Princeton with five and half years experience with the same jeweler in Milwaukee. … The Stelters plan on leaving Feb. 7 for an extended visit to California. They will probably settle in a warmer climate.”
Thus ends our survey of the first 100 years (1848-1948) of Water Lot 25, with a few extra years thrown in for good measure!
Princeton Times-Republic, Jan. 18, 1962 – “Ralph Hartman, of Hartman’s Jewelry, has announced plans to move his store on February 1st to a new location on Water St., a portion of the Handcraft building which formerly houses the Bartol Insurance Agency, and the Princeton Post Office prior to that. The 18′ x 54′ office area is undergoing a complete remodeling job inside as well as a new store front. … The jewelry store is presently located in a building owned by Fred Stelter, Artesia, Calif., and has been located in that spot for the past nine years.”
Princeton Times-Republic, March 3, 1966 – “Joe Wilsey, owner of Wilsey’s Discount Furniture, announced this week that he is now moved into his new quarters on the north side of Water Street, next to the Olson Skogmos Store. He is in the Dreblow building formerly occupied by Skogmos and a soft-water firm. Wilsey was formerly in the Stelter building on the opposite side of the street.”
Wilsey was followed at 537 by the Wisconsin Gas Company.
Princeton Times-Republic, Feb. 5, 1970 – “The Princeton office of Wisconsin Gas Company, which has been in operation since 1966, closed February 1. The office was located at 537 West Water Street.”
In September 1985 the City Council discussed problems at “the old piano tuner shop,” Bud’s Piano Shop, at 537 West Water Street: “Due to the vermin in that building, the council is seeking someone to board up the windows and doors, and to cut the weeds in the back.”
Princeton Times-Republic, Dec. 10, 1987 – “The building next to the Lehner Law Office, downtown Princeton, was razed by Leon Petraszak of Berlin on Tuesday, Dec. 8. It has housed the Worm Millinery Shop, Hugo Stern’s Jewelry, Hartman’s Jewelry, WI. Gas Co. and finally Bo’s Piano Store. Green Lake County acquired and took deed of the building on Aug. 14, 1986, as a result of Robert and Helen Michaelis of Mentone, CA, who were delinquent on their taxes. The lot is for sale.”
The property became part of Megow Park after the former Herman E. Megow building was demolished in 1995. A gazebo built by Princeton High School students was added in 1999.
Please let me know if you have any corrections or can fill in any gaps in the survey.
Thank you for reading and caring about local history.