My initial survey of the first 150 years of the Water Street business district, 1849-1999, focused on the 400, 500 and 600 blocks, but a couple of people recently gently nudged me to add the 700 block, which includes Water Lots 15-18 on the south side and the small triangle lot on the north side.
The 700 block in 2022 includes only three commercial buildings: the office/residence/garage at 711 West Water Street, a bank at 705 West Water Street and the visitor center at 708 West Water. They were all built in the 20th century and replaced, in my opinion, more interesting buildings erected in the 19th century.
For our discussion, because the property boundaries changed over the years, it is easiest to divide the 700 block on the south side of Water Street into “east” (Lot 18 and eastern slice of 17) and “west” (Lot 16, west section of 17 and east parcel of Lot 15).
The east section was home to Princeton’s first blacksmith shop, a marble shop and the Lichtenberg stockyards over the years. Today it is home to the MC Publishing Company building at 711 West Water Street.
The west section was home to the Princeton Hotel, a marble shop and an auto garage over the years. Today it is home to the National Exchange Bank at 705 West Water Street.
The good news is there was only one plaque (705 West Water Street) to verify on the mistake-prone City of Princeton Historical Walking Tour, and it came up clean because it says so little about the past owners. It failed to include John Pahl’s historic Princeton Hotel and the Lichtenberg Bros. school bus operation, for example, in its summary.
John S. Pahl arrived in Princeton from Prussia in 1864 and returned to the fatherland two years later to recruit more family members to join him.
He purchased Water Lots 16 and 17 from William Schlender for $282 in August 1867 (Deeds, Vol. 27, Page 632).
When it became available in 1871 for nonpayment of taxes, Pahl purchased the east half of Water Lot 15 from Green Lake County for 74 cents (Deeds, Vol. 32, Page 331).
(Waldo Flint sold the west half of Lot 15, along with east half of Lot 14, for $54.67 to the Sheboygan & Fond du Lac Railroad, which ran track almost to the riverbank on 15 in 1872.)
Pahl purchased Lot 18 from Thomas Rose for $100 in May 1881 (Deeds, Volume 41, Page 200), completing his stretch of property from the west end of Water Street at Main Street to Gottlieb Luedtke’s wagon shop.
I could not find Pahl in the 1870 census, but he lists his occupation as dry goods merchant in the 1880 census.
I must digress here for a moment to challenge another Old Princeton tale. The Princeton Times-Republic states in a couple of articles in the 1930s and ’40s that Pahl traded heavily with American Indians at his store and was an early fur trader here. Those things are likely true, but I believe Pahl (like Silas Eggleston, another pioneer that oral traditions link to a mythical trading post by the bridge) primarily did business with the Indians at the stone building at 535 West Water Street, which he purchased from Eggleston in 1877 and sold back to him in 1891, not at 711 West Water.
Back to our story …
Pahl expanded his holdings in 1886.
Princeton Republic, Thursday, April 1, 1886 – “Tim Paull commenced moving Gus. Krueger’s building (524 West Water Street) this week to make room for that new brick and stone block. John Pahl has purchased the Krueger building and when it ceases moving it will permanently rest on his property below G. Luedtke’s wagon shops.”
Princeton Republic, June 10, 1886 – “J.S. Pahl is laying the foundation for an addition to his building east of the bridge. We learn hardware stock will be put in the building.”
Pahl and fellow early pioneer August Swanke became boat owners in 1887.
Princeton Republic, March 24, 1887 – “The steamboat Ellen Hardy has again changed hands, and from her owners at Portage, the title passed into the hands of Messrs. Swanke and Pahl of this village on Tuesday last.”
The Ellen Hardy had made its first trip to Princeton in 1884.
“She is owned by Portage parties and will make regular trips from Portage to Oshkosh each week and return,” the newspaper reported on May 1, 1884. “She has been thoroughly overhauled and refitted for the present season’s work. She is a stern-wheeler propelled by two engines of 30 horsepower each. She is 122 feet long, 22 feet beam, and her registered tonnage is 132. When loaded she draws only about 20 inches of water. She is admirably calculated for river business.”
The Ellen Hardy was one of the river’s busier steamboats for the next few years. It carried wheat, lumber, granite and other freight. It was also used for pleasure excursions to Berlin, Montello, Marquette and elsewhere.
Princeton Republic, April 14, 1887 – “The Ellen Hardy steamed up the river Tuesday from Berlin to Princeton and was formally and legally passed into the hands of Swanke & Pahl, who are now sole owners.”
The Princeton duo’s time as ship captains ended quickly. I believe but am less than certain Swanke was sole owner when the boat met its demise.
Princeton Republic, May 3, 1888 – “We briefly stated last week that the steamer Ellen Hardy had run aground above the ‘Bend,’ on her way to Portage. The rumor we then published proved too true. Every effort was made to get the boat off by capstan, but it could not be started. The government boat, Boscobel, came up Sunday and tried to pull the Ellen Hardy off, but without avail. The steamer lays about its length out of the channel, and of course the continual receding of the water only makes matters worse. We hear this morning that Tim Paull will commence raising the boat with jackscrews, and she will be pulled into the channel again on timbers placed under the hull. … We hope Mr. Swanke will soon get his boat not only to running again soon, but secure oceans of business to make up for the loss of time and money spent in getting out of this streak of bad luck.”
It was not to be.
Princeton Republic, Dec. 13, 1888 – “The steamer Ellen Hardy has been completely dismantled of her cabins, decks, boiler and engine, and will be metamorphosed into a barge, and that closes the history of the Ellen Hardy as a steamboat.”
Back on land, Pahl’s buildings filled various needs.
Princeton Republic, Sept. 11, 1890 – “Allen and Potter have opened an art gallery near John Pahl’s building at the foot of Water Street.”
Princeton Republic, Feb. 19, 1891 – “Our public school has increased lately from the fact that no Catholic school is being taught. The addition in the number of pupils leaves the room, accommodation, and quota of teachers inadequate to meet such an exigency. The board wisely resolved last week to hire another room and consequently have secured a very good one in John S. Pahl’s building near the bridge and have hired Miss Margey Pries to take charge of the pupils sent to the new department.”
Princeton Republic, Feb. 19, 1891 – “A. Ziebell & Co. is the name of the new cigar manufacturing firm in Princeton. Their factory is in John Pahl’s building and will make several brands of goods.”
After selling the stone building at 535 West Water back to Silas Eggleston in 1891, Pahl moved his entire operation to lower Water Street.
Pahl established the Princeton Hotel, aka Princeton House, about 1893.
“This hotel is one of the most popular in the village, which is due to the fact that its owner, J.S. Pahl, is a gentleman of great sociability,” A.I. Lord reported in 1897 in the “Industrial Review of Princeton, Wisconsin. “He has lived in this county for many years where he has been engaged in both farming and steamboating. His hotel contains some twenty rooms and the table provides all to satisfy the hunger of man. Capt. Pahl also owns and conducts a general store. He is widely known over this and neighboring counties.”
Early maps show Mechanics Street running to the Fox River through Lot 18, but the village did not initially extend the street south of Water Street to the river. That decision and changes to the lot boundaries caused headaches for decades to come.
Henry Treat, who owned the land east of the Fox River in Princeton’s original plat, sold Lot 18 and part of Lot 19 to Rodulphus Burgit for $60 in April 1850 (Deeds, Volume C, Page 416).
The property passed through the hands of Burgit, John Moshar, Andrew Sharp and in 1854 Samuel Morse.
Morse and his wife, Caroline, arrived in Cottage Grove, Wisconsin, from Madison, New York, in 1848. They moved to the Princeton area in 1849, according to Morse’s obituary (Princeton Republic, Sept. 5, 1889), and squatted on Indian Lands west of the Fox River and about a mile north of Treat’s Landing (Princeton), building a log cabin without doors or windows and beginning to clear land.
According to the “Portrait and Biographical Album of Green Lake, Marquette and Waushara Counties, Wisconsin,” published in 1890 by Acme Publishing Company, in 1850 some of the village residents “induced Mr. Morse to establish a blacksmith shop there, which he did, selling his farm and removing his family to the town.”
The Princeton Times published a “Progress Number” in December 1936 that included the reflections of 82-year-old Silas Morse, one of Samuel’s sons: “Mr. Morse’s father, Samuel Morse, built the first blacksmith shop in Princeton. Supplies were hauled from Milwaukee by team. His blacksmith shop was located on the site now occupied by the Erich Mueller implement warehouses. He did his first blacksmithing in Princeton under a tree on the west side of the river. Shoeing oxen (there were no horses in the country at that time), building heavy sleighs and wagons, and the manufacture of breaking plows made his blacksmith shop one of the busiest spots in the settlement.”
One key sentence in that summary is incorrect and has been repeated multiple times in local histories: “He did his first blacksmithing in Princeton under a tree on the west side of the river.”
His obituary, however, tells us the real story: “In the spring of 1849 they came to Princeton, although at that time there was not a house where this village now stands, and settled on the farm now owned by Frank Scovel (about a mile north of Princeton on County Road D), where under the leafy shade of an old oak tree Mr. Morse put up a forge and opened the first blacksmith shop in this vicinity. After one year they moved to the village when Mr. Morse, in company with R.P. Rawson, followed the blacksmith work, making the first plows used in this part of the country.”
Morse purchased the Water Street property, where he did his blacksmithing on the east side of the river, for $100 in December 1854 (Deeds, Volume 34, Page 248). He sold the blacksmith business about 1863 when he moved his family, which grew to include nine sons, to a farm south of town and the Water Street property to Thomas Rose for $300 in January 1874 (Deeds, Volume 40, Page 468).
When Morse passed in August 1889, the six pall bearers were among Princeton’s oldest residents and represented collectively 467 years, or an average of almost 78 years each.
“Thus another of those who were among the first to follow the winding paths which led from civilization out across unbroken plains and trackless forests, facing all the privations and hardships incident to pioneer life, has crossed over to that unexplored future the boundaries of which no man can measure,” the Republic noted in his obituary. “They toiled and suffered, that we who follow might enjoy the fruits of their labor. We respect and honor those early settlers, therefore let us bow in reverence over the graves of those who have gone.”
Rose sold Morse’s former Water Street parcel to Pahl in 1881.
Pahl and wagonmaker Gottlieb Luedtke, a neighbor and in-law, spread out over Lots 17 and 18.
Princeton Republic, Aug. 27, 1897 – “We are to have a new lumber yard in Princeton. Frank Giese has leased grounds of J.S. Pahl fronting on Water and Mechanic streets. The location is conceded to be an excellent one for such business.”
The village opened at least an alley to the river in 1899.
Princeton Republic, Nov. 10, 1899 – “Princeton will soon have a ‘Sheridan drive,’ as there is a large force of men and teams working on the bank of the river, grading a drive from where Mechanic Street terminates at the river, eastward to join Pearl Street. It will take an immense amount of labor to accomplish this work, but when complete it will add much to the convenience of the buildings enclosed by the river, the two streets named, and Water Street, besides giving a much better chance to fight fire should it ever start in the rear of any of these buildings.”
In May 1902 several businessmen presented a petition to the Village Board asking that Mechanic Street be completely open. The board in June tasked a committee of Charles Ellinger, Fred Nickodem, William Freheit and A.E. Ziebell to negotiate with Pahl. The board hoped to buy a part of his land so it could straighten Mechanic Street.
Pahl didn’t want to sell, and he wasn’t the only problem. In July 1904 the board told the village clerk to notify Luedtke to remove all his obstructions from Mechanic Street adjoining his property or the village would remove it at his expense.
Pahl passed away in January 1909. The obituary noted he ran a general store and hotel for many years. There was no mention of an Indian trading post.
Pahl bequeathed the east half of Water Lot 15 and all of Lots 16, 17 and 18 to his four children – Theresa (Mueller), Hulda (Mueller), Frederick and Wilhelmina – with the stipulation that his widow, Caroline, receive $5 monthly and use of the east three rooms of the house and the land to the river during her lifetime. (Deeds, Vol. 71, Page 5)
I am unsure how the Pahl property was used from 1909 to 1937.
I believe but am less than certain that Fred Pahl operated the hotel, which the family advertised for lease as early as 1913, with his mother for a time. The 1914 Sanborn fire insurance map shows the Pahl buildings as a vacant store and dwelling. Caroline Pahl died in 1920.
Fred Pahl was the agent for the Princeton Produce Company (Lichtenberg-Blinkiewicz) when it advertised paying cash at the “highest market prices” for eggs and poultry at the “office opposite the Warnke lumber office” in 1921.
Fred sold his share of the property to his sisters for $500 in 1925 (Deeds, Vol. 85, Page 637), and an ad in the March 12, 1925, Republic listed the J.S. Pahl estate for sale. The 1927 Sanborn map lists the buildings as vacant.
The Princeton Produce Company, which later became Lichtenberg Brothers (Carl and Vic), purchased the property in 1937.
Princeton Times-Republic, June 24, 1937 – “A deal was concluded this week whereby the Princeton Produce Co. became the owners of the Pahl property on Water Street near the Shell service station. The building is one of Princeton’s old landmarks and in the early days housed one of the leading trading posts of this section. John Pahl conducted a general trading business, his dealings being largely with Indians and trappers. His lines consisted of staple merchandise of pioneer days, such as blankets, sugar, coffee, candles, etc., and they were traded mostly for furs. The new owners plan to wreck the building in the near future and will use the site as a loading station for livestock, also for the storage of equipment.”
Princeton Times-Republic, July 29, 1937 – “The old building on the Pahl property recently purchased by the Princeton Produce Company has been torn down. … A few more days will write finis to a building that was closely allied with the early activities of Treat’s Landing as a trading center.”
The last of the old Pahl buildings went down in October 1937, and the Lichtenbergs created a stockyard that would prosper throughout the 1940s.
Princeton Times-Republic, Jan. 11, 1940 – “At their new stockyards, the Princeton Produce Company loaded 155 hogs, six head of cattle, and ten calves. There were five truckloads in all. This was the Lichtenbergs’ first big shipment of livestock since they established connections that enable them to pay top cash prizes.”
Princeton Times-Republic, Jan. 9, 1941 – “Princeton has made rapid strides during the past year as a livestock marketing and shipping center. This progress is due not only to the fact that we are within hours of America’s best livestock markets, but also to the aggressiveness of our buyers and shippers. A year ago this month, Lichtenberg Brothers opened their stockyards and started operating as buyers, delivering direct to the Oscar Mayer Packing Co. at Madison. Their business has grown by leaps and bounds. During the year they bought and shipped 16,587 head of stock.”
Princeton Times-Republic, Oct. 23, 1941 – “The largest shipment of livestock every made from Princeton was completed last Thursday when Lichtenberg Brothers finished loading 142 head of white-faced cattle purchased from Ferdinand Pansie of Oshkosh. Fifty head averaged 1,000 pounds and 92 head averaged 800 pounds. It required two days to lead and ship the bunch, and they brought their owner $13,000. Several bidders competed for this fine shipment of stock, which finally went to Oscar Mayer of Madison.”
Princeton Times-Republic, Jan. 13. 1944 – “Lichtenberg Brothers livestock buyers and shippers shipped 26,778 head of hogs, cattle, sheep and calves during the past year and paid out a total of $812,947.73. The amount would have been much higher had it not been for hog cholera epidemic which greatly reduced hog shipments during the last part of the summer.”
Princeton Times-Republic, Jan. 4, 1945 – “Lichtenberg Bros. bought and shipped nearly $1 million worth of livestock during yar 1944. … Their operations have reached such a point that the first three days of the week bring more people to town than the average cattle fair day. They get their checks as soon as their stock is weighed and are liberal patrons of local stores.”
Princeton Times-Republic, Aug. 1, 1946 – “John Kasierski shipped 131 premium hogs to the Oscar Mayer packing plant at Madison, Monday. The hogs were shipped through Lichtenberg Brothers and, in value, it was the largest shipment ever made by an individual from this section of the state. The hogs averaged 242 pounds in weight and brought Mr. Kasierski close to $7,000.”
In 1947 the Lichtenbergs purchased a school bus, which that fall became the first bus used to transport Princeton students to and from the public and parochial schools. The fleet grew to four buses, parked on the Water Street property, before the Lichtenbergs sold in 1955 to Harvey Kuehneman. (The drivers were Alden Sauerbreit, Fred Puhl, Fred Wiwienske and Harry Novak.)
The Mechanic Street issue also returned in 1947.
Princeton Republic, August 7, 1947 – “Tuesday night’s council meeting attracted quite a large crowd of businessmen who were concerned in the attempt of one of the council members to compel Lichtenberg Brothers to move one of their stockyard buildings from Mechanic Street. Mechanic is an unused street that runs between the Lichtenberg property and the Mueller Implement Co., and it appears that one side of one of the stockyard buildings, due to a faulty survey, encroaches several feet on the street. A few weeks ago, Lichtenbergs started to make some improvements when they were notified by the city to discontinue until such time as the matter of their encroachment was disposed of. This was disposed of Tuesday night when Alderman Krause introduced a motion granting them temporary permission to use the street until such time as the city needs it. And a committee was appointed by the mayor to take up the question of selling a strip off from the street to LIchtenbergs. A strip off from the same street was sold some time ago to the Mueller Implement Company. The motion introduced by Krause carried by only one dissenting vote, that of Alderman Huenerberg’s. As the meeting opened Alderman Huenerberg introduced a motion to have Lichtenberg’s vacate the street property. This motion failed to get a second and therefore did not come to a vote. Another motion, introduced by Huenerberg to take action in the matter of Lichtenberg’s violating some fire regulations failed to get consideration.”
A group of businessmen attended the meeting and presented petitions with more than 70 signatures supporting the Lichtenbergs and the improvements they had made to the property.
“There were moments when the procedure, with Alderman Huenerberg asking the questions of Carl Lichtenberg, resembled a court hearing rather than an orderly session of a city council seeking to find a friendly solution of the matter under discussion,” the Times-Republic opined.
The Lichtenbergs got out of the livestock business 10 years later, selling their Water Street property, including Lot 18 and the east nine feet of Lot 17 to James Chaffin.
Princeton Times-Republic, March 14, 1957 – “The Lichtenberg Brothers have sold their stockyards and livestock buying business in Princeton to James Chaffin, of Ripon. However, they will continue to operate the business for about 10 days until the new owner takes over. Victor and Carl Lichtenberg have conducted the livestock business for about 25 years. They expect to devote full time in the future to their truck farming operations and pig hatchery to be launched this fall.”
I have been unable to confirm in the newspaper when the stockyard closed, but we know Chaffin sold the property to Martin Priebe in March 1972 (Deeds, Volume 242, Page 415). Priebe operated a livestock trucking business before selling to Pulvermacher Enterprises Inc. (Norman and Alice Pulvermacher) in September 1979 (Deeds, Volume 299, Page 217).
The Pulvermachers also owned a meat locker plant on Main Street and the electrician business formerly owned by Herb Wedell.
Princeton Times-Republic, Oct. 27, 1983 – “The haunted house sponsored by the Princeton Jaycees will open at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, October 27, 1983. … It is located at the old livestock yards on River Street owned by Norman and Alice Pulvermacher.”
Pulvermacher razed the old livestock buildings and erected a two-story building that included commercial and residential spaces. And an old issue resurfaced.
Princeton Times-Republic, Oct. 18, 1984 – “The Princeton City Council spent much of their time discussing the drainage problem caused by the landfill along South Mechanic St. at its Oct. 9 meeting. The landfill was brought in by builder Norman Pulvermacher for his new apartment building on the west side of South Mechanic St. This was done to raise the structure above the Fox River flood plain, explained Alderman Denis Pulvermacher who related his father’s intentions to the council. These were to have the city fill South Mechanic St. to a higher level. If this were done, Pulvermacher would deed over the eastern jog of property which protrudes into South Mechanic St. enabling the city to straighten out the roadway. If the city did not fill the street, then Pulvermacher said he would build a wall on the east side of his property including the protrusion. … Eric Reetz, street commissioner, spoke to the council several times about the need for surveying stakes to mark the old street properly so boundaries could be determined. A survey had been done before, but the stakes had not been left in place.”
The drainage issues were resolved after several meetings with the City Council.
Pulvermacher’s first tenant relocated from the flatiron building at 427 West Water Street/201 Short Street and stayed for nearly a decade.
Princeton Times-Republic, Oct. 25, 1984 – “Green Lake County ASCS office has moved to a new building, located at 711 West Water St., Princeton. The office is located east of Community Savings and Loan, where the old stockyards used to be.”
Princeton Times-Republic, Jan. 14, 1993 – “In a money-saving measure, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will be closing 1,200 field offices nationwide, including the ASCS office in Green Lake County. The Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service office, located in Princeton, will close.”
Princeton Times-Republic, June 9, 1994 – “The dust has yet to settle and the finishing touches yet to be applied at the new headquarters of Green Lake County’s ASCS and SCS, but the two federal conservation field offices are delighted to be together in one location with plenty of room to accommodate their needs.”
In 2022, Mechanic Street runs to the river, and the building that Pulvermacher built on Lots 17 and 18 is home to MC Publishing Company, 711 West Water Street, residential and a garage. I left a message requesting information at the number for the Princeton Performance garage but have not received a reply.
Arthur F. Hennig opened his marble and granite cutting shop just east of the Fox River bridge in fall 1892.
Princeton Republic, May 11, 1893 – “Last fall A. F. Hennig came to Princeton and commenced the business of marble and granite cutting. By dint of energy and fair dealing, he is building up a business which is promising indeed. He has orders for grave stones and monument work that will require weeks of hard labor to fill and could give employment to more help if he could secure the workers.”
The shop burned in September 1896, but Hennig rebuilt as soon as the insurance company came through with enough money for a building of similar size. He sold the business to his brother, Julius “Jules” Hennig, in June 1897 but bought it back in 1904 and continued to operate the Princeton Marble & Granite Works until his death in 1907.
J.E. Hennig resumed the business following Arthur’s death but closed about 1909 when Carl and Andrew Schultz opened their marble and granite shop between Gottlieb Luedtke’s wagon shop and the Princeton Hotel.
Carl and Victor Lichtenberg and their wives in November 1939 sold the east half of Lot 15 and west 13 feet of Lot 16 to Norman and Minnie Drews (Deeds, Volume 103, Page 273), who sold it five days later to Pete and Elda Siekierka for $2,600 (Deeds, Volume 82, Page 290).
Siekierka had purchased the Shell service station on the east end of the Main Street bridge in 1937. (See earlier post, Early Gas Stations, for details.) He erected a garage just east on Water, near where the Hennigs had their marble/granite shop, and in 1940 began to sell Nash cars.
Princeton Times-Republic, Oct. 9, 1941 – “Mr. and Mrs. Pete Siekierka went to Milwaukee Tuesday and brought back two 1942 Nash cars. Pete says he has a waiting list of Nash buyers.”
Siekierka became the local agent for Dodge-Plymouth cars and trucks in 1945. He began work the following spring on an addition to his garage and turned over the keys of the Shell station at the bridge to Fred Radtke.
Princeton Times-Republic, May 2, 1946 – “Work has started on the new addition to the Siekierka garage which will more than double the floor space and provide additional room for the display of cars.”
Princeton Times-Republic, July 18, 1946 – “Pete Siekierka extends an invitation to the public to visit his recently remodeled garage. The new addition more than doubles the floor space and not only provides ample room for showing cars but also makes it possible to handle many more cars in the service department.”
The Lichtenberg Bros. sold Lot 16, except the west 13 feet, and Lot 17, except the east nine feet, to Harvey Kuehneman in September 1957 (Deeds, Volume 143, Pages 566).
Kuehneman also purchased the Siekierka garage in 1959.
Princeton Times-Republic, Sept. 17, 1959 – “Harvey Kuehneman, service station owner-manager of Harve’s Texaco Service Station here in Princeton since 1953, has acquired the Dodge automobile agency and service garage from Peter Siekierka over the past weekend. A longtime citizen of Princeton, Kuehneman took over the establishment Monday, September 14. The agency handles Dodge line cars exclusively. Along with the new car sales, Kuehneman will maintain the service station as well as being D-X gasoline outlet. Besides being the new Dodge dealer in Princeton, Kuehneman operates a fleet of school buses for transporting students to St. John’s Catholic, St. John’s Lutheran and the public schools. He will maintain eight employees in the operation of his business. Sierkierka, second ward alderman, turned over the establishment to Kuehneman after successful operation for over 20 years.”
I do not know when the garage closed. Kuehneman died in August 1972.
I have been told, but have been unable to document, that after Kuehneman the building housed Len’s Auto Repair, Leonard Struck, proprietor, then Dave Krentz’s semi tractor trailer and later excavating equipment for Norm and Don Prachel.
The Community Savings and Loan Association of Fond du Lac applied for authority in December 1978 to establish a branch office near the intersection of Main and Water streets.
In April 1979 Muriel Schmitz, formerly Muriel Kuehneman, sold the east 33 feet of Lot 15, all of Lot 16 and the west 57 feet of Lot 17 to the savings and loan (Deeds, Volume 295, Page 562).
Princeton Times-Republic, July 26, 1979 – “Community Savings and Loan Association of Fond du Lac began construction on July 16 of a branch office building at 705 West Water Street. The 1,500 square foot frame structure was raised on a concrete foundation by Sterling Custom Homes of Fond du Lac, and the general contractor for the construction is Norm Prachel, of Princeton. Completion of the building is scheduled by mid-October, with the branch opening scheduled later that same month. During the next three months the building will be finished with brown brick exterior and brown trim tones.”
Bank One acquired Community Savings and Loan of Fond du Lac in February 1990. The Princeton property passed to Bank One, Fond du Lac, by quit claim in August 1992 (Deeds, Volume 406, Page 528) and from Bank One to American Bank in May 1999 (Deeds, Volume 515, Page 592).
Princeton Times-Republic, May 27, 1999 – “Dale G. Brooks, chairman of the board of American Bank, announced that the acquisition of two new bank offices is complete. Bank offices in Omro and Princeton, previously Bank One locations, were opened to the public on Monday, May 24, as new offices of American Bank.”
That completes our survey of the first 150 years, 1849-1999, of Water Lots 15E-16-17-18, or the south side of the 700 block of Water Street.
The building at 705 West Water in 2022 is home to The National Exchange Bank and Trust office.
If you spot any errors or can fill any gaps, please let me know.
708 West Water Street
Next, we cross Water Street to check the history of the Visitor Center lot. I have not been able to determine when the building, which served as an office for the Warnke lumberyard for many years, was erected. I can only narrow the search to somewhere from 1905-1910.
The triangle lot created at the intersection of Main, Water and Mechanic streets passed first from Henry Treat, who purchased all the land in the original plat of Princeton east of the river from the government in June 1849, to Louis Lamont for $10 in September 1849 (Deeds, Volume B, Page 319).
Albert G. Hopkins paid 75 cents for the lot when it was sold at auction for nonpayment of taxes in April 1853 (Deeds, Volume 22, Page 597) and sold it to Thomas Williams for $5 in April 1867 (Deeds, Volume 26, Page 597). Williams sold the triangle and Water Lots 2-12 to the Chicago & North Western Railroad, which came to town in 1872 and located its depot just north of the triangle lot, practically blocking Main Street, but did not finalize its deal with Williams until January 1881 (Deeds, Volume 39, Page 289).
Following the fire in 1880 that destroyed 11 buildings in the 400 block of Water Street and 200 block of Short Street, village leaders debated how to be better prepared to battle fires, especially downtown. They decided to build a new fire engine house but had difficulty reaching a consensus on location.
Princeton Republic, April 26, 1883 – “The much argued question is where shall an engine house be erected? The vacant space west of G. Luedtke’s shop is simply a continuation of a street to the river, including about room enough to erect a building between Water Street and the river’s bank, has been suggested as a suitable location. We hear Mr. Luedtke opposes the project of erecting a building at that point.”
Princeton Republic, June 21, 1883 – “The village board have concluded to build an engine house, the site selected for same being the triangular lot near the depot. The building is to be of wood, two stories high, with a tower.”
Gus Krause won the building contract with a bid of $125, promising to have the building completed by Aug. 15. The “iron horse” was in the house by Aug. 1 while work continued.
Princeton Republic, Sept. 14, 1883 – “The engine house is about completed. It will be ready for occupancy in a day or two. With a fire engine, hose, etc., a bran new building for storing it, complete with cistern, nothing is lacking except proper organization and a stringent system of rules governing the manual exercise of a fire company. Without inexorable regulations a fire company is a frail thing to depend on in an hour of emergency.”
A new bell for the engine house arrived in November. When the Village Board hired Michael Berger as fire house custodian at $6 per month in July 1885, the night watchman’s duties included three strikes on the fire bell at 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. until September 1, when the morning hour changed to 5.
The community continued to debate the best location for the engine house, but it did not move.
Princeton Republic, Dec. 3, 1885 – “The proposition to swing that engine house around on the banks of the river, either on Pearl or Washington streets, looks very sensible. Many of our citizens wonder why it was not put on the banks of the river in the first place.”
Finally, in 1900, the Village Board made a change, moving the fire house farther from the river.
Princeton Republic, June 21, 1900 – “The village board have decided to sell the fire engine house on lower Water Street, near the depot. The old stone school house is being remodeled and will be used by the fire department in the future.”
Princeton Republic, July 5, 1900– “The fire engine is now in the new house on Main Street.”
The engine house was sold at auction to J. Wm. Worm for about $73. He rented it to the Chicago & North Western Railroad, which retained the lot.
Princeton Republic, July 5, 1900 – “The old fire engine house, which has been rented to the Chicago & Northwestern Railway company, will be fitted up as an office for the engineers. Mr. Yale, the engineer in charge, will attend to his duties here and will have several office hands to assist him in the new quarters.”
The railroad moved the office less than a year later.
Princeton Republic, May 15, 1901 – “The engineers of the Northwestern Railway have moved their offices from the old village engine house to the village hall on Main Street. Otto Rude has purchased the old engine house of Mrs. Worm and will move it onto the lot which he recently purchased of W.F. Luedtke and will use the building for a blacksmith shop.”
The old engine house was moved near the southeast corner of Main and Pearl streets that summer. (It was razed before the property became home to the Farmers-Merchants National Bank in 1964.)
The small triangle lot remained vacant until 1907.
Princeton Republic, June 20, 1907 – “The Yahr lumber company have started to build a new office and to move the scales up the hill about two hundred feet to get away from the difficulty they have had with ice and water in the spring and summer.”
Frank Yahr sold his lumberyard north of Main Street to J.F. Warnke & Sons in 1912.
The Warnkes used the office until they built a new office and facilities at 101 Mechanic Street in 1972.
Stock Lumber Co. purchased the Warnke lumberyard from Frank and Lois Warnke in 1987.
Princeton Times-Republic, Aug. 13, 1987 – “Stock Lumber, an aggressive supplier of building materials to the retail and contractor markets just purchased the J.F. Warnke yard in Princeton.”
The Warnkes, meanwhile, leased the old office building on the triangle to the Princeton Historical Society, which envisioned the space as a tourist information center and permanent home for artifacts and photographs.
Princeton Times-Republic, Sept. 24, 1987 – “Excitement reigned high for the Princeton Historical Society on Sunday, September 20, with the dedication and ribbon cutting of the ‘Warnke office building’ on Water Street.”
This completes our survey of the first 150 years, 1849-1999, of the 700 block of Water Street.
Princeton Times-Republic, May 4, 2000 – “The historic Warnke building has hardly been used for the past several years now, right on prime real estate. Located at the corner of the west of of Water Street and Highway 23/73, it stands visible to most traffic that travels through Princeton. In recent years, it has advertised tourist information, and has held historic displays within, but has not had an everyday use in some time. During the summer, it has been staffed for tourists, but it has not been used as an everyday Chamber office, despite having the Chamber presence there for the past 12 years. Beginning with the spring and summer of 2000, that is no longer true. The Princeton Chamber of Commerce will be using that space as a permanent Chamber office.”
The Chicago & North Western Railroad did not sell the triangle lot to Henry and Orlo Warnke, doing business as J.F. Warnke & Sons, until July 1937 for $250 (Deeds, Volume 143, Page 605).
Please let me know if you have any corrections or can fill in any of the gaps in the lot histories.
The former Warnke office is an unstaffed visitor center in 2022. The Chamber office moved to 104 East Main Street. The Warnke family still owns the triangle lot.
Thank you for caring and reading about local history.