I was sad to see the “For Sale” sign go up at the former Zuehls Heating and Air Conditioning building at 601 South Fulton Street. I called the number listed and spoke with Lois Zuehls.
Lois and Jerry Zuehls started the business 55 years ago and built the building on Fulton Street in 1989. Jerry passed in 2016.
Gary Zuehls operated the business following his father’s death until last April when a variety of factors – health, staffing and more – prompted the heartbreaking decision to close the business. And now to sell the building.
Lois said she was glad Jerry was not here to see the end of an era. “It would kill him,” she said. “He worked so hard.”
Lot 1 of Block Z has an interesting history. The Zuehls building replaced a chick hatchery built about 1921 and a gas station established in 1939.
Al Humphrey moved from Rio to a farm about a mile south of Princeton on County Road D in May 1915 to raise chickens. He was on the board of directors of the Princeton Poultry and Commercial Rabbit Association when it formed in 1919 and among the founders of the Princeton Chick Hatchery Company in 1921.
Princeton Republic, Feb. 24, 1921 – “A number of poultry fanciers formed a partnership and purchased a 1,200-egg incubator, and each individual intends to go into the poultry business on a large scale. Part of the stockholders intend to raise from 300 to 1,000 chicks. The incubator purchased is manufactured by the Candee Company and will be shipped from New York. The company will also hatch chicks for non-stockholders at a certain price per egg incubated. The incubator is expected here in about four weeks and will be taken to the poultry farm of Mr. Al. Humphrey, who has had considerable experience in that field.”
Orders for the first hatch were due March 14. Business was so good the hatchery added another incubator and a new building on Humphrey’s farm.
Princeton Republic, Sept. 15, 1921 – “Messrs. Al. Humphrey, H.O. Giese, Earl Berray and Ralph Giese autoed to Oostburg on last Sunday and purchased a Candee incubator of 8,800 egg capacity for the Princeton Chick Hatchery Co. The company contemplates the erection of a new hatchery building on the poultry farm of A.G. Humphrey in the near future who will take care of the machine. The 1,200-incubator already in their possession together with the one just purchased will give them a capacity of 10,000 chicks with one hatching. We understand that chicks of practically every breed will be handled in the very early part of next spring which may be purchased from the company by the hundred or thousand lot. Any amount of eggs may also be taken there, which will be incubated at a certain price per egg.”
When Bert Schrey moved to Kenosha in 1926, the Princeton Chick Hatchery purchased his house and three lots in Block Z on the southwest corner of Dover and Fulton streets. The company moved the chick hatchery from the farm and transferred ownership of the house to Humphrey, who sold his 20-acre farm to Wm. Holzmann and moved into the former Shrey home.
In February 1927 Humphrey’s advertisement in the Republic offered “big fluffy pure-bred baby chicks hatched from healthy bred-to-lay parent stock, all on free range.” He said moving the hatchery from the country to the city, along with the new incubator, would enable the firm to do custom hatching at the price of 4 cents per egg. He promised 100 percent live delivery.
Humphrey and William Huenerberg bought out their hatchery partners in 1928.
Princeton Republic, Dec. 27, 1928 – “In a deal consummated last week, A. Humphrey and W.F. Huenerberg became the sole owners of the Princeton Chick Hatchery located on Fulton Street. The former owners were H.O. Giese, John Kasierski, Al. Humphrey, W.F. Huenerberg, Edwin Miller and Harold Giese.”
Princeton Republic, Jan. 14, 1932 – “A.S. Humphrey recently opened a raccoon farm on his property opposite the airport. He has a number of raccoons to begin with.”
Princeton Times, May 28, 1936 – “Flower lovers will find a real treat at the flower garden of Mr. and Mrs. A.S. Humphrey who live near the city limits on highways 23 and 73. Right now, thousands of iris plants are in full bloom and with their riot of colors make a picture that we are sure would test the skill of the greatest artist to paint. From now on, the Humphrey Flower Gardens will be a center of attraction for flower lovers for miles around. Hundred of varieties of perennials will soon be coming into bloom. The rock gardens, the pools, the arrangement of the flower beds, the facilities for watering the same, and the novelties, including the Mickey Mouse band, the jungle animals in the novelty garden, the barnyard animals, the odd shaped stones, and the large gold fish in one of the pools are some of the attractions that make this beauty spot a mecca for those who enjoy the unique in rock garden landscaping and floriculture.”
Humphrey’s son-in-law, Bert Doyle, moved to Princeton from Hartford in 1931 to operate John Kalupa’s Cities Service “filling station” on the west side. He moved to the chick hatchery in 1939, added a gas station and succeeded Humphrey as hatchery manager.
Princeton Times-Republic, July 27, 1939 – “After operating a Cities Service Station at the intersection of highways 23 and 73, on the west side, W.H. Doyle is changing the scene of his operations in the service station line to the Princeton Chick Hatchery on highways 23 and 73 near the eastern limit of the city. Work is progressing rapidly at the sight on the installation of the latest type of display and computing pumps and in improving the driveway, and Doyle promises that everything will be all set to serve his customers at the new location on August 1st. The new station will be a Cities Service Station and Mr. Doyle will continue to handle the dependable Cities Service products. Edward Krystofiak, we understand, will be in charge of the west side station.”
Doyle passed in September 1941.
Princeton Times-Republic, Oct. 23, 1941 – “Amerigas is the name of the new motor fuel introduced here by the Amerigas Service Station, successor to the W.H. Doyle station next to the NYA building near the airport. William Knaack will manage the station and also plans to operate the Princeton Chick Hatchery located in the same building.”
The Amerigas station featured red, white, and blue pumps.
Humphrey died in 1946. Albert and Elnora Humphrey’s daughter, Olive Doyle, was a longtime librarian in Princeton.
Karl Huenerberg purchased the hatchery business in June 1955, according to the booklet published in 1973 as part of the city’s 125th anniversary celebration.
Gerald “Jerry” Zuehls was 23 when he quit the Calkins Bottle Gas Company in 1963 and began working for the newly organized Solar-Gas Company in Princeton. In 1966 Art Herschberger promoted him to assistant manager.
Zuehls opened Zuehls Heating and Air Conditioning in June 1967 in a shop at his home one mile south of Princeton on County Road D. The firm focused on heating and air conditioning of all types – gas, oil and electric – as well as gutter installation and ventilation.
He moved the business from his home to 601 South Fulton in 1969 and in 1989 hired brother-in-law Norm Prachel (Norm Prachel Builders) to replace the former gas station/chick hatchery with a new building.
Princeton Times-Republic, Feb. 2, 1989 – “Zuehls Heating & Air Conditioning is taking on a Big New Look. Norm Prachel Builders, Princeton, are hard at work constructing a larger building on the same site of the old business location on S. Fulton St., Princeton. Workers first had to remove the original structure in order to begin construction of the new building.”
The building served the Zuehls family, employees and customers well for 33 years. Let’s hope the next owners are as fortunate.
Thank you for caring and reading about local history.