The US Bank building at 102 South Pearl Street was built in 1963 and sits on a lot that once included Princeton’s first fire-engine house, built in 1883.
The three major buildings on Lot 2 of Block D over the years were also home to blacksmith shops, chick hatcheries, produce stores, mechanics, farm implement businesses, auto dealers and more.
Following the devastating fire of 1880 that wiped out 11 buildings on Water and Short streets, community leaders pressed for changes to ensure better fire protection for the downtown.
In June 1883 the Princeton Village Board voted to build a fire engine house on the triangular lot that now houses the Visitors Center at the corner of Water and Main streets. Gus Krause got the project with a bid of $125 for a two-story, wood-frame building with a tower for a bell.
Princeton Republic, Aug. 2, 1883 – “The engine house is completed. The iron horse was safety stalled therein on Tuesday night for the first time.”
The village board moved the fire department to the former stone schoolhouse at 432 West Main in July 1900 and decided to sell the former engine house. J. Wm. Worm purchased the building for about $73 on June 30, 1900. The railroad rented the building for office space for less than a year.
Meanwhile, Otto Rude purchased the north 40 feet of Lot 2 from the heirs of W.F. Luedtke, who owned the large brick and stone building at 544 West Water Street, on Lot 1, for $550 in May 1901 (Deeds, Volume 60, Page 60).
(Luedtke’s family sold the remainder of the west half of Lot 2 to John J. Radtke for $2,300 in October 1902. Deeds, Volume 60, Page 617)
Part of the Princeton plat filed in 1849 and originally owned by Henry Treat, Lot 2 included a barn and smaller sheds on the Sanborn fire insurance maps published in 1892, 1898, 1904 and 1914.
Rude next purchased the former engine house.
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.”
Rude moved the former engine house to his new lot but did not stay long. He sold the shop property to Rudolph and Herman Busse for $1,000 in May 1902 (Deeds, Volume 60, Page 486) and, with Rudolph Brown, rented the former August Swanke shop at Main and Second streets.
Princeton Republic, June 5, 1902 – “H. and R. Busse have bought out Otto Rude’s blacksmith shop.”
The Busses split up in 1906, with Rudolph selling his share to Herman for $450 (Deeds, Volume 62, Page 172) in August and following Rude to the former Swanke shop a few months later.
After Herman Busse moved to Oxford to live with his son, he sold the shop to Herman Schroeder in October 1935 (Deeds, Volume 95, Page 342). Schroeder had sold off his father’s hardware stock several years earlier and gone into the dray business, which had progressed from horse-driven carts and wagons to trucks in Princeton’s first century. The dray men moved goods to and from rail cars and steamboats and did deliveries throughout the area.
Princeton Republic, Oct. 17, 1935 – “In a deal consummated last Tuesday between Herman Schroeder and Herman Busse, the former became the owner of the latter’s blacksmith shop, corner Pearl and Main streets. Mr. Schroeder informs us he will use the building mainly for storage purpose.”
Rowland Carlson purchased Fred Schmidt’s chick hatchery on Water Street in 1940 and moved the hatchery to Schroeder’s property in 1941.
Princeton Times-Republic, Feb. 6, 1941 – “The Carlson Chick Hatchery (formerly Schmdit’s) is now in its new location in the Schroeder building on Main Street, opposite Dahlke and Giese.”
I am unsure how long the Carlsons did business in Princeton. By 1945 their ads only listed the Fond du Lac hatchery.
Schroeder sold the property to Elmer and Gretchen Mueller in June 1947 (Deeds, Volume 114, Page 96). Mueller had worked for Lichtenberg Bros. for about six years before he purchased the produce business of Herb Zanto, located next door, in 1946.
Mueller’s Produce occupied the corner for the next 12 years.
Mueller sold the property to Henry Verfuerth in June 1959 (Deeds, Volume 149, Page 163). He operated Verfuerth Produce. The family left town in April 1961 and sold the corner property to Farmers-Merchants National Bank in August 1961 (Deeds, Volume 162, Page 597).
I don’t have much information about the Radtke building(s) just south of the former fire engine house-turned blacksmith shop.
Princeton Republic May 21, 1925 – “For sale or rent – Shop located directly south from the Herman Busse blacksmith shop is offered for sale at $800 or for rent. For key to shop, call at Adolph Radtke, the shoemaker.”
Princeton Republic, June 1, 1933 – “Max King is occupying one of the Radtke buildings, directly south of H. Busse on Pearl Street.”
Princeton Republic, Jan. 18, 1941 – “Herbert Zanto has rented the Radtke building, formerly occupied by Art Bierman (contractor and builder), where he will conduct a poultry and egg business. He will specialize in dressing poultry for local trade.”
August Bednarek, known best among local historians for his homemade marsh tractors, had a mechanic shop there for a time as well.
After selling his blacksmith property on the southeast corner of Main and Pearl streets to the Busse brothers, Otto Rude sold his remaining Lot 2 property to John J. Radtke in October 1911 (Deeds, Volume 62, Page 388).
Radtke, who lived in Oshkosh, sold the east half of Lot 2 to C.J. Haas in October 1911 (Deeds, Volume 72, Page 308).
John Haas, owner of the Princeton brewery who operated a bar at 538 West Water (west room) before building the Buckhorn bar at 529 West Water Street in 1913, passed in 1918 after contracting the Spanish flu in Chicago during a business trip. His heirs sold the east half of Lot 2 to Emil Klawitter for $2,000 in November 1923 (Deeds, Volume 81, Page 261).
I need to digress for a moment from our Lot 2 history to tell you a little bit more about Emil Klawitter, whose name comes up often in the history of the Princeton business community. He was a very busy man.
Klawitter was one of the founders of the Princeton Tub Company, which built a factory on the west side in 1896. He also operated an icehouse and dray business. The local newspaper in 1894 said his dray was “painted as gay as a blushing maiden’s cheek.” He owned a share of the moving picture show outfit at the Opera House for a time, submitted the low bid of $44.44 to be bridge tender in 1901, purchased the old jailhouse in the 500 block of West Main Street and converted it into a two-car garage, and played bass drum in the cornet band! He started Princeton’s first pop bottling factory in 1899. He operated saloons known over the years as the Western House and Buckhorn, as well as others. He served as constable and went all the way to the state Supreme Court to overturn his conviction for illegally possessing alcohol during prohibition. The court said he was searched illegally.
Klawitter converted the largest of sheds into a garage that he rented out for automobile storage. The building was replaced with brick and became the Highway 23 Garage, aka Main Street Garage, operated by Clemence “Lem” Kalupa and Philip Stelmacheski prior to 1927. They advertised Oakland and Pontiac cars.
In January 1930, Kalupa bought out Stelmacheski and became the local Chevy agent by buying out the Dickinson Chevrolet Company. He changed the name of the garage to Kalupa Chevrolet Sales and Service Station before selling to Ray Thrall, Alfred Giese Jr. and Giese’s sister Winefred, doing business as Giese, Thrall & Giese. Thrall left in 1938, and the garage was Giese & Giese, dealers in new cars and repairs. The Gieses gave way in 1941 to Jule Fenske, who moved there from 435 West Water Street.
Princeton Times-Republic, May 22, 1941 – “Jule Fenske announces that he plans to be at his new location in the building formerly occupied by Giese and Giese ready for his formal opening on Memorial Day. He will continue to handle Wadham’s Mobil oil gasoline and lubricating oils and will continue to service cars. In his new quarters he will have more room to display his farm equipment lines which include Allis-Chalmers tractors, combines, etc. as well as Universal milkers, New Idea manure spreaders, Blackhawk cultivators and planters.”
Klawitter continued to own the property until he died in November 1939 at age 69. Bertha Klawitter sold the east half of Lot 2 to John and Lilian Hotmar, who owned the hardware store on the northwest corner of Main and Pearl streets, for $2,000 in February 1944 (Deeds, Volume 108, Page 427).
Vince Weiske and Luke Buchen, doing business as Princeton Motors (441 West Water Street), purchased the east half of Lot 2 for $4,500 from the Hotmars in October 1946 (Deeds, Volume 113, Page 594). Princeton Motors moved their Princeton Implements division from Water Street to the former Fenske garage in 1949.
Princeton Times-Republic, Feb. 17, 1949 – “The Princeton Implement Co., local sales agency for the famous Ford tractors, Dearborn farm equipment and other well-known lines, will hold their formal opening in their new home Wednesday, February 23rd. … Their new showrooms and service shop are located in the building formerly occupied by Giese’s garage and is directly across the highway from the Giese lumber yard.”
The newspaper said more than 1,000 people attended the grand opening of the new showroom and shop. Buchen sold his share of the implement business and Lot 2 to Weiske in February 1954 (Deeds, Volume 134, Page 151) and moved the newly named Buchen Motors from Water Street to 511 West Main, two doors east of Princeton Implement.
Weiske retired in 1961.
Princeton Times-Republic, Aug. 3, 1961 – “An auction will be held this coming Saturday at the Princeton Implement firm on Main Street. In addition to a sale of implements and tools, that auction will also mark the end of 30 years in the implement business in Princeton for Vince Weiske. The auction signifies the fulfillment of Vince’s desire to leave the hurry-scurry world of competitive sales and devote more time to his favorite sport of fishing.”
Farmers-Merchants National Bank purchased the east half of the north half of Lot 2 from Vince and Margaret Weiske for $12,000 in January 1962 (Deeds, Volume 165, Page 23).
(More information about the garage is available in an earlier post titled “Early Auto Garages, Implement Dealers.”)
Farmers-Merchants National Bank formed in 1924 after the First National Bank of Princeton, which built the brick building at 501 West Water Street in 1901, closed its doors.
Farmers-Merchants National Bank was forced to reorganize following the Bank Holiday of 1933 but survived the Great Depression, and all depositors were fully repaid by September 1936. The bank purchased the assets of Princeton State Bank in 1937, when Farmers-Merchants National Bank marketed itself as Princeton’s first million-dollar bank.”
The bank remained in the former First National Bank building throughout those years. It did not find a new home until the 1960s.
Princeton Times-Republic, November 16, 1961 – “Plans were announced this week by the Farmers-Merchants Nat’l Bank of the construction of a new, modern, drive-in bank building following the purchase of the Vince Weiske and Verfuerth properties fronting Main and Pearl streets. The buildings presently on these properties will be razed to provide sufficient space for a drive-in window and parking area for bank customers. The new building will be erected sometime within the coming year.”
The former fire engine house and adjacent shed were razed in April 1963.
Princeton Times-Republic, July 18, 1963 – “Progress is forcing the change of another area downtown. Where once stood several Princeton landmarks will soon stand a new drive-in bank building being constructed by the largest single bank in Green Lake County, Farmers-Merchants National Bank of Princeton. Excavating at the corner of Main and Pearl streets began Tuesday morning. It is expected that the modern edifice will be finished in approximately seven months. … The old Verfuerth Produce and Weiske’s Princeton Implement buildings were torn down to make way for the new bank.”
Construction of the new 60-by-86-foot bank went as scheduled; the move from the former location took some time, but employees reported for work in their new quarters in February 1964.
A remodeling project in 1975 provided new offices and a fresh update to the interior.
New carpeting, tile, etc. were also part of an update when Farmers-Merchants National Bank officially became the First Wisconsin National Bank of Princeton in 1986. The bank opened a new three-lane drive-up window in 1989.
Princeton Times-Republic, Nov. 2, 1989 – “A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held at 10 a.m. Friday to celebrate the grand opening of the new three-lane drive-up window at the First Wisconsin Bank in Princeton. … The three-lane drive-up window has been under construction for a little more than two months.”
The bank has gone through multiple acquisitions since the building was completed and is a U.S. Bank branch in 2022.
Please let me know if you have any corrections or can help fill any gaps in the lot timeline.
Thank you for reading and caring about local history.