Much of the residential development along the Fox River south of Princeton over the last 50 years occurred with the help of entrepreneur Paul Coil, who sold his trucking business in Montgomery, Illinois, for health reasons and relocated the family to Princeton in 1957.
Paul and Margaret Coil had discovered Princeton when searching for a summer getaway destination with good fishing and other outdoor opportunities. They purchased the former Bob Jackowski farm south of Princeton “strictly for recreational purposes,” according to a newspaper article in 1966, but did not move here full time until 1957 when they sold Coil’s Motor Service in Montgomery, where Paul had been village president for 10 years and president of the fire district that he helped form for nine years.
The Coils purchased about 390 acres one-quarter mile west of town on County Road J, the former Elgard Foelske and Clarence Swederski farms, and farmed for about three years, raising and selling livestock. In the early 1960s Coil traded farming for real estate development, beginning with 26 80-foot lots on the Jackowski and Ernest Schultz farms south of town, off Wick’s Landing Road.
Developing the property apparently stimulated an interest in real estate, and Coil obtained a broker’s license in 1963.
The local newspaper reported in November 1966 that Coil was “busy developing another subdivision near Princeton. It is located off the Bend Road, north of Lake Puckaway in the Stillwater area. Here Mr. Coil has divided one mile of river frontage into 54 lots and developed the area with access roads.”
Paul Fude contributed land as well as the gravel from his pit for the access road, Oxbow Trail, as Coil opened lots along the river. The road eventually continued and joined the Bend Road/County Road T. (The Fude gravel pit, which was about 40 feet deep, also provided gravel for construction of the Bend Road about 1938 and the local Highway 23 resurfacing project in 1978.)
The quas qui centennial booklet published in honor of Princeton’s 125th anniversary in 1973 noted that “a very nice residential district is sprouting on Oxbow Trail off the Bend Road, south of the city. It all started about five years ago when Paul Fude and Paul Coil formed a partnership in platting the south shore along the river on the north side of the big bend in the Fox River, upstream from the dam.”
Coil also put in the road Pleasant Drive and sold lots west of the Catholic and city cemeteries. He employed his own building crew to construct houses on the lots he developed. He built a small office building at 610 West Main Street for his burgeoning business, Coil’s Realty Service, in 1965.
Princeton Times-Republic, Dec. 23, 1965 – “A new real estate office building in Princeton is completed and will be ready for occupancy about the first of the year, according to Paul Coil, owner. The 28-by-32-foot masonry structure is located on Main Street (Highway 23-73) downtown next to the office of the Giese Lumber Yard.”
He sold the building to a local lawyer in 1970 and moved his headquarters seven blocks east. (The office building site is now a parking lot.)
Princeton Times-Republic, April 9, 1970 – “Atty. Frank Lisheron recently purchased the Coil Realty Service office building on W. Main Street, Princeton. He expects to be moved by May 1st from the Dreblow building on W. Water St., formerly the office of the late Philip Lehner. Coil’s Realty Service, owned by Mr. Paul Coil, Princeton, will relocate in the Lichtenberg building at 100 E. Main St. just off Hwy. 23-73.”
Beginning in 1854 and continuing most years through 1870, Princeton hosted the annual fair sponsored by the county agricultural society. The fairgrounds at the far east end of Main Street included a fenced racetrack, grandstand, and other buildings.
John Gillespy in his “History of Green Lake County” published in 1860 reported, “The Agricultural Society of the county have here permanently established their annual fairs; a level piece of ground in the east part of the village, enclosing some two acres, with a substantial fence; has now been held, with the exception of 1857, since 1854. This county fair is the a-fair of the season. … The Teutons, who abound in this vicinity, smoke their pipes with more vim and life; beer and whisky suffer; Yankees are betting on a horse race, or the size of a cabbage.”
The fairground was rebuilt in 1868.
Princeton Republic, Sept. 7, 1868 – “The new fairground is being pushed forward as rapidly as possible. The track is almost completed, everybody who has a buggy or wagon is invited to make a trial of its merit at any time before the fair. … Farmers, your help is needed in putting up pens and other buildings on the fairground. You are interested in this business. Come out next Tuesday with your teams. You are not asked to donate any time or money in building the track or fence, but to help build such work as the Agricultural society must have. We need a force of twenty teams and men to get the lumber and put the work right up, so as to have everything in readiness in good season.”
Princeton Republic, Sept. 9, 1870 – “Let everybody remember the County Fair next week, Thursday and Friday. We will have the fastest trotting horses in the state. We will also have the largest show of stock ever seen at a county fair in this or adjoining counties. The German Cattle Fair is to be held in connection with the County Fair. Several stock buyers from the eastern and northeastern part of the state have signified their intention to be here. The trotting purses amount to over $300. The track will be in fine condition.”
It was the last county fair held in Princeton. Local leaders’ interest in hosting the fair seemed to wane with the rise of the more lucrative monthly Cattle Fair and arrival of the railroad through the fairground property. The fair moved to Berlin.
The county agricultural society reported in July 1873 that “no other place than Berlin offered, or would take the responsibility of having a fair.”
Samuel and Gaines Lamont, who started the hotel on Water Street known in later years as the American House, purchased about one-quarter of Section 18, including the land that became the fairground, from the government for $1.25 per acre about the same time Royal and Henry Treat filed their claim for the land that would become Princeton in June 1849. The site was owned in 1860 by Seymour A. Hake, who arrived in Pleasant Valley Township and Princeton in 1850. The 38-year-old listed his occupation for the census that year as drover. His real estate holdings increased in value from $800 to $6,000 from 1850-1860. He was a farmer in 1860 and 1870 and cattle broker in 1880.
In 1869 Hake purchased 40 acres about seven miles northwest of Princeton from the government, part of what he later called “Hake’s Ranch on Pleasant Island.” He continued to prosper and to expand his holdings near Neshkoro.
After the arrival of the Sheboygan & Fond du Lac Railroad in 1872, Hake made good use of the stockyards south of the tracks on the east side of Princeton.
“As a stock buyer he had few equals,” his obituary in the Princeton Republic noted. “He had an eye for good stock and knew what he was about when purchasing. Shrewd and honest in all his dealings with mankind, he had accumulated considerable property. In the early days when the mill race was being executed, he was one of the foremost in promoting that scheme and rendered assistance in the shape of that which he possessed most, manual labor.”
Hake lived in a large house at the northwest corner of Fulton and Main streets.
Princeton Republic, May 24, 1873 – “I offer for sale my dwelling house, and lot of one acre of land, situated in the village of Princeton, fronting on Main Street and running back to railroad track, and a larger amount of land if wanted, not exceeding 150 acres. The house is commodious and well-built and would accommodate two families. Also, several good lots on Main and Fulton streets. Terms easy. Apply to S.A. Hake.”
Hake passed in December 1892. He is buried in the Princeton City Cemetery. His property on the east edge of Princeton and elsewhere passed to Charles Dahlke.
Princeton Times-Republic, August 15, 1901 – “Chas. Dahlke has purchased of the S.A. Hake estate the stock ranch of 776 acres seven miles northwest of town and ten building lots in the eastern part of the village and 14 acres of land adjoining the village limits. Mr. Dahlke has rented the ranch the last five years and at present has 125 head of cattle on same.”
Dahlke and Frank Giese purchased the Elmer Morse lumberyard in Princeton in 1911. Giese purchased the property south of the stockyard and H.J. Heinz pickle factory in 1927.
100 East Main Street
After Carl and Vic Lichtenberg, who had started in business in Princeton in 1932 as Princeton Produce Company and later operated as Lichtenberg Bros., sold their stockyard and livestock shipping business on Water Street in 1957, they operated a chick hatchery and other interests from a set of buildings at the east end of Main Street on the former Hake-Dahlke-Giese property.
I don’t know enough about the Lichtenberg operation to write intelligently about it at this time – I’ll save that for a future post after more homework – but I know a fire on May 19, 1962, caused major damage. Fire Chief Herb Wachholz Jr. called it the worst fire in the city since the Coast to Coast hardware store at 502 West Water Street (today ThedaCare clinic site) burned in January 1955.
The Princeton Times-Republic said it took 90,000 gallons of water for the 19 volunteer firefighters to conquer the blaze. About 400 chickens drowned and another 150 died of heat exposure. The east wing was “entirely charred,” the newspaper said, and the north-south section would need a whole new roof.
Paul Coil purchased the former Lichtenberg barn with the curved roof at 100 East Main Street in 1967. I have been told Carl Lichtenberg sold feed from the building after the fire. Coil distributed feed for Standard Chemical from the building before remodeling and moving the real estate office there in April 1970. He also sold Hillcrest Mobile Homes by Skyline Inc. displayed on the lot.
Coil developed the north side of the East Main property in 1972 with the arrival of Sherm’s Food Market, 101 East Main Street.
Princeton Times-Republic, January 13, 1972 – “That a supermarket would be an addition to our city had been rumors for several weeks. At the city council meeting Tuesday evening, January 4, 1972, such plans were revealed. Paul Coil, a real estate broker, was present and submitted plans from Sherm’s Food Market Inc. of Omro. The plans include two right-turn traffic lanes of blacktopping to be constructed by the city, and permission to attach a proposed private driveway, subject to state-approved traffic regulations. The location selected is at the end of Main Street east of the state highway on property owned by Mr. Coil. Construction of a 7,200-square-foot building and parking lot for approximately 60 cars is expected to begin by April 1972.”
For more about Sherm’s, see the earlier post “Sherm’s Super Market.”
Coil moved his real estate office from 100 East Main Street to his home on Oxbow Trail, which he built in 1968, in November 1975.
A short time later the Coils moved to Cumberland, where Paul and his oldest son, Jim, began a real estate sales and development business. During his time in Princeton, Paul Coil had also served on the Princeton School Board and was president for two years. He led the chamber of commerce for a time. He passed in Cumberland in 2005 at age 89.
The space at 100 East Main Street was eventually divided into three suites (A, B, C). The east end of the building was also remodeled into commercial space as 104 East Main Street.
Before leaving Princeton, Coil sold the building at 100 East Main Street to Marilyn and Robert Babel, who had rented the space next to Coil’s in 1972 for the This and That Shoppe.
Princeton Times-Republic. May 15, 1975 – “At the end of East Main Street is a most unusual shop, the This and That Shoppe, which is just what the name implies. It is a gift shop mainly, with craft supplies and some used furniture, books, and dishes. Owners are Marilyn and Robert Babel who came to Princeton and opened the shop in November 1972. … When the Babels purchased the building, it was a real estate office. Part of the building is still rented out as office space.”
Robert Babel also operated an Arrow Small Engine Repairs shop from the building for several years. An arts and crafts enthusiast, Marilyn Babel organized a flea market next to the building before the Princeton Flea Market became a weekly event in the City Park.
The Babels opened a liquor store, East End Liquor, in 1976 and remodeled the front of the building in September 1977.
Fischer’s Resale Shop opened next to East End Liquor in March 1977.
Princeton Times-Republic, March 15, 1979 – “For more convenience and to provide more room for the beverage displays, the This and That Shoppe and East End Liquor have switched locations. Customers will be able to walk from one store to the other without going outdoors. Both businesses are owned by Marilyn and Bob Babel.”
The Babels sold the This and That Shoppe to Marion and Elwood “Woody” Ross in January 1980. The Rosses eventually moved the business to their home on Pleasant Drive before closing in July 1983, and Marilyn’s occupied the space with resale items, crafts, collectibles, etc. in April 1984.
The Babels sold East End Liquor to Ron Peabody in December 1983.
Princeton Times-Republic, December 8, 1983 – “Although he is not a newcomer to Princeton, he has undertaken a new, completely different line of business than he has been associated with since coming to the city. Ron Peabody began operation of East End Liquor at 100 East Main Street in Princeton on Monday, December 5, 1983. He came to Princeton in July of 1976 and purchased the Giese Lumber Company. He owned and managed the business as the Princeton Lumber Company until it was closed January 1, 1980.”
Peabody envisioned East End Liquor as a “one-stop cheer shop,” he told the newspaper. He expanded the inventory and began renting videos and Beta and VHS video machines – the first video store in Princeton.
Princeton Times-Republic, Oct. 29, 1987 – “Princeton’s East End Liquor, owned by Gerry and Ron Peabody, Princeton, has another side. The Other Side, a gift shop. … The Other Side holds within it a unique variety of gifts.”
Extensive remodeling of the building in 1988 turned a large open room into four. An addition in 1991 provided more office space.
The Silver Minnow Bait and Sport Shop, owned by Marge and Carol Nagorny, opened at 100 C East Main Street in May 1988. They also rented Nintendo entertainment systems and cartridges.
Jeff Zodrow moved his insurance firm from the large pioneer home on the southeast corner of Farmer and Water streets to 100 East Main in October 1988.
Princeton Times-Republic, Nov. 3, 1988 – “Zodrow Insurance Agency Inc. has moved to 100 A East Main, Princeton. Agent Jeff Zodrow, center, was welcomed to his new location on Monday, Oct. 24, with a plant from First Wisconsin President Jim Geer, and Princeton Chamber of Commerce President Jim Siddall presented a fruit basket with best wishes from the chamber.”
Kristine “Tina” (Otto) Zodrow recalled recently that the entire east end was still an open space “and smelled from when it had chickens in it.”
New renters during the Zodrows’ ownership included Tom Dewitt, who rented the garage to the south to refinish furniture for Candlebox Antiques, the store he operated from the house at the northeast corner of Farmer and Water streets, and Kissing Frogs, a group of artists who had worked for Tracy Potter’s home goods business.
Peabody sold the liquor and video store to Tony and Nancy Kovencz in May 1991. They renamed the business Classic Liquor and Video. An iconic name returned to Princeton three years later.
Princeton Times-Republic, July 7, 1994 – “Julie Ladwig Berwick remembers well the tavern her parents owned and operated for 35 years. The bar, located in one of the first buildings built in Princeton, was well known for the fried chicken prepared by her mother, Dolores. Julie also remembers when it was torn down to make room for the new bridge and highway in 1983. For this reason, she decided to name her new business after him. … Paul Ladwig was ‘Dizzy,’ owner and operator of Dizzy’s Bar. However, Dizzy’s was in existence for many years before that. … Dizzy’s Liquor and Video opened last week in the same spot occupied by Classic Liquor not long ago and prior to that East End liquor.”
Zodrow sold his insurance agency and building to Ron and Sherry Calbaum in 2008.
104 East Main Street
Fred Nagorny and Jim Tans joined forces to open Princeton TV and Appliance Center, formerly Nagorny TV, on Water Street in 1986. They moved to Coil’s former property in 1989.
Princeton Times-Republic, Feb. 9, 1989 – “Princeton TV & Appliance Center has moved to a new location, and a beautiful one at that, at 104 E. Main St., Princeton, across from Sherm’s Piggly Wiggly. Fred Nagorny and Jim Tans, owners of Princeton TV & Appliance Center, will now work out of a building that houses a showroom floor of 2,500 square feet, three times larger than their previous location at 522 W. Water St. The new store also has an additional 800 square foot loading dock and storage area.”
The stores at 100 and 104 East Main got a facelift that spring.
Princeton Times-Republic, May 25, 1989 – “Construction was underway last week on the revitalization of five store fronts in Princeton. Prachel Builders, Princeton, worked on the new overhang and siding for Zodrow Insurance Agency, East End Liquor, The Other Side Gift Shop, Silver Minnow Bait Shop and Princeton TV & Appliance Center, all located on East Main Street.”
Price Cutters clothing store, which opened in December 1993 at 620 West Water Street, moved to East Main Street several months later. A financial services firm followed Price Cutters.
Princeton Times-Republic,May 30, 1996 – “Ronald L. Calbaum has been appointed the branch manager for the new office of Investment Management & Research Inc. The office is located at 104 East Main Street in Princeton. The Princeton location is now open for business, offering a comprehensive range of financial and investment services. … It is across from Sherm’s Piggly Wiggly. This is the prior Price Cutters location.”
Ron and Sherry Calbaum purchased the entire building at 100-104 East Main on April 1, 2008.
The chamber of commerce moved its office to 104 East Main in 2009. Other building tenants over the years included Four Seasons Travel (Marie Urban, 2002), Phabulous Phinds resale shop (Keith and Mary Johnson, 2012) and Great Design Reflexology.
Princeton Republic, May 24, 2012 – “A clean store, friendly staff and unbeatable prices? What more could you ask for? Phabulous Phinds in Princeton is now open for business and carries a wide selection of merchandise new and used, from clothing, jewelry, toys, novelties, books, movies, collectibles, dishes, ceramics from local artists, and much more! … Phabulous Phinds, owned by husband and wife Keith and Mary Johnson opened its doors (located in the Princeton Chamber of Commerce building across from Piggly Wiggly) to the public a few short weeks ago, but have already had an abundance of visitors from all over the area.”
In 2023, the building at 100-104 East Main Street is home to Calbaum Insurance, Berlin Family Eye Care, Raymond James Financial Services, Princeton Chamber of Commerce, and Berlin Newspapers.
Please let me know if you spot any errors, can fill gaps in my timeline or can provide photos to help tell this story. I’ve reached out to Jim Coil for additional information and am awaiting a reply.
Thank you for caring and reading about local history.