Part 2 of our tour of Old Houses focuses on the homes on the north side of West Water Street built mostly in the early 1900s. The Princeton Republic on occasion referred to the stretch of Water Street along Block 2 of Parsons & Treat’s Addition as “Ruffle Shirt Hill.”
Princeton Republic, March 15, 1873 – “The moving season was inaugurated this week, although rather early in the season, by Mr. G.A. Long moving the little building back of the Luce block to a lot on Water Street (Lot 10) on what has long been known as Ruffle Shirt Hill. Mr. Long will fit up the building for a residence.”
Princeton Republic, June 6, 1878 – “Mr. E.O. Ellinwood has purchased the residence property known as the Noah Hall homestead (Lots 8-9) on ‘Ruffle Shirt Hill,’ of Mrs. Elizabeth Loomis. It is a very eligible.”
If you search “ruffle shirt hill” on Google and ignore the fashion photos, you will learn the phrase refers to an affluent and now historic neighborhood of Crown Point, Indiana. A newspaper editor there in the 1870s said the residents were so wealthy “Why, they even have ruffles on their shirts,” according to the Crown Point Library website.
Thomas McConnell, publisher and editor of Princeton’s first newspaper, the Princeton Republic, moved his printing press here from Valparaiso, Indiana, not far from Crown Point, in 1867, and his newspaper adopted the term for one of the neighborhoods where some of Princeton’s earliest pioneers built their first homes.
I find it interesting that while “Ruffle Shirt Hill” would seem well-suited to the Queen Anne houses lining Water Street in 2023 – all built by successful businessmen familiar to local historians – the editor in the 1870s was referring to the houses that preceded the 20th-century homes we see today on Block 2!
Our only glimpse of Water Street’s 19th-century homes comes from the 1892 illustrated map of Princeton.
The Wisconsin Historical Society property inventory lists the architecture of the house at 312 West Water as “cross-gabled” and the house at 128 West Water as “Other Vernacular.” The others on today’s list are Queen Annes.
Ed Warner House | 322 W. Water St.
The house at 322 West Water Street stands mostly on Lot 3 of Block 2 and was built in 1891 by Ed and Damaris Warner. It replaced a house that I believe but am less than certain was built by lawyer and shopkeeper Philo Knapp in 1850.
Lafayette Fisher purchased the property in 1851. He and brother Jerome sold groceries, dry goods, millinery and more in multiple downtown locations in Old Princeton.
Lafayette Fisher sold Lot 3 and the west half of Lot 4 to Jerome for $600 in July 1854 (Deeds, Volume J, Page 284). Jerome and Polly Fisher sold to Edward and Damaris Warner for $500 in March 1879 (Deeds, Volume 40, Page 282).
Warner operated a saloon, then sold sewing machines, and in later years bought and shipped livestock. He and his wife sold the Knapp house to Frank Merrill, who moved it near his residence on Main Street, in 1891 and hired Charley Craw and Gus Krause to build a new house on the lot.
Princeton Republic, Sept. 17, 1891 – “Ed. Warner is really in earnest. That new home is to be built forthwith.”
Princeton Republic, Oct. 22, 1891 – “Last Friday, Gust Krause met with a severe accident, resulting in the breaking of one of his legs and other injuries. He was at work on the new Warner residence, and at the time of the accident was sitting on a scaffold several feet from the ground, with his feet hanging over the side toward the building, but opposite an open window. In attempting to sight along the work, he leaned over sidewise and backward far enough to lose his balance, and throwing one hand back to keep his poise, by resting it on the scaffold board he missed it, his hand dropping outside the platform. He being seated opposite an open window he was unable to catch his feet and fell eight or nine feet to the ground, lighting on some blocks and timbers. As a result of the unfortunate fall his left leg was broken between the ankle and knee, and one shoulder and his back were injured. It is said the latter injuries are proving full as serious, or more so, than the broken limb. Dr. Warner was called and set the limb.”
Warner sold his team of Kentucky thoroughbred horses to Gene Smith in 1900 and in later years traveled often to Milwaukee, where his sons Edward and Arthur went into business.
Princeton Republic, March 21, 1895 – “Some of the members of a Milwaukee real estate syndicate are making it somewhat sultry for the Warner boys, formerly of this place, claiming they were pocketing too large a percentage of the proceeds of the business for their services as promoters. Several Princetonites are said to have holdings in the syndicate.”
Princeton Republic, April 11, 1907 – “Ed Warner returned Tuesday from visiting his sons at Milwaukee. His sons E.E. and A.W. are president and secretary, respectively, of the Milwaukee Motor Company, a prosperous concern that builds gasoline motors for automobiles and power launches. The company is erecting a large new plant to accommodate its ever-increasing business. At the present time the company has orders aggregating $300,000 on its books for motors to be delivered in 1908 and has shut down further orders for the present season. The company is five years old.”
Warner died on March 18, 1910. His wife, Jane, a former schoolteacher who operated a millinery business in Princeton for 23 years, passed five days later.
Warner’s heirs sold the property to O.C. Olman, principal at Princeton High School, for $2,000 in February 1916 (Deeds, Volume 76, Page 303). He sold to Alma Mueller for $3,100 in November 1922 (Deeds, Volume 85, Page 114).
Princeton Republic, Nov. 30, 1922 – “The O.C. Olman residence on Water Street was sold to Frank Mueller, who in turn exchanged the property with the residence of his sister, Miss Alma Mueller. Mr. Mueller and family, we understand, will occupy the home of Miss Alma when vacated Miss Alma and her brother Arthur will reside in their newly acquired O.C. Olman residence.”
Alma Mueller owned the house for over 30 years.
G.A. Krueger House | 316 W. Water Street
The house at 316 West Water Street stands on the site of a house built by Samuel Morse, recognized by local historians as Princeton’s first blacksmith, in 1850.
Morse purchased Lot 4 from Ferdinand Durand, Princeton’s first shopkeeper, for $40 in April 1850 (Deeds, Volume C, Plage 333) and built on the east half of the lot. The west half of Lot 4, as well as Lot 3, eventually passed to Lafayette and Jerome Fisher.
Morse came to the Princeton area in 1848. He settled west of the Fox River, across from Hamilton, in the Indian Lands and opened a blacksmith shop, which he moved to Princeton about 1849. His forge was near the river on the “crooked end” of Water Street. He built a house on Ruffle Shirt Hill for his family before moving onto a farm south of Princeton a few years later.
Morse sold the house as well as Lots 5, 6 and 7 to Hollet Green for $1,000 in April 1863 (Deeds, Volume 22, Page 26). Fred W. Cooke purchased the house, east half of Lot 4, and Lots 5, 6 and 7 from W.H. Hargrave for $1,500 in July 1881(Deeds, Volume 41, Page 335).
The first house to stand on Lot 4 was built by Morse but occupied for most of its early years by Cooke, a rotund man described once as a natural landlord who ran hotels known as the Jarvis House and American House at 444 West Water Street, served two terms as county sheriff and numerous years as deputy sheriff, and bought and sold livestock. When the Congregational Church installed two stained-glass memorial windows in 1891, one honored Fred W. Cooke.
After his death, Cooke’s widow sold the large parcel (east half of Lot 4, all of Lot 5 and strip of Lot 6) to Gustave A. Krueger, who owned a meat market on Water Street and, before they were banned, a slaughterhouse on the west side, for $1,800 in September 1894 (Deeds, Volume 52, Page 257).
Princeton Republic, Aug. 30, 1894 – “We learn that Mrs. F. W. Cooke has sold her residence property to Gus. Krueger. Consideration, $1,800. The location is a beautiful one on East Water Street.”
Krueger, who also owned a house at Howard and Wisconsin streets as well as the brick building that he erected at 524 West Water Street, used the house as a rental.
Princeton Republic, Feb. 20, 1896 – “The old Cooke house, owned by G.A. Krueger and occupied by Bert Smith and family, was badly damaged by fire last Saturday and will probably have to be torn down. Mrs. Smith was away at the time, but the household goods were nearly all saved. This house is an old landmark, having been built by Samuel Morse in the early history of Princeton.”
Krueger repaired and renovated the old building following the fire.
Princeton Republic, April 30, 1896 – “G.A. Krueger is fixing up the old Cooke house with a stone foundation, etc. and has also put in a drive well on the lot.”
Princeton Republic, July 23, 1896 – “Mr. and Mrs. W.F. Currie were in town last Thursday and leased G.A. Krueger’s place – the remodeled Cooke house. They intend to get settled at housekeeping before the summer school opens.”
(William Currie was principal here for about nine years. The major development during his tenure was the construction of the brick school on the downtown triangle in 1894. He co-owned the Princeton Republic for less than a year before he left Princeton to become cashier of the Montello State Bank in 1900. His son, George, born in Princeton and a graduate of Montello High School, was a Wisconsin Supreme Court justice from 1951-1968 and served as chief justice from 1964-1968).
Krueger replaced the Cooke house in 1908 and sold the east 48 feet of Lot 5 to Victor F. and Anna Yahr, who operated a grocery/general store downtown, for “$1 and other consideration” in July (Deeds, Volume 7, Page 7).
Princeton Republic, July 16, 1908 – “G.A. Krueger has started to work on the foundation of his new residence on East Water Street. Victor Yahr will erect on the same street.”
Krueger kept the home until January 1937 when it was sold to A.J. and Pearl Beyer (Deeds, Volume 95, Page 431). Krueger died in 1939.
Victor Yahr Sr. House | 312 W. Water Street
Victor and Anna Yahr erected a house next to Krueger’s in 1908 but did not stay long. They sold to Gustav Teske Jr. for $2,750 in March 1913 (Deeds, Volume 73, Page 312).
Victor F. Yahr and his son, Victor A. Yahr, both operated successful businesses in Princeton. The elder Yahr opened a dime store in the east room of the building at 544 West Water Street (today Parlor House Hotel) in 1914. He moved across the street to 535 West Water Street (today Sondalle Law Firm office) in 1923, dropped the dime store and expanded the grocery store.
Princeton Republic, April 9, 1931 – “In a deal recently transaction between Victor Yahr Sr. and Victor Yahr Jr., the latter took possession of the former’s stock of goods, consisting of groceries, shoes, notions, etc.”
After selling the Princeton operation to his son, Victor F. Yahr moved to Kiel in August 1933 to manage a branch store there. He was killed in automobile accident two months later. He was 48.
J.E. Hennig House | 306 W. Water Street
Fred Cooke sold most of Lot 6, a swath 63-by-150 feet, to Eugene and Rosa Smith for $250 in June 1890 (Deeds, Volume 49, Page 23). Smith dealt in livestock and real estate here and later opened several hemp mills, operating mostly out of Beaver Dam.
The Smiths sold their Lot 6 investment to Julius E. Hennig for $850 in September 1894 (Deeds, Volume 52, Page 257). Hennig built the house we see today at 306 West Water Street.
Princeton Republic, July 14, 1898 – “The new house Jule Hennig is erecting on East Water Street is well under way.”
Princeton Republic, Sept. 29, 1898 – “The painters are about completing that new house of J.E. Hennig’s.”
Hennig added a modern marvel to the house four years later.
Princeton Republic, Nov. 27, 1902 – “J.E. Hennig is putting in a private water works in his residence. He will have a system of hot and cold water running throughout the house and also have baths in connection.”
J.E. Hennig had his hand in multiple business ventures during his time in Princeton, including the local livery, a harness shop, a saloon, a grocery store, a barber shop, a farm implement dealership, the iconic American House hotel, and a monument and headstone shop. He owned multiple buildings downtown over the years and served an multiple civic boars. You can find a separate post (“Julius E. Hennig”) about him on this site.
Hennig passed in 1931. His heirs sold the property to Fred and Louise Schewe, who operated the American House for Hennig for a time, in December 1943 (Deeds, Volume 100, Page 571).
W.J. Mesick House | 210 W. Water Street
Lot 11 of Block 2 went undeveloped until Albert and Mariah Eygabroad purchased it from Herman E. and Julia Megow for $100 in April 1883 (Deeds, Volume 44, Page 276 and erected a house.
Princeton Republic, April 26, 1883 – “Al Eygabroad has purchased a lot of Megow, just east of Mrs. Ellen Long’s residence, and has the material on the ground for a house.”
Princeton Republic, Aug. 28, 1883 – “Al Eygabroad moved into his new residence on east Water Street Monday.”
Wilber J. Mesick purchased Lot 11 from Rawson Wilber for $675 in February 1889 (Deeds, Volume 48, Page 256) and built the house we see today at 210 West Water Street in 1901.
Mesick was known mostly as a farm implements dealer, who owned a building at about 445 West Water Street (today Princeton Garage Antiques parking lot) for about 15 years.
Princeton Republic, July 16, 1891 – “Tom Bartol drove from W.J. Mesick’s agricultural store with a new binder on Friday. The most of his old binder was consumed with his barn that was struck with lightning and burned at the time the hailstorm occurred two weeks ago. Some portions of the binder were saved from the ruins, and his insurance has made the machine complete again by purchasing new the parts that were destroyed.”
(Sorry, I could not resist including the clip about my great-grandfather’s brother, who had a farm a couple of miles west of Princeton on County Road J.)
Mesick served on the school board, town board, village board and county board. He was a founding member of the Princeton & St. Marie Mutual Fire Insurance Company, Princeton Recreation Club, and Odd Fellows of Princeton, and served on the board of directors of the Princeton Overall & Shirt Company, Citizens Electric Light & Power Company, and Princeton Telephone Company. He sold the implement business in 1906, worked as manager of the local telephone company in 1910, and became the local agent for Studebaker cars in 1914. Back to the house. …
Princeton Republic, Feb. 21, 1901 – “W.J. Mesick will build a fine new residence this spring on the site where he is now living. He will move the old building … onto one of Ira Hudson’s lots.”
Mesick sold the former Eygabroad house, which was moved to Lot 9 (206 West Water Street), and built the two-story house at 210 West Water Street.
Princeton Republic, May 9, 1901 – “W.J. Mesick has the frame of his new residence up. … He expects to have it ready for occupancy in about two months.”
Mesick passed in 1931. The property passed from the Mesicks to Charles and Mabel Smith, who sold it in August 1943 to Emil and Martha Deibert (Deeds, Volume 108, Page 301).
Princeton Times-Republic, Sept. 2, 1943 – “Emil Deibert has bought the property known as the Mesick home from Mr. and Mrs. Charles Smith.”
Bert Shew House, 128 W. Water St.
Fred and Kate Nickodem purchased Lot 14 from Washington and Henrietta Whittemore for $600 in March 1901 (Deeds, Volume 58, Page 616).
Princeton Republic, March 21, 1901 – “Fred Nickodem has purchased a lot of Wash Whittemore on Water Street just east of the house occupied by Ed Teske Jr. and will erect a residence upon it this spring.”
I have written extensively about the Nickodem brothers, Fred and Charles, in the blog. They operated a popular dry goods and general store at 545 West Water (most recently Botanica Spa) in the early 20th century and were very involved in community and church projects.
Fred did not follow through with a house on Lot 14. Instead, he sold the lot to builder/architect Bert Shew for $650 in 1903 (Deeds, Volume 61, Page 383).
Princeton Republic, Sept. 24, 1903 – “Bert Shew, the architect, will build a new residence on Water Street. The cellar is dug, and the crew will begin work on it in the near future. … Shew & Craw say that this has been a very busy season. They have kept a large crew busy all summer and they now have many contracts engaged.”
Shew, who obtained his architectural training through a University of Pennsylvania correspondence course, sold his new house to Victor F. Yahr. The property remained in the Yahr family until Anna Yahr sold in October 1949 to Steve and Bertha Paradowski (Deeds, Volume 123, Page 195), who sold to Norman Megow for $12,000 in July 1954 (Deeds, Volume 134, Page 593).
I will track the remaining Old Houses of Water Street in the next post to conclude my survey of Ruffle Shirt Hill. In hindsight, I wish I had included all of the Water Street houses in the Ruffle Shirt Hill post and Block R and some of the other locations from Part 1 in a separate post. I might reorganize at some point.
As always, please let me know if you spot any errors. I find it easy to get confused when wading through the legal descriptions of the deeds, especially Block 2, where most modern property lines don’t follow the original lot lines.
Thank you for caring and reading about local history.