A Brief History
Shawano’s Main Street Historic District
Did you know, Shawano’s Main Street is on the National Register of Historic Places?
The application was submitted on March 9, 1999 and accepted one month later. The district consists of East Division Street and 100 and part of 200 Blocks South Main Street. The content of this document provides the reader a wonderful history of Shawano and the downtown area. The submission is 97 pages long and includes;
- Description of the district
- Properties of significance
- Historical context and history of the area
- History and evolution of the district
Individual properties listed in the “Inventory” section will be detailed in the Shawano County Historical Society’s webpage, “Historic Properties – Shawano has History.” Text from the submission is listed below.
Click the link to view the 1999 Shawano Main Street Historic District submission to the National Register of Historic Places.
The Shawano Main Street Historic District consists of 47 late-nineteenth and early to-mid-twentieth century commercial buildings in the northeastern Wisconsin city of Shawano. Of these, 13 are non-contributing, two due to being less than 50 years old as of the date of this nomination, the balance due to the lack of significant integrity. Several of the non-contributing buildings are small one-story commercial buildings, and do not impact the district’s integrity to the extent of the few larger non-contributing buildings. The district extends approximately one and one-half blocks along both sides of South Main Street; all of the nominated buildings face Main Street with the exception of one resource, which adjoins a Main Street building and faces East Division Street. The district is bordered east and west by alleys immediately adjoining the rear facades of the buildings. The district is bordered on the north by Highway 29 (known locally as Green Bay Street); the buildings lying immediately north of Highway 29 are non-historic. The southern boundary of the business district developed historically at approximately the middle of the two southern blocks of the district; the balance of these blocks beyond the southernmost buildings included in the district consist of a lower-density area of historic residences and church structures and a non-historic post office building. Low-density residential and non-historic commercial resources also lie beyond the alleys east and west. As a result, the south, east and west borders of the district may be seen to arise from the district’s developmental history; the north border resulting from non-historic developments. The contributing buildings represent a range of late-nineteenth to mid-twentieth century, predominately vernacular, commercial architecture that typifies the developmental history of commercial districts in northern Wisconsin communities. The designs range from massive, elaborately-decorated commercial blocks with two or more storefronts, to two-story single-storefront edifices with modest decoration, to utilitarian one-story buildings with gable roofs and parapet or “Boomtown” facades. With a few exceptions, most of the contributing buildings have undergone storefront renovations since their construction; some of these storefronts are now historic in their own right and will be identified as such. The contributing buildings generally demonstrate acceptable integrity of their second-story facades (none of the buildings are taller than two stories); those that have one story were determined to have acceptable integrity if historic design or materials were apparent above the storefront area. Non-contributing buildings generally do not evidence historic materials or design on any portion of their facades.
The previous overview raises issues particularly pertinent to this district’s discussion. Like many small-town historic commercial districts, the buildings in the Shawano Main Street Historic District often defy the limited vocabulary pertaining to such buildings contained in the architectural sections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin’s benchmark publication. Cultural Resources Management in Wisconsin (CRMW). As proposed in CRMW, commercial buildings are categorized simply as vernacular strucmres or by the names commonly attributed to domestic buildings demonstrating similar design characteristics, such as “Italianate” for commercial buildings with arched windows, carved or paired cornice brackets and elaborate hood molds, or “Queen Anne’’ for building with semi-hexagonal bays, turrets or scroll-sawn decoration. Some of the buildings in the Shawano Main Street Historic District fit these designations to a great or lesser extent, and will be identified as such. Others demonstrate the influences of the Art Deco and Streamlined styles, both delineated in commercial terms by the CRMW, and these feamres will be noted. However, many of the district’s buildings are good examples of vernacular building forms common to commercial districts of this region and era, and where feasible such buildings will be identified by commonly-used names drawn from other architecmral sources, which will be cited.
Following is the complete inventory of contributing and non-contributing buildings within the district. It should be noted that severe limitations on extant and usable information pertaining to particular buildings account for the unusually high numbers of properties for which dates of construction must be approximated and for which reliable historic names are not available. For reasons not completely understood, the original plats of the present district area were from a very early date all but ignored by builders of the settlement. The platted lots adjoining what is now South Main Street were irregularly sized and often over one hundred feet at the lot line adjoining the public right-of-way. However, due to the norms of business district construction, which were well-established in the Midwest by the late 19th century, builders constructed the expected fifteen- to thirty-foot storefronts side by side along Main Street, on narrow segments of these larger lots. Such improvised parcels frequently straddled lot boundaries and in several cases overlapped the platted side streets or other lots. As a result, the legal descriptions of most properties adjoining Main Street became so convoluted that even the contemporary assessors had difficulty. In the 1895 city tax rolls, three individual properties within one platted lot were described as “a part of” the lot, with no additional delineation. This difficulty was somewhat resolved in 1933, when the entire downtown was replatted to align with current building and street locations; however, all but a few of the district’s properties predate this reconfiguration. As a result, both tax rolls and land transaction records prior to 1933 are of virtually no practical use in determining dates and historic names of properties in the district. In addition, there are no known Shawano city directories prior to 1938, thus limiting another usual source of information for particular building information. The following inventory is compiled on the basis of several sources, including Sanborn fire insurance maps, photographs in the collection of the Shawano County Historical Society, newspaper clippings and photographs in the collection of the Shawano City-County Library, and other supplemental and corroborating sources.
|Address||Historic Name||Date of Construction||Class|
|101-103 S. Main St.||Woolworth Company||1949||N|
|105-107 S. Main St.||Kuckuk & Pulcifer Building||1890||C|
|106 S. Main St.||lunch room||pre-1894||C|
|108 S. Main St.||****||ca. 1905||N|
|110 S. Main St.||Schmidt's Tavern||pre-1894||C|
|112-114 S. Main St.||Raddant Saloon||1902||C|
|113 S. Main St.||****||1911||N|
|116 S. Main St.||Klosterman & Raisler||pre-1894||C|
|117 S. Main St.||Lutz Furniture Store||1884||N|
|118-120 S. Main St.||A&P||pre-1894/ca. 1910||C|
|122 S. Main St.||Grover's Badger Paint Store||ca. 1910||C|
|124 S. Main St.||Gustman's Bakery||ca. 1910||N|
|125 S. Main St.||Holtz Saloon||1890||C|
|126 S. Main St.||Lieg Building||1933||C|
|127 S. Main St.||Schweer's Hardware||1890||C|
|128 S. Main St.||Mehlberg Bakery||1917||C|
|129 S. Main St.||Garbrecht Drug Store||1890||C|
|130-132 S. Main St.||Dehn's Ice Cream Building||1947||C|
|133-132 S. Main St.||German-American Mutual Bank/Raddant Brewing Co Tavern||1890||N|
|134 S. Main St.||Chairmson's Fair Store||1907||C|
|135 S. Main St.||Stier Building||1908||C|
|137 S. Main St.||J.C. Penny's||1929||C|
|138 S. Main St.||Shawano News & Liquor||pre-1894||N|
|140 S. Main St.||Seifert's Resturant||1924||C|
|141 S. Main St.||Schroeder Building||ca. 1930||C|
|142 S. Main St.||Ludolph Grocery||1916||C|
|144 S. Main St.||Raddant Millinery||pre-1894/ca. 1903||C|
|146 S. Main St.||Citizen's State Bank||1910||C|
|145-147 S. Main St.||****||ca. 1930||N|
|148 S. Main St.||Wavrunek Harnesses||1898||C|
|149 S. Main St.||Kriefalls' Barber Shop||1934||C|
|151 S. Main St.||Brunner's Barber Shop||1940||N|
|152 S. Main St.||Zenisek Confectionery||pre-1894||C|
|153 S. Main St.||Upham & Russell block||1920||C|
|154 S. Main St.||Jung's Furniture||pre-1894||C|
|108 E. Division St.||Boehm Barber Shop||1929||C|
|200-204 S. Main St.||IOOF Building||1889||N|
|201-203 S. Main St.||Masonic Block||ca. 1910/1921||C|
|208 S. Main St.||Karth Furniture & Undertaking||1904/1945||C|
|214 S. Main St.||Naber block||1903||C|
|216 S. Main St.||Red Cross Canteen||1903||N|
|220 S. Main St.||Crescent Theater||1915||C|
|224-226 S. Main St.||Reinholz Shoe Store||1946||C|
|209 S. Main St.||A&P Supermarket||1947||C|
Although buildings in the Shawano Main Street Historic District have generally undergone alterations, most frequently to their storefront areas, the district on the whole maintains a sufficient level of integrity of historic fabric and features to be considered eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. The district has excellent overall streetscape integrity; only one vacant lot in the southern portion of the district represents a demolished historic building. Likewise, only two buildings in the district postdate the district’s period of significance, one only by two years. Several buildings in the district have been altered to such an extent that they are non-contributing to the district at this time; however, a significant percentage of these are small one-story shops with less than twenty feet of frontage that have relatively little impact on the district’s streetscape continuity. The few larger buildings that have been determined non-contributing all received this designation due to applied facade treatments that are likely to prove reversible in the future.
The contributing buildings in the district generally demonstrate adequate to excellent integrity above the storefront area, and include original features such as cornices, hood molds and date or namestones, which are unusually prevalent in this district. Alterations, such as placing boards over windows, are frequently additive and reversible, resulting from recent underutilization of upper floor areas. Storefront alterations range from historic to recent; on many of the district’s contributing buildings the extant storefront is historic in its own right. The relatively high number of mid-twentieth century historic storefronts extant is particularly notable, as such storefront features are increasingly being lost at a time when scholarly investigation of this topic is in its infancy. The district’s representative storefronts from this period include many good examples, and include at least one known to represent a short-lived and significant production process. Such features, which were intended to be short-lived and have been destroyed in many regional downtowns, are intact here for a variety of reasons, including the community’s relatively slow economic growth in the last fifty years and the lack until recent decades of local competitors for the district’s businesses. The intact nature of these storefronts, as a result, bears particular merit.
The small but highly intact selection of historic buildings constructed in the district immediately following World War II is also a feature that bears significance. The three contributing post-war buildings represent attempts to apply newly-developing ideas of commercial design principles to the existing pattern of downtown streetscape development; such efforts were by and large abandoned shortly after these buildings’ construction in favor of outlying locations, such as the “strip” that developed immediately east of Shawano on Highway 29 beginning in the early 1950s. These buildings, as a result, represent a brief transitional stage of relatively traditional commercial development which presaged and was supplanted by outlying roadside development of a manner not yet the subject of extensive academic study. These buildings complete the evolution of the district during the historic period, allowing the district in its current form to fully represent a mature commercial district with extant resources spanning the entire era of the district’s historic growth. As a result, the Shawano Main Street district may be determined to have adequate, and in many areas excellent, integrity as a mature traditional commercial district.
Narrative Statement of Significance
The Shawano Main Street Historic District is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places under National Register Criterion A, due to its association with and contribution to Shawano’s development as a commercial and service center in northern Wisconsin. As a result of the district’s physical and developmental cohesion, it represents a significant and distinguishable entity whose components, as none would be considered individually eligible for the National Register, lack individual distinction, but which collectively represents and embodies an essential element of the development of the city of Shawano and the surrounding region. This district is eligible at the local level.
From the construction of its earliest extant historic buildings in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, through the close of the district’s period of significance two years after the end of World War Il, Shawano provided one of the most active commercial districts in rural northern Wisconsin.
The city’s central business district, which consisted primarily of the Shawano Main Street Historic District, served both city residents and people of outlying areas, who came to the city, the largest in the region between Wausau and Green Bay, for shopping, entertainment, and a variety of services. Throughout this time period, the district gained a selection of predominately vernacular examples of common nineteenth and twentieth-century commercial architectural styles and forms, and developed into a mature, cohesive, historic small-town business district. The Shawano Main Street Historic District comprises the largest intact portion of the city’s historic cornmercial building stock and is one of the more intact historic commercial districts remaining in the smaller communities of the region.
II. Historical Context: City of Shawano
A. Physical Context
The city of Shawano lies in Shawano County, approximately halfway between the cities of Wausau and Green Bay in northeastern Wisconsin. The city’s western border consists of the Wolf River, a major state waterway which runs south and west from Forest County north of Shawano to Lake Poygan in Winnebago County. Shawano is adjoined to the northeast by Shawano Lake, which is comected to the Wolf River by a shallow outlet, historically known as the mill pond. As a result of these natural barriers, most of the city’s development during the period of historic significance extended toward the south and east along two major overland corridors: Highway 29, known locally as Green Bay Road, which runs predominately east-west along a portion of the route of the former Green Bay-Superior Military Road; and Highway 22/47/55, which runs north-south thorough the city along Main Street and predominately parallels the Wolf River along a historic route connecting a river landing south of the present city of Shawano to the City of Keshena in the Menominee Indian Reservation to the north. Although the lake and river played an important role in pre and early-settlement transport and logging, the river did not develop into a major general transportation route due to the area’s relative isolation and the river’s natural navigation impediments at Shawano and downstream. Instead, the city’s commercial district developed around the intersection of the two overland routes, a development apparently unexpected by the platters of the area.
Lying near the southern edge of what later became known as the Cutover area of Northern Wisconsin, Shawano is one of the oldest cities between the Bay of Green Bay and the Wisconsin River. This location allowed Shawano to profit from both the pine logging of the late 19th century and the subsequent era of era of farming that continued through the mid-twentieth century. Unlike Cutover areas farther to the north, the land surrounding Shawano proved acceptable for farming after the timber was depleted, which allowed the city to continue to prosper and develop as a retail and service center for area farmers; it held that position with little competition for several generations. Until improved roads made access to Green Bay and other outlying areas easier starting in the 1950s, Shawano’s historic commercial district functioned as an important regional commercial hub. The extant district embodies the full chronological scope of this development and in its constituent parts reflects both the city’s relative commercial importance and its isolation from larger centers of population.
B. Initial settlement and development
Euro-American settlement in the area of the city of Shawano began with small-scale logging and trading in the late 1840s. This early activity was centered around the outlet from Shawano Lake into the Wolf River, about one-half mile northwest of the present historic commercial district; a mill and a tavern/boarding house were built at the confluence of these two features prior to 1851. Development began to shift to the southeast following 1853, when the creation of Shawano County led to a debate over the location of the future county courthouse. At the time, two informal concentrations city along an easterly bend in the Wolf River. A compromise led to the courthouse’s construction in 1857 at a site between the two settlements, at approximately the location of the present courthouse three blocks north of the historic commercial district.
The creation of the Green Bay-Superior Military Road, which was completed in 1871, improved access to the North Woods pineries and ushered in the era of pine logging; it also led to the development of the historic commercial district around its present location. The military road, which followed an established trail (approximated by modern Highway 29) from Green Bay, turned north at a point just east of the Wolf River and followed the historic trail leading from the Shawano Lake outlet to Keshena, a route already well-established by this time. The juncture between these two routes, at approximately the same location as the present intersection of Green Bay Road and Main Street, provided a logical stopping-off place for travelers; an early hotel was constructed at this juncture, on the southwest corner of modern Green Bay and Main streets, in 1855, well before the routes’ formal improvement. Full-scale commercial development at this location appears to have been unanticipated, however, and the commercial core was expected to develop west and north of this location, closer to the earlier River Heights settlement.
The area comprising the modern historic commercial district was platted by two different speculative partnerships during the 1860s. Both laid out large lots of varying sizes, many containing several acres, in a manner highly nontraditional for a northern Wisconsin commercial district. Shawano was incorporated as a city in 1874; this incorporation adhered to the boundaries determined when Shawano became a village in 1871 and did not include the present commercial district, or indeed much of the present city. Instead, the incorporated city included only a small area north of the Shawano Lake outlet that was in later years removed from the incorporated entity. The city boundaries were changed in 1877 to include the area south and west of the lake’s outlet, and the historic commercial district appears to have begun to develop in earnest shortly after that time. Although several of the district’s contributing buildings have dates of construction that cannot be determined due to the convolutions in the city’s land records described in Section 7, it may be inferred with some confidence that the earliest extant buildings in the district probably date from no earlier than the mid-1870s. One building (currently non-contributing due to an applied facade) is reputed to date from prior to the district’s development and to have been moved to its present site from one of the earlier settlements.
C. Evolution of district during period of historic significance
By the time the city’s first Sanborn Fire Insurance map was published in 1894, Shawano’s commercial district extended along Main Street for approximately one block north and south of the Green Bay Road and Main Street intersection. The commercial district also included five commercial buildings on the south side of the intersection of Main Street and Division, or Center, Street, as it was called on either side of Main Street. Despite its irregular platting, the core of the commercial district in the first block of South Main Street had by this time taken on the full appearance of a typical regional business district, dominated along the street by one to three story buildings set side-by-side and directly abutting the public right-of way. Several load-bearing brick buildings had by this time taken their place along the street, especially in the middle portion of the west side, where five buildings had been destroyed by a fire on May 2, 1890. The east side of the street, primarily unscathed by fire, consisted predominately of wood-frame buildings, with two brick and two brick veneer buildings interspersed. Businesses in the commercial district included a typical array of retailers and services, including several saloons, dry goods, hardware stores, jewelers and confectioners. Most of these businesses were sole proprietorships with few, if any, non-family employees. Thirty-seven buildings stood along the street between the two intersections at that time. By 1894, Shawano’s commercial district was already experiencing profound change in its sources of income and customers. Although logging provided much of the early speculative interest in the Shawano area, and pine logs were still being floated to market on the Wolf River as late as 1911, farming began to supplant logging as the primary source of Shawano’s income as early as the 1880s. As in much of northern Wisconsin, central and western European immigrants, particularly from the German states, began to arrive in the rural Shawano area as early as the 1870s. By purchasing inexpensive cutover lands and undertaking the back-breaking labor necessary to uproot the huge stumps, immigrants to the Shawano area could avail themselves of a farm sufficient to support their families with a minimum of monetary investment. Unlike more northern cutover areas, which proved too difficult to clear or to have a growing season too short for successful farming, the Shawano area’s farmers did well, raising grains and later dairy cattle in a manner common to the southern half of the state. Farming proved a reasonably successful means of making a living until well after the district’s period of significance, and provided the economic basis for much of the district’s historic development. Farmers, along with city residents, constituted virtually the entire market for the city’s goods and services for most of the district’s period of significance; even those who lived at a greater distance from Shawano and did most of their shopping at businesses in smaller communities came to Shawano regularly for unusual goods or legal or medical services.
During the district’s period of significance, Shawano’s commercial district expanded but remained functionally quite similar to its 1890s mode of operation. The district’s business owners, while still predominately independent entrepreneurs, were joined by national retailers such as the Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, which occupied 118-120 S. Main St. for several years before moving into its new building at 209 S Main Street in 1947; J.C. Penney’s Department Store, which built at 137 S. Main St. in 1929, 12 and Lauerman’s, which occupied 214 S. Main St. A handful of residential-style buildings on the east side of the southern end of the 100 South Block and in the 200 South Block were replaced with no-setback commercial buildings, resulting in a gradual expansion of the commercial district to its present borders with the construction of the two southernmost buildings in the district in 1946 and 1947. Several early commercial buildings were also veneered between1900 and 1927, as bricks became more available and a brick facade considered safer and more appropriate for a commercial building. In general, upper stories were occupied by either the family of the proprietor of the store below or by service providers, such as lawyers or doctors. The area’s slow, steady growth resulted in only a few new buildings every few years, and in many cases older buildings were substantially enlarged and remodeled in lieu of new construction.
Prior to the improvement of regional roads in the 1930s, many Shawano area residents went no farther than this community on any but an exceptional basis. Passenger and freight rail connections were made possible by the 1884 construction of the St. Paul and Eastern Grand Trunk Railway branch from Oconto to Clintonville; while it and subsequent rail connections improved the availability of goods made elsewhere, the costs of rail travel made it seldom an option for any but necessary or important trips. In terms of retailer competition, the railroad had little negative impact on the district’s businesses, and for many businesses provided improved access to consumer goods. Locations outside the central business district also remained undesirable for businesses or services, since limitations on transportation worked in favor of compact concentrations of commercial establishments within walking distance of each other. Since Shawano never expanded to the point of requiring a trolley or other electric rail system, and never had an organized bus or livery service other than that serving the hotels, outlying development along primary arteries occurred in only limited forms prior to World War II. In short, like many rural cities’ central business districts, Shawano’s Main Street establishments enjoyed virtually unquestioned status as virtually the only desirable business location throughout the district’s period of significance.
D. Decline of district following period of significance
Beginning in the late 1930s, and more extensively after World War II, improvements in roads and automobiles made previously inaccessible or inhospitable locations desirable for both customers and businesses. Starting in the 1950s, commercial development began to spread along outlying arteries, particularly along Highway 29 east of the city. Cheaper land available in larger parcels, including space for parking the necessary cars, made outlying locations attractive for larger operations, such as supermarkets. Amenities for highway travelers also became a growth industry, as Highway 29 became a common route for vacationers destined for Shawano Lake or points farther north.
Auto travelers were catered to by a series of drive-in restaurants, gas stations and tourist cabins. Since visitors and rural and city residents could reach such businesses with ease, and without struggling with the question of where to put the automobile, Shawano’s downtown began to lose businesses, especially those that required higher customer volumes or that catered to the auto traveler. As the highway improved access to specialty retailers in Green Bay and other area cities, and as roadside mall-style developments began to provide new locations for specialty businesses, smaller retail and service spaces in the downtown also began to be affected.
By the early 1980s Shawano’s historic central business district, which had remained little changed since the end of the district’s period of significance, began to undergo severe physical alterations as a result of attempts to improve the area’s economic health. Several buildings north of the district were demolished as Green Bay Road was widened. New construction and parking lots physically divided the remaining fragment of the northern portion of the historic commercial area from the bulk of the commercial district. Within the district, several buildings received additive treatments that in a few cases obscured the facade entirely; only the Chaimson’s Department Store building had received such a facade prior to 1980. The district became part of Shawano’s Main Street program area in 1990, and has since received some measure of attention through promotional efforts, business recruitment and development, and design and preservation assistance. This nomination is prepared in order to help building owners benefit from federal and state investment tax credits, the Wisconsin Historic Building Code, and other programs supportive of historic preservation.
The Shawano Main Street Historic District is locally significant under National Register Criterion A for its substantial contribution to Shawano’s economic and social development as a regional hub. Businesses housed in district buildings provided the largest regional concentration of retail and service businesses, and served as the primary sources of goods and services for the city as well as outlying areas throughout the duration of the district’s period of historic significance. Following are descriptions of selected businesses operating in contributing buildings during the period of significance; taken together these businesses constitute a significant element of the social and economic history of the community. It should be noted that the businesses cited represent those that occupied contributing buildings and those for which adequate, coherent documentation exists. Due to limitations on available historical materials, short-lived businesses that fall into these categories have not been cited, although it is understood and acknowledged that such establishments were essential in creating the historic fabric of the district.
1. General Stores and Department Stores
In rural conununities such as Shawano, general stores and later department stores were commonly among the most prominent retailers in a commercial district. General stores NPS frequently combined groceries, furnishings, clothing, hardware and an assortment of other goods under one roof. Although many unincorporated crossroads communities continued to support a general store until after World War Il, most general stores in larger communities ceded the grocery, foodstuffs and other aspects of the business requiring local production to dedicated grocery stores, meat markets and the like well before that time. By divesting themselves of such labor-intensive businesses, general stores could concentrate instead on retailing manufactured consumer goods, such as furniture, ready-made clothing, notions, and other household equipment. They could also focus their marketing toward the housewife responsible for the family’s adornment, who had access to an increasing amount of income available for such goods, which previous generations would have viewed as luxuries. This increased buying power and desire for manufactured goods led to the gradual development of the department store, with its segmented, specialized spaces and staff. Although this process was well underway by 1920, the arrival of national and regional department stores in downtown areas during the early 20th century speeded this process, and influenced customers’ expectations of store appearance and management for both local and non-local competitors.
Several general stores and department stores played prominent roles in Shawano’s retail development; two of the local general stores evolved into department stores as retail practices expanded and changed. The oldest, the Upham & Russell Co., traced its roots to Charles Upham’s general store, founded in 1858 about one-quarter mile south of the district and established in order to supply the needs of the logging business, which was barely underway at that time. By 1871, after taking a partner, Upham & Russell moved to the northwest corner of Main and Division streets, then the edge of the developing commercial district, and built what was at that time a typical commercial establishment: a two-story front-gabled building with one-story ell and glass display windows across its first floor.
By 1898 the Upham & Russell Company had expanded to the point of having its various departments located in at least three different buildings. The company also operated a grist mill and maintained extensive sheds outside the district to stable visiting farmers’ horses. During this transitional period the headquarters building, described previously, was still operated as a general store, selling “Dry Goods, Groceries, Lumbermens Supplies, Hay, Grain and all Farm Produce;” it also housed a real estate business, offering “Choice City Property and Improved Farms for rent or sale.” The portion of the business selling hardware was located one block north of the general store, while the men’s furnishings business, known as “The Hub, ” was operated that year in a storefront at 131 S. Main Street. A 1908 publication details the arrangement of the various departments, and indicates that even at this apparently severed from the firm, Upham & Russell rebuilt their store building in order to expand their space and update their appearance with regard to the rest of the business district. The announcement of their plans indicated that the original building would be veneered and incorporated into the larger building, 17 later accounts, however, indicate that the old building was probably moved, a common occurrence which apparently did not merit newspaper coverage. Upham & Russell closed in 1939; the building was occupied by a Montgomery Ward store for the duration of the historic period.
Another general store opened in 1903 in an unidentified storefront near its extant building’s site. Max Chaimson’s Fair Store occupied its new building at 134 S. Main Street building in 1907; like its older competitor, Chaimson’s sold dry goods and groceries, and, according to one early photograph, accepted pelts and hides for trade or sale. 20 By the late 1970s Chaimson’s had moved into the former Raddant Brewing Company building across the street from its previous location. Chaimson’s purchase of the building in 1919 was hailed as “one of the most important real estate transactions that has taken place in Shawano for a number of years. Chaimson’s had discontinued the grocery portion of the business by this time. The company remained in this building through the period of historic significance Due to an applied metal facade, this later building is not contributing to the district at this time; the 1907 building at 134 S. Main Street is the only contributing property associated with this historically prominent Shawano company.
Within a few years of Chaimson’s and Upham & Russell’s expansions, a national department store and a regional department store made their appearance in the Shawano district, further emphasizing the transition from general store to department store. In 1929 the local J.C. Penney outlet moved into a new storefront in the middle of the west side of the 100 block of South Main Street; this building is similar in most respects to its neighbors dating from the time period but is the widest building in the district to lack second story residential or office space. J.C. Penney remained at this location until well past the close of the district’s period of significance. Another department store based outside of the Shawano area was Lauermans, founded in 1890 in Marinette, Wisconsin, and established at 214 S. Main Street in 1929, where it stayed though the district•s period of significance.
Despite their disparate backgrounds, these four businesses provided an essential basis for the district’s historic retail economy, drawing customers for a variety of purposes in a manner seldom possible for smaller, more specialized retailers. They also reflect the increasing specialization in early twentieth-century retail practices, which led many urban general stores to focus on relatively uniform retail segments requiring basically similar storage and display parameters, evolving as a result into department stores focused on marketing personal and household consumer goods. This left grocery, animal feed and other businesses to more specialized operations. With the exception of the Upham & Russell Company, all of the previously described retailers remained active in the district throughout its period of significance; all had closed or moved out of the district by 1986.
2. Food Retailers
As discussed previously, general stores initially provided much of the district’s grocery and produce business; however, certain kinds of food preparation and sale that involved specialized equipment or skills, or which were not compatible with other types of retail, were being conducted by specialized retailers as early as 1894. Specialized food retailers predominately catered to city residents, who could not raise most of their own foodstuffs and thus could not as readily do their own butchering or everyday baking, as those living in outlying areas did. In 1894 an unnamed meat market operated in 110 S. Main Street (since veneered); like most butchers the establishment made sausage in a rear addition. 24 Another common type of specialized food retailer is represented by the Mehlberg family’s bakery, which was in business by 1914, when C.F. Mehlberg announced plans to build an addition to his earlier commercial building in order to expand his wholesale baking business? The Mehlbergs rebuilt their streetfront building at 128 S. Main St. in 1917; the bakery operated under the family’s name throughout the period of significance and as late as the early 1970s. As a result of the specialized physical plant required, this building still functions as a bakery.
A less specialized business, a grocery, was operated by George Ludolph, who started his grocery business in his new building at 142 S. Main St. in 1916. As early as 1898, Ludolph had operated a bake shop and ice cream store out of a previous one-story wood frame building on this site; in 1916 he relocated that building and had the present building constructed in order to house a grocery store. Ludolph’s Grocery was reputed to be the first business in Shawano to sell fresh fruits and vegetables, a distinction which was probably made possible by the growth in truck farming, or vegetable farming for sale, throughout much of Northeast Wisconsin in the late 1890s and early 1900s. The single known extant photo showing the interior of this building during Ludolph’s tenure, which appears to date from the early 1920s, presents an image universal to grocery stores of this time period. The photographs shows a narrow store space of utilitarian design lined on both sides by glass and wood counters, behind which rows of solidly stocked shelves rise to the a common arrangement for all types of stores that both limited what an establishment could offer and dictated the means by which they did business. Until about the 1930s, independent storefront groceries, such as Ludolph’s operation, dominated the grocery business in rural northern Wisconsin.
Sales of fruits, vegetables and packaged goods predominated, with shoppers expected to purchase other types of foods at more specialized shops, such as those described previously.” Since the shopper’s physical access to most goods was limited by the store space and its arrangement, the proprietor or a clerk often would select, package and, for city residents, deliver groceries requested by the customer. By 1935, Rudolph had leased his grocery store to another operator. although he continued to live in the upstairs apartment. By 1938 King’s Tavern occupied the storefront.
The demise of Ludolph’s grocery store may have stemmed from new competition for the areas foodstuffs market. The Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company moved into 118 S. Main Street between 1927 and 1938. This is the first known A&P location in Shawano and remained as such until the grocery store built at 209 S. Main St. in 1947. Based on standard grocery store operations in pre-World War Il storefront locations, it appears likely that A&P’s operations represented a subtle but significant change from Ludolph’s and that A&P’s operations changed dramatically between its two buildings. As early as the mid-1920s, self-service and “combination” stores were becoming prevalent nationwide in the A&P chain; by 1932 nearly one third of A&P stores in the United States operated according to one or both of these systems. Unlike its nineteenth-century predecessors self-service grocery stores placed goods in low stands within reach of the customer, who then directly selected the goods sought; establishments referred to as “combination” stores incorporated goods traditionally supplied outside of the grocery, such as meats and baked goods. Either system, however, required more horizontal display space than the traditional narrow commercial storefront, and in locations where wider storefronts were not available and transportation impediments made outlying areas undesirable. even national grocery chains accepted downtown locations with narrow storefronts in order to be close to established retail traffic.
As a result, the first Shawano A&P location probably employed only modest innovations, and any expansion plans are likely to have been delayed by the Depression and World War Il. The modest innovations they did employ, however, along with its corporate chain buying power, generally gave national chain grocery stores a considerable advantage over independent competition. The construction of the new building in 1947 allowed the Shawano operation to become a “supermarket, ” a term which by the postwar had come to mean a massive, almost completely self-service market carrying a complete and extensive assortment of food products, including baked goods and meats. The wide, low building allowed the use of numerous interior aisles between free-standing shelves, including a large freezer system for prepackaged meats, a 1939 A&P innovation, and a variety of other innovations that within a few years would be replicated in non-downtown supermarkets across the Shawano region. Significantly, A&P included a parking lot adjoining its new building, although the building itself followed the commercial district’s established norm of zero setback from the sidewalk, in parallel with nearby older commercial buildings.
As a result, these four buildings excellently represent the development of the Shawano Main Street Historic District’s historic significance as a commercial food retail center from the late 19th to mid-20th centuries. From specialized efforts based on nineteenth-century models, using norms of operation common to many kinds of business, to transitional semi-self service operations dominated by national or regional grocery chains, to the construction of buildings designed specifically to meet the expanded needs of the supermarket, the retail food business’s evolution in Shawano is represented in full by these extant buildings.
3. Specialty Retailers
As in most historic commercial districts, the majority of retail operations throughout the district’s period of significance consisted of single-storefront, independent establishments selling one or two categories of goods. In their basic operational methods, such stores were more similar to each other than to many of their larger neighbors, a fact which reflected both the tradition they inherited and the physical realities of the traditional commercial district, which had become well established by the beginning of the Shawano Main Street Historic District’s period of significance. Independent jewelers, hardware dealers, drug stores, clothing and shoe retailers, and other businesses sold their goods in highly similar manners, out of similar and often interchangeable retail spaces, and were usually managed as a sole proprietorship or a partnership that included at least one of the people actually running the store. Such businesses continue to predominate in downtown Shawano’s storefront spaces at the time of this writing, reflecting both the economic and physical requirements common to many specialty retailers and historic central business districts.
Hardware stores were among the necessities of a frontier area, such as Shawano was in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and one of the earliest independent hardware retailers was Schweers Brothers, located in 127 S. Main St. for at least ten years, beginning a few years after its construction in 1890. An 1898 advertisement lists the Schweers Brothers as dealers in tinware, stoves, and furnaces, with steam and hot water heating appliances listed as a specialty. Stoves and heating equipment would have been an important portion of the Schweers retail market at that time, as the area was growing quickly and building one’s own home was still common task for new farmers, as well as lower-income residents of the city. Unlike the food stores, which catered primarily to a city-based clientele, Schweers Brothers clearly drew much of its business from farmers, offering agricultural implements such as Goodhue windmills, threshers, and portable sawmills, often used for preparing building materials on-site at locations out of reach of the area’s stationary mills. Schweers Brothers also sold wagons, engines and carriages, as well as more basic supplies such as paint and window sash. Within a few years, Schweers Brothers Hardware was also offering sewing machine demonstrations. The Schweers choice of location was probably heavily influenced by the existence of its predecessor in that building, a firm headed by M. Nachtwey, who also specialized in farm machinery, stoves and ranges, as well as watches. Hardware stores were especially likely to move into spaces formerly occupied by hardware businesses; goods like sheet metal products and paints required specialized production spaces in order to minimize fumes, fire hazard and other undesirable but necessary features of the business. The building housed a hardware store as late as 1927, by 1938 it was occupied by F. W. Woolworth Company.
Another vital specialty retailer was the drug store, a niche occupied throughout the historic period by the building at 129 S. Main St. Built in 1890 by tailor G. Garbrecht to replace his original store, which was destroyed in the 1890 Jennings House fire, Garbrecht began renting the building in 1896 to Gallagher & McCarthy, who had started business the year before in the Kuckuk & Pulcifer Block. J.F. Gallagher, by this time operating independently, bought the building in 1905; the business was still operated by his heirs in the 1970s. A 1953 advertisement illustrates the evolving market targeted by small-town drug store owners, who often provided treatments for more than just a farm’s human residents. The ad’s slogan reads, “Everything for the Farmer / Serums Vaccines. Another drug store. operated by the Heinz family, remained in the former Raddant Millinery building at 144 S. Main St. from 1929 into the 1970’s, and by the 1940s was functioning as a Walgreens agency an indication of the trend toward franchise alliance that transformed the pharmacy industry after World War II.
In addition to the general stores and department stores described previously, several properties in the district functioned during the period of significance as clothing and shoe retailers. Clothing retailing evolved dramatically over the course of the period of significance, and the types of specialty businesses operated in the district evolved as well. Only one tailor, G. Garbrecht, is known to have had his own building, as described previously. Tailoring does not seem to have been a particularly lucrative business in Shawano; as early as 1898, after Garbrecht had discontinued his business. only one tailor remained in the city, at an unknown location. 42 The limited numbers of tailors may indicate the growth of the ready-made clothing business, which was dominated by general stores and later department stores; as early as 1890 Garbrecht had apparently recognized this trend and claimed to specialize in ready-made clothing.
Milliners, on the other hand, appear to have done well in Shawano during the period of historic significance. One of the longest-running millinery operations was conducted by Bertha Raddant and her family, who established a millinery business at 144 S. Main Street prior to 1894. Since millinery was one of few trades open to women, milliners in northern Wisconsin tended to work out of homes or out of second-story rooms over commercial storefronts; Raddant’s longtime occupancy of the building’s first-floor space is thus somewhat atypical. Two other millinery establishments are listed in the 1898 directory. Although their locations are unknown, both probably occupied houses on the east side of Main Street that were replaced during the historic period by commercial buildings. There were no millinery shops in business in Shawano by 1938, a result of increasing merchandising of machine-made hats by women’s clothing retailers.
Several women’s and men’s specialty clothing retailers operated during the historic period; however most do not appear to have operated, or at least kept the same name or address, for a time period sufficient to establish a significant connection. Compared to other businesses, there appear to have been relatively few such retailers during the period of historic significance, especially when compared to the numbers of saloon, barbers, and other specialty retailers in the district. It appears that general stores and department stores probably supplied the lion’s share of locally-purchased clothing.
Shoes, however, do appear to have proved a successful and stable specialty business for at least two retailers, both of whom constructed new buildings during the historic period to house their businesses. John and Joseph Lieg & sons of a prominent Shawano retail family, opened their shoe store 1921 in the former Rohloff building at 126 S. Main St., which they replaced with the extant building in 1933. Although the store claimed as late as 1953 to carry menswear in addition to shoes, the shoe business was the primary concern Another shoe retailer was Herman Reinholz, whose business had started in Gillett, Wisconsin in 1913. By 1938 he had moved his business to the former Karth Furniture Store Building at 208 S. Main Street, and in 1946 he moved into his new building at 224-226 S. Main Street. Reinholz’s building was the first constructed in the district after World War UU, and Reinholz had his name tiled into the floor in front of his store. Although the pre-war tradition, in many cases, had been to build a second story to allow for the shopkeeper’s home, Reinholz had no need for living space by 1941 he had purchased the house at 228 S. Main Street, immediately south of his new store building. Reinholz remained in that storefront until well past the district’s period of significance.
Another group of consumer goods that proved attractive to independent specialty market retailers was furniture, which was the stock-in-trade of some of the district’s earliest retailers. As early as 1894 Shawano had a dedicated furniture store, located in the building at 154 S. Main St. Like hardware, furniture was also sold by the district’s general stores. Ernst Jung’s store at this location was one of only two in the city in 1898. Jung’s store continued to operate under this name until the 1930s. In 1927 the building housed furniture sales and repair on the first floor and a cigar factory on the second: this unnamed establishment is the only known example of this common second-floor industry to operate in Shawano. RI It was no longer at this location by 1938.
The other 1898 furniture store was operated by Charles Wenstedt, whose business was housed in the building at 208 S. Main St. Wenstedt’s successor in the building, M. W. Karth, operated a furniture store and an undertaking business, a common combination of businesses as both required skilled cabinetmakers, who could be scarce in rural communities.” Karth Furniture and Undertaking remained at this location until 1913, when it moved to the building at 131 S. Main St. non-contributing at this time due to obscured facade. By 1923 the business discontinued furniture entirely and built one of the first funeral homes north of Milwaukee.
A final type of specialty retailer prominently represented in the district are jewelers, who made up significant portion of the district’s retail business throughout the historic period. In addition to several short-lived jewelers whose names or locations cannot be determined, three jewelers maintained prominent businesses. The earliest of these belonged to Antone Kuckuk, who received a failing jewelry business as payment for a debt in 1885. By 1890 Kuckuk, who had married the daughter of prominent local figure D.H. Pulcifer, had convinced his new brother-in-law to go into business with him, the result being the K&P building at 107-109 S. Main Street, the oldest multi-storefront commercial block extant and one of the first built in the district. Kuckuk operated his jewelry store in the south half of the commercial block, while in the north half the partners operated a short-lived grocery. By 1894 the grocery had closed and Kuckuk, still in the south storefront, had added music and “hand printing” to his offerings. In 1895 Kuckuk obtained an opthamalogy degree and added glasses and optics, a common business for jewelry stores in the early stages of opthamalogic science. In later years the store added sewing machines and photographic equipment. Like many early jewelry stores, Kuckuk’s employed a watchmaker starting in 1894; the business closed after the last watchmaker died in 1960.
Another long-lived jewelry establishment, Thimke Jewelers, occupied a series of storefronts in buildings which were replaced or are currently non-contributing due to alterations between 1916 and 1939, before settling into 148 S. Main St. The business remained at that location until closing in 1987. The last noted jewelry store to open during the historic period was Runge’s Jewelers, which acquired the building at 208 S. Main Street in 1945. Like most retailers of the later portion of the historic period, Runge’s remodeled the storefront of the building to fit both the current trends in storefront fashion and the needs of his business, which required higher storefront bulkheads and smaller windows than retailers selling large items. Runge’s storefront is still intact, the only jeweler’s storefront extant from the historic period in the district. Although generally smaller and less visually or economically impactive operations, specialty retailers occupied much of the district’s commercial space and played an important role in the district’s perception and function as the area’s primary center of retail activity. Catering to needs that ranged from basics to luxuries, such specialty retailers maintained similar basic parameters in terms of size, location and management methods, while in many cases expanding, relocating, or repositioning their offerings in order to take advantage of or react to the retail sector’s evolution throughout the historic period. Specialty retailers continue to dominate the district’s streetscape in 1997. Although location options and retail trends have led to some businesses’ demise or removal from the district, others. such as retailers of antiques. continue to occupy historic specialty retailer spaces.
4. Service Businesses
Service businesses actually tended to outnumber retail establishments in the Shawano Main Street Historic District, predominately due to the number of taverns, which were ubiquitous fixtures of most northern Wisconsin business districts, especially in those downtowns that drew significant portions of their income from lumberjacks or farmers. Restaurants also catered to the visitor, as well as to city residents with sufficient disposable income to eat out for convenience or entertainment. Barbers and beauticians, as well as banks and medical practitioners, also served both in-town and out-of-town clients.
As far as can be determined, more that half on the district’s single-storefront buildings operated as a tavern for at least part of the period of historic significance. Since both the lumberjack and the farmer customer groups consisted of individuals who lived and worked at a distance from the city, and who therefore came to the city infrequently, both groups tended to make long trips, often staying in town for a full day or more. Many of these visitors’ needs involved waiting for an item or a service, such as having grain ground or equipment repaired; this fact and the tendency to try to do several things while in town often necessitated considerable waiting time, which, for men in particular, was often spent in the saloon. Most saloons left relatively little documentary evidence of their existence, especially in comparison to retailers, since they relied primarily on word-of-mouth and regular customers to maintain their business. For recent immigrants with limited skill in English, tavern ownership provided one of the best opportunities available for making an independent living, since one could operate on a limited vocabulary and rely to at least a partial extent on people from one’s own linguistic background to patronize one’s establishment. From a societal perspective, taverns provided the primary social space for men of the city and from outlying areas. Taverns were also, even during the historic period, most frequently blamed for civic problems such as public drunkenness and fights. Despite occasional bouts of local temperance activity, attempts to regulate the industry’s effects on the city and the federal implementation of Prohibition in 1920, taverns changed their basic practices only very slightly during the period of historic significance.
By 1894 seven were operating in the Shawano Main Street Historic District. In 1898 Shawano had six saloons of sufficient prominence to be listed in a published directory. As in much of Northern Wisconsin, the temporary annoyance of federal Prohibition did little to curtail the tavern business; by 1938, only six years after the repeal of Prohibition, at least seven taverns were operating in the district, including one in the former Ludolph Grocery Store at 142 S. Main. Several of the longer-lived taverns extant from the historic period will be cited below.
One of the first documented within the historic district, William Holst’s tavern was in operation shortly after the construction of the building at 125 S. Main St. As the sign on his tavern announces in a photograph, purported to date from the late 1890s, Holst’s tavern also served “meals at all hours,” an important supplemental business for most taverns. In 1901 Holst took as a partner a former employee of the Raddant Brewing Companies, one of three breweries operating in Shawano at that time. By 1902 Holst & August Marohl’s tavern warranted a glowing description in the Oshkosh Times, based more than sixty miles south of Shawano. The passage reflects not only the business’s prominence. but also indicates the generally high level of respectability accorded to tavern proprietorship in northern Wisconsin in the decades before Prohibition: [Holst & Marohl] carry a large and fine line of wines, liquors and cigars. Their sample room is known as the ‘Bon Ton,’ and is very liberally patronized. The firm is comprised of Messrs. William Holtz and August Marohl, both experienced gentlemen in this business and very popular…. Their business is prospering and both are capable gentlemen.
By 1938 the tavern was run by William Wolf; it remained a tavern into the 1970s. Another successful Raddant-connected tavern was operated by E.T. Raddant, who sold beer made a short distance to the south at the Raddant family’s brewery, starting shortly after the tavern building’s construction in 1902. Company-owned or sanctioned taverns were a common method of distribution for local breweries in northern Wisconsin. In exchange for an exclusive franchise, breweries would often finance construction, improvements or signage for recipient taverns.
Two longtime independent taverns were operated by J. Bohr and Otto Schmidt at 136 and 110 S. Main St., respectively. Bohr bought an older, brick veneered building in 1908 and added a second story in order to house his family, a common method among independent business owners, and especially among tavern owners, for whom minimizing costs was an important consideration. By 1938 the tavern had received new ownership and the picturesque name of “Farmer’s Home Tavern,” which indicated both the establishment’s primary clientele and the home-when-you’re-away-from-home atmosphere that many taverns tried to cultivate. In 1939 the tavern installed a bowling alley, the second known to have been installed in the district. The tavern and bar remained under the same ownership through the historic period, and remained a tavern and bowling alley into the 1970s. Schmidt’s tavern, was in business by approximately 1910, received a brick veneer by 1927, and was still operating under Schmidt’s name in 1947. Despite their relatively unheralded presence, these taverns and those that operated for shorter periods of time in other buildings of the district contributed significantly to the district’s economic and social impact, functioning in fundamentally the same manner throughout the district’s period of historic significance.
Another important service was provided by restaurants, which in the early years of the period of historic significance catered primarily to visitors and workers in the downtown area who lived too far from their place of work to return home for lunch. Although hotels and taverns frequently served meals of varying quality and elaborateness. downtown visitors and workers frequently required a fast meal, which the other sources were often ill-equipped to provide. An early business designed to meet this need was the “lunch room; ” an unnamed business of this type was operating in the building at 106 S. Main St. as early as 1894. Like taverns, restaurants frequently opened and closed at different locations, resulting in several buildings that at some time housed a restaurant which remained there for only a few years, at most.
However, restaurants in the Shawano Main Street Historic District were less prevalent than taverns, which presumably provided most of the demand for meals. In the 1938 directory only two restaurants are listed, as opposed to at least seven taverns; one of the listed restaurants is in Mehlberg’s Bakery, discussed previously.
Another food retailing business, however, expanded to include a restaurant in 1947, providing a new source of quick meals to downtown visitors and workers. Dehn’s Ice Cream and its predecessor, the Green Bay-based Fairmount Creamery Co.. operated a retail establishment in a building at 132 S. Main St. as early as 1938. 71 In 1947 they built the second-newest contributing building in the district during the current period of historic significance. The new building, which replaced the former storefront and a tavern to the immediate north, included a wide storefront area and a narrow restaurant portion, about one-half the width of the store area. The restaurant portion of the building included a curved display window with high bulkheads, ideal for displaying food plates or desserts, and incorporated diner-style seating running the length of the space and arranged to face the cooking equipment, which was arrayed along the south wall in full view of the customer. 70 This business, while a predecessor to and replacement for the pre-1900 lunch room, functioned in a highly similar manner, providing an inexpensive meal to people who needed to eat quickly.
A more traditional restaurant type provided snacks and treats to visitors who could afford such luxuries. The Ruby Inn opened in 1920 in a building at 140 S. Main St. that burned to the ground in 1924. The Seifert family, occupants of the destroyed building and operators of the Ruby Inn, built the extant building at this address and continued to operate the business until 1943, when it was purchased for a retail business. According to a later recollection, the Ruby Inn sold “all varieties of goodies, ice cream, ice cream sodas, fruit, and a complete line of confectioneries.”
Another essential service usually provided in historic central business districts were banks, which became especially important aspects of a commercial district’s function during the last quarter of the twentieth century. Although. like most northern Wisconsin settlements, Shawano area residents initially made do without local banking operations, increasing financial sophistication and increasing reliance on cash as the primary means of commerce led to the establishment of independent banks governed and operated by local citizens. Shawano’s first bank [non-extant] was established in 1881; the third, Citizens State Bank, included several farmers in its initial board of directors. Their selection indicates one of this bank’s primary anticipated markets and was a departure from the previous two banks, whose boards had been dominated by merchants. % Between 1927 and 1938 the bank relocated from its original building at 146 S. Main St. to a vacated bank building across the street [non-contributing due to alterations], where it remained through the historic period.
A less physically impressive but socially important service provided in central commercial districts were barbers. who located in downtown storefronts in order to capitalize on customers inclined to combine a haircut or shave with other downtown activities. Like the tavern, barbershops provided an informal meeting place. where the necessity of waiting for a personal service lent itself to discussion and interaction in a manner that would have been discouraged in most retail-oriented operations. Although several barbers operated during the historic period out of several storefronts in the district, two have particularly significant ties to contributing buildings. The Boehm brothers, Joe and Louis, operated a barber shop out of the building at 108 E. Division St. from its construction in 1929 through the period of historic significance, while William Kriefall, who had previously been the house barber at the Murdock Hotel, opened his shop in his new building at 149 S. Main in 1935. He stayed in this building until 1962. Due to the relatively unobtrusive nature of such businesses, few details can be determined about these establishments’ operations, but it may be assumed that each catered to a group of regular customers that included predominately local city residents, along with a few of the more affluent farmers in the area. A few beauty salons did operate in the district during the historic period; however these appear to have been short-lived at any given location until after the period of historic significance.
Other essential services provided in the Main Street Historic District’s contributing buildings included medical care, legal advice, and real estate transaction management, services that were usually located in second-story quarters over retail or service storefronts. Such businesses, although less visible and often somewhat transient, were also important features of the traditional commercial district and, like previously-discussed businesses, benefited from proximity to unrelated establishments that targeted _the same customers. As early as 1900, J.G. Luebke operated an insurance business out of the second story of the building housing Nachtwey’s Hardware Store. ‘9 As late as 1938, several doctors operated out of upstairs offices in 146, 137, and 127 S. Main St., in addition to others. One such professional, Dr. Ernest Schroeder, had a building constructed for him at 141 S. Main St. in the mid-1930s, which still bears his name prominently; several doctors kept offices in this building during the historic period.
5. Culture and Entertainment
Finally, in addition to the retail and service components, The Shawano Main Street historic district housed two entities that were significant contributors to the district’s role as a center of cultural and entertainment functions for both the city and the region. Cultural groups, such as fraternal organizations, and entertainment businesses located in historic business districts for reasons similar to those of retailers and services. Such locations allowed them to capitalize on a central, relatively easily-accessible location that would allow them to draw members or customers from those already traveling to the district from across the region for other reasons. Such establishments came to be seen as important and distinctive elements of the downtown area’s offerings, even if, in the case of the fraternal organizations, the establishment was open only to selected downtown visitors.
The Shawano area Masonic Lodge was established in 1868 and was housed over time in three buildings, which are at present non-contributing due to alterations, before establishing themselves in the building at 201-203 S. Main St. in 1922. An article announcing the sale of their previous building expressed the hope that the Masons would “purchase a building lot in the near future and… erect a fine Masonic Temple which will be a credit to the city of Shawano,” the lodge decided to pursue a mixed-use development rather than a temple in order to maintain a source of income from storefront rental. The lodge purchased an existing brick commercial building on the southwest corner of Main and Division streets, and doubled the building’s frontage, adding a storefront to the existing space and substantially rebuilding the structure. Their new property presented the appearance of an imposing commercial block, with two storefronts facing Main Street and smaller windows at intervals across the second floor. From the exterior, the only evidence of the building’s unique purpose was contained in the second-floor signage and the date and name stones set in the cornice, which included the Masonic Square and the number assigned to the lodge. On the interior, the second floor was primarily occupied by the Lodge’s ritual spaces, while the basement included a bowling alley; there is no evidence to indicate whether this was a private or public amenity. As in many communities, members of the Masonic Order included several of the city’s prominent men, including several district business owners.
A different type of district feature was constructed in 1915, and served as a community center of entertainment throughout the remainder of the period of historic significance. The Crescent Theater at 2.14 S. Main Street was the only dedicated theater constructed during the period of historic significance, and is the oldest such establishment extant in the city. Begun in 1914 and completed in 1915, the theater was financed and operated by George Nagel and later by members of the Nagel family, recent arrivals to Shawano from Rhinelander, Wisconsin. Designed by Wausau architect H. T. Leibert and constructed by Shawano builder Fred Werbelow, the building included both film equipment and a shallow stage, suitable for vaudeville acts but not for full-scale dramatic productions. At its opening on March 6, 1915, the theater showed several motion pictures, featuring such topics as a candy plant in Milwaukee. Following George Nagle’s death the following year, the theater continued under the operation of Anna Nagle and her family until at least 1973.
As has been demonstrated, the Shawano Main Street Historic District constituted a significant portion of Shawano’s traditional central business district throughout the period of historic significance. A wide array of businesses and services, ranging from retail emporiums to single-person professional offices, operated from contributing buildings within the district. creating a cohesive, interrelated and historically significant collection of buildings which, taken as a whole, constitute a historic district eligible for the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion A. Together, these buildings constituted a commercial district frequented for a wide variety of purposes by people from the city and from far-outlying areas who sought goods, services, entertainment and community activities, all to be found within the district’s accessible, compact space.
As is the case with all historic districts, the Shawano Main Street Historic District’s significance is determined within the context of other extant local historic areas of similar function and dating from a period of historic significance. Although Shawano’s central commercial district during the period of historic significance also included the 100 and part of the 200 block of North Main Street, located immediately north of Green Bay Road, which is the present northern boundary of the district, all but a small portion of the historic buildings in this area were demolished during the 1970s and 1980s. The eastern side of the 100 block is at present taken up almost entirely by a large, recently-constructed building and a large parking lot; the southern portion of the west side of this block is occupied by another recently-constructed building and adjoining parking lot and landscaping.
Small groupings of historic commercial buildings are located in the northern portion of the 100 North Block and the southern portion of the 200 North block; these areas contain a few small single-storefront buildings that could potentially prove significant as individual properties but which, due to intrusions and extensively altered buildings, lack the cohesion and density necessary to justify a historic district. Due to the demolition and new construction previously mentioned, these properties also cannot be defined as contributing to the Shawano Main Street Historic District. Although the Shawano Main Street Historic District lacks some of the historic property types found in such districts, such as hotels, these are not extant in other portions of the Shawano central business district as well. As a result, the Shawano Main Street Historic District incorporates the majority of the extant historic commercial buildings, as well as the most significant concentration of such buildings, in the area that historically functioned as the city’s central business district.
Several subsidiary concentration of historic commercial properties did develop in the area of the Shawano Main Street Historic District. Not only do these represent different developmental forces and differing economic niches, none contains at present a sufficient concentration of historic and potentially contributing properties to allow for listing as a historic district on the basis of their own unique merits. One such area developed several blocks south of the Shawano Main Street Historic District around the intersection of South Main Street with one of the city’s two historic rail lines. Buildings surrounding this intersection reflect industrial, transportation and commercial uses oriented to rail, rather than road transportation and are interspersed among several vacant lots, metal storage sheds and other buildings of recent construction. Another such concentration of commercial properties developed along Green Bay Road between approximately the 1930s and the post-World War Il era. With the exception of the Shawano Main Street Historic District, no extant portion of the City of Shawano and the city’s immediate environs cohesively and comprehensively represents the historically significant role of Shawano’s central business district during the Shawano Main Street Historic District’s period of significance.
The Shawano Main Street Historic District is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places under National Register Criterion A as the most complete, most intact and cohesive, and most historically significant remaining portion of the local historic central business district. From at least 1894 to 1947, the Shawano Main Street Historic District served as the primary local center of commerce, serving city and regional residents and providing an extensive and interrelated array of goods, services and activities. The district’s contributing buildings constitute a historically significant and coherent assemblage of such properties. The extant contributing buildings represent and embody the development of the district throughout the district’s period of historic significance. Within the local context, this district represents the largest extant cohesive assemblage of properties historically associated with the historic central business district, and constitute the only such portion of the city’s historic building stock to represent the development of the traditional central business district during the period of historic significance. For these reasons, the Shawano Main Street Historic District is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.
VI. Archeological Potential
Although the Shawano area was inhabited by both pre-historic and historic period Native Americans, these settlements were generally located near Shawano Lake and the lake’s outlet to the Wolf River. Since the Shawano Main Street Historic District developed at a distance from that location and at the junction of two historic-period overland routes, it is unlikely that extensive settlement prior to the settlement period took place in this area. As in most historic districts, much of the land in the district has been extensively disturbed by construction, making extant archeological resources predating current features possible but unlikely.
The nomination of the Shawano Main Street Historic District to the National Register of Historic Places will heighten the town’s sense of pride and place. Ideally, it will stimulate greater awareness of the man-made environment and encourage local preservation efforts. As a Wisconsin Main Street community, designation of the Main Street Historic District is expected to encourage business and property owners to avail themselves of federal and state incentives designed to encourage historically sensitive renovations. This nomination is the first step in that direction.