Old Settlers Club 1916

Early Milwaukee
Papers from the Archives of the Old Settlers' Club of Milwaukee County
Published by the Club

A Popular Street Corner

By D. W. Fowler.

Source: Early Milwaukee, Papers from the Archives of the Old Settlers' Club of Milwaukee County, Published by the Club, 1916.

The old Milwaukee house, as the pioneers of Milwaukee are wont to designate the first hotel of importance erected in this city, was built in the year 1836, by Solomon Juneau, and Morgan L. Martin, and stood on lots 7 and 8, and perhaps a part of lot 9, in block 12, in what is now the seventh ward of the city of Milwaukee. And which is geographically described as being on the corner of Wisconsin Street and Broadway, where the Miller block now stands.

The hotel faced to the south, and stood quite a distance to the northward of Wisconsin street, leaving a plaza in front, which was used in the early days by the farmers in which to stand their wagons while the horses or oxen were being fed in the barns in the rear of the hotel, and it was no uncommon sight to see corralled there as many vehicles as there could be found room for, while the owners were partaking of the hospitalities of the inn, or attending to the business which brought them to the city.

In the year 1850, this hotel, having perhaps passed the zenith of its usefulness, was divided into three parts and sold, to be moved off the premises on which it stood. The main part of the structure was moved to the northeast corner of Main and Huron streets, or Washington Avenue, as some people in those days attempted to christen it anew, but the name would not stick, and it remains Huron street, to this day.

This part was continued in use as a hotel, and was run in the year 1851, by the firm of Skinner & Co.

The east wing, was bought by Andrew McCormick, and moved by him to the northeast corner of Main and Detroit Streets, and continued in the hotel business under the name of the Keystone hotel, and was conducted for many years by the proprietor and owner.

The kitchen part of this ancient hostelry was removed to Detroit street near Broadway, on the north side of the street, and was converted into what was for many years known as the Baltic House, and was kept by a man by the name of J. Me D. Smith. Later it was again removed to the southwest corner of Main and Detroit streets, where it remained until torn down, or was again removed to make way for the erection of the present Jewett & Sherman building.

Juneau & Martin having become indebted to the Farmers' and Mechanics' Bank of Detroit during the years previous to the year 1850, for which they had pledged a large amount of seventh ward real-estate as security, were at last obliged to dispose of the property to meet their obligations to the bank, and thus it came about that a large number of lots passed into the possession and ownership of the late James S. Brown, who at once proceeded to dispose of them, as fast as possible, to such as might wish to buy, or had use for them.

On November 23, 1849, the Farmers' & Mechanics' Bank of Detroit, Mich., deeded to Mr. Brown besides others, lots 7, 8, 9, and 10, in block twelve, in the Seventh ward, and which may be geographically described as the first four lots on the east side of Broadway, and from Wisconsin street, north a distance of 240 feet.

The deed above referred to, was not recorded by Mr. Brown and seems to have been forgotten by him, until May 18, 1861, although the property changed hands many times during the interval, each purchaser in turn being apparently satisfied with a warranty deed given by the grantor, and it was not until the Northwestern Life Insurance Company came into possession of one of these lots, that the fact was discovered.

It was necessary to obtain a certified copy of the original deed from the bank, and which as before stated was put on record May 18, 1861.

On June 25, 1851, it is of record that Mr. Brown, and Win. P. Young entered into an agreement as to party walls, Mr. Young having bought from Mr. Brown, lots 7 and 8, in block 12 it is said for $3,000. Mr. Young at once proceeded to erect a building which is known in the history of the city as the first "Young's Block."

It had not yet been fully completed, when on the evening of the 10th of February 1852 the German Musical society gave a concert therein which was followed two days later by the annual ball of Fire Engine company No. 1. These were the only entertainments ever held in this hall, for on the Sunday following the ball, at about 5 :30 P. M. a fire broke out said to have been caused by the stoves used in drying the plastering, and in a remarkably short space of time the whole building was in flames, and was completely destroyed, the north wall falling upon the dwelling of Lucas Seaver adjoining and doing much damage.

The Musical society having intended to repeat their performance had left many valuable instruments and much music, in the hall during the interval. These were totally destroyed, and the loss on instrumental music alone, it is claimed, was upwards of $2,000.

Mr. George Papendeick, lost a violin valued at $500. Mr. George Durige a violin worth $300, and a violoncello, worth an equal amount.

Lots 9 and 10 were divided up into five lots of 24 feet each facing on Broadway and an agreement was entered into with the purchasers to erect jointly a block of five dwellings thereon, which were to be two story and basement houses, with attics. The first story or basement as it might be called, was almost entirely above ground and the entrance to the second story was made by a flight of stairs leading from the ground. Mr. Brown, it is believed, erected the first two, which were located on what is now 414 and 416 Broadway, and the next one to the north was erected by Philetus Yale, and the next at 420 Broadway was erected by George W. Mygatt, and the last, or north one, was built by Ashael Finch. Mr. Brown appears to have sold his house soon after its completion to Lucas Seaver, who again sold it to Philip A. Hall, March, 1853. No consideration named, and he in turn gave a power of attorney to Seaver to sell the same, which he did Sept. 12, 1853, to A. B. Van Cott, for the sum of $896.39, subject to a mortgage to James S. Brown on which was due at that time the sum of $2,000.63. A. B. Van Cott took up his residence there and lived there for about ten years when he transferred the title to A. H. Gale & Co., of New York for $10,350. Somebody forgot to pay the taxes about this time and the late J. V. V. Platto, appeared promptly on the ground to pay them for the owner. He obtained a tax deed which he relinquished to the owner October 16, 1863. A. H. Gale & Co., transferred the property to Geo. W. Peckham in August 1866, for $9,000. August 5, 1876, Rufus Peckhara administrator, quit claimed to Mary P. and Geo. W. Peckham to each an undivided one half, and they sold to Judson A. Roundy the present owner for $9,500, the same year. These are the premises now known as 414 Broadway.

The premises at 416 Broadway went from Mr. Brown to J. P. Whaling, Feb. 5, 1851 for $1,000 and from him to D. H. Chandler, May 2, 1852 and from the latter to Allen Wheeler for $3,000 Jan. 1, 1853. He deeded it to Fred Clark for the same amount Jan. 1, 1853, and the same day Fred Clark deeded it to his wife Roxana Ann Wheeler. She died, and Allen Wheeler was appointed guardian of her children Dec. 26, 1856. It was next sold by order of the court to Henry Cadwell for $9,000 and the next time it was sold it was by Herman L. Page, then sheriff of Milwaukee county on foreclosure of a mortgage to Eliphalet Cramer for the sum of $5,900, August 14, 1858. Mr. Cramer was given a deed of it by A. J. Langworthy, sheriff, Nov. 5, 1859. November 10, 1859, Eliphalet Cramer deeded it to Oliver Al Blake, no consideration being named, and on May 3, 1865, Lewis A. Blake and wife deeded it to the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, for the sum of $9,000. February 11, 1868, the Insurance company deeded it to Mrs. Marilla Hewitt for $13,000 and she to Judson A. Roundy, August 13, 1876, no consideration named.

Philetus Yale, our venerable fellow citizen, who still survives at the age of 87 years, was the purchaser from Mr. Brown, of the premises at 418 Broadway, and erected his house there in 1851. He writes to me in regard to the matter as follows:

"I think the attic of my house was finished when built. There were five houses alike two stories with basement. Everything was cheap then; the bricks were but $3.50 per thousand and bought of our old friend James H. Rogers; masons $1.75 per day, laborers fifty cents, good carpenters $1.25 and common ones at $1.00. James S. Brown owned four lots in block 12 and sold the two corner lots located on the corner of Main and Wisconsin street, to Win. B. Young for $3,000. The two lots on which we built our five houses were valued by Mr. Brown at $2,500. Myself and Ashael Finch and Geo. W. Mygatt bought three lots of 24 feet each at $1,000 and Mr. Brown kept two. The five houses covered the sixty foot lots and were built in the year 1851. I lived in the house that I built nine years when I converted it into a store which still stands on the premises at 418 Broadway.

George W. Mygatt, well known to all old settlers as one of the first architects of this city, bought the lot at 420 Broadway, and lived in the tenement that he erected many years ago. He used the lower story of his house for an office, where he conducted business for many years. Henry C. Koch, one of most distinguished men in his profession, could at an early day be seen their learning the rudiments of his art, which has brought him fame and fortune. Mr. Mygatt sold to Mat Keenan, Oct. 6, 1873, for $10,000. The north 24 feet of lot 10, was sold by Mr. Brown to the late Ashael Finch, who built that tenement of this once famous row. Whether he ever resided there I am unable to say, but I think that he did and for several years. On August 6, 1858, he sold it to Wm. J. Whaling, who lived there for a time, and one of whose daughters died there. Mr. Whaling sold to Alfred Chapin, and Mr. Chapin at once deeded it to his wife, August 9, 1858, and they in turn to Mrs. Mary Shanks, Nov. 2, 1865, for the sum of $8,000. Mrs. Shanks kept it until Feb. 23, 1867, when she deeded it to Romanzo B. Rice for $12,000. The following December he sold it to Geo. W. Peckham, for $13,000. Geo. W. Peckham conveyed it to Rufus P. Peckham, Jan. 19, 1871; W. H. Peckham, et al May 1, 1876, to Amelia R. Maschauer for $10,500, and she to Chas. H. Haskins, and he to the Wisconsin Telephone company, Oct.18, 1882 for $11,500. The house had been converted into a store about 1862 or 1865 and in this store the celebrated firm of Wadsworth Adams & Co., commenced in the wholesale and retail grocery and liquor business that at a later day ended so disastrously to the members of that firm. Allen Wheeler before named was an insurance agent and conducted business at the corner of Huron and East Water streets.

Lucas Seaver was the proprietor of the Commercial Advertiser, which expired about the year 1851. He was afterwards city treasurer. He was an excellent singer, and he and Mrs. H. D. Torry sang at the concert given in Gardiner's hall December 30, 1850, for the benefit of the Fireman's Protective association in which the sum of $1,000 was raised for the relief of volunteer fire-men who were disabled. The concert was under the direction of Hans Balatka, and H. N. Hempsted. At that time Miss Helen Matthews also sang an original song composed for the occasion by Mrs. Mary H. C. Booth, who was the wife of Sherman M. Booth, the then editor, and proprietor of the Free Democrat. The air was that of the old time song "Roll on Silver Moon." Mrs. H. D. Torry also sang an original fireman's song written by her husband H. D. Torry, who was at that time an artist with his studio in the "Emporium" on Mason street, near East Water street. Mr. and Mrs. Torry left the city very soon after this time. Mrs. Torry, and Lucas Seaver, were general favorites in Milwaukee in that day, and usually sang together at most of the entertainments given to amuse the citizens of this then ambitious city.

This story would scarcely be complete without a further mention of the second, and third, "Young's Block." Mr. Young, with characteristic energy, at once commenced the erection of another building after the destruction of the first. This was completed in the year 1852. In it was a hall for public use, which was known as "Young's Hall," and which soon became the most popular place of amusement in the city. This new structure soon fell a victim to the unsparing element of fire, and was again totally destroyed on the 21st of June, 1859. Again Mr. Young bent his energies to the construction and erection of another building, which he commenced in the year 1859, and completed in the year 1860, and which still remains a monument to his industry and genius. The frequent losses which he had sustained caused him to become embarrassed financially, and the ownership of this property soon fell into other hands. Mr. Young, removed to St. Louis, where he died, his fortune, like those of many other and no less energetic, and ambitious pioneers, having melted away.

The Miller Block, as it is now known, has already passed from the possession of the first generation of owners of that name, into that of the second, and has become one of the most valuable properties in the city, which it is predicted will be greatly enhanced during the coming years.

Philip A. Hall bought the south 24 feet of block 9, Oct. 10, 1851, and the building thereon for the sum of $2,800. He bought it of Mr. Brown. He did not remain in Milwaukee very long but he continued to own the house until 1853, when on the 18th day of March of that year he gave a power of attorney to sell the property.

The Bellview hotel, afterwards called the Milwaukee House, was commenced in the year 1835, and was not fully completed until 1837. The first proprietors were Daniel Wells, and Dr. T. J. Noyes, of whom it is said that they kept it "Like hell" for a short time, and then sold out to Henry Williams and B. H. Edgerton, and they to George E. Meyers, and he to Capt. L. H. Cotton and Luther Childs. They in turn sold out to George Myers and Charles Hurley, and they transferred it to George E. Graves, Nov. 22nd, 1839. Graves transferred it to Daniel Wells, Jr., and he to Hurley and Ream and they to Jones Whitney and Caleb Wall, in the year 1842.

Wall & Whitney transferred the hotel lease to Peleg G. Jones of Waukesha in October 1845. P. G. Jones was the last proprietor of the old Milwaukee House and continued to manage it until it was finally closed up which was quite a time before its removal from the original site on Wisconsin Street.