Historic Structures

Beck Building - Redding's Restaurant, Jefferson Wisconsin

Date added: March 29, 2019 Categories: Wisconsin Commercial

The Bruno P. Beck Building was preceded by a frame structure that was well known in Jefferson as Kispert & Roessler, clothier and shoe store. The building was erected in the 1850s and housed Kispert & Roessler from c. 1880 until its demolition in 1920. Kispert & Roessler was the last frame structure on the 100 block of South Main Street. In 1921, the Beck Building was constructed for the Beck family, who lived on the second floor and operated a shoe store on the first floor until 1940.

After the Becks, the building remained vacant for about six years. Purchased by Earl and Elizabeth Smith, the shoe store was converted to a hardware store and operated in that capacity for about 14 years, until 1960. In that year, Rose Redding purchased the building, remodeled it, and operated a restaurant. For over 30 years, the building was known as Redding's Restaurant until 1993. In 1995, the building was leased for a short period, operating as the Sunrise Cafe. As the Sunrise Cafe, the interior was remodeled, with booths replacing free-standing tables and chairs, and carpeting laid over the original tile.

The first permanent Euro-American settlers, Rodney J. Currier and Andrew Lansing who hailed from Milwaukee, arrived in Jefferson Township in December 1836. They chose the juncture of the Rock and Crawfish Rivers to locate their new settlement-the present-day Jefferson.

In time, other settlers, led by Enoch G. Darling, began arriving by boat from the downstream community of Bark Mills, currently known as Hebron, on the Rock River. The group from Bark Mills transported a frame structure by boat. The building was erected on the site of the current Jefferson Hotel, at Main and Milwaukee Streets, and served as the first courthouse, tavern, and trading post. Two years later, in 1839, the community's first hotel, the two-story frame Sanborn House, was erected on Main Street. In 1840, a frame courthouse was built.

Beginning in 1842, a large number of German immigrants settled in Jefferson County. Early development of commerce and industry coincided with this infusion of settlers. That same year, Darling and partner Gilmore Kendall built a dam across the Rock River and erected a sawmill on its east bank. By 1845, the village of Jefferson contained 80 inhabitants and included a blacksmith shop, Isaac Savage's gunsmith shop, two lawyers' offices, county buildings, two doctors' offices, a schoolhouse, a sawmill, and several small stores.

Between 1845 and 1850, Jefferson saw a great influx of population, increasing from 80 residents to 550. The first brick commercial building was constructed in 1850 by James Barr at the northeast corner of Racine and Main Streets (extant). By 1853, the downtown included three brick commercial blocks, two brick churches, and numerous brick residences and frame buildings. The Waldo & Murray brickyard in Jefferson supplied the bricks for most of these structures. Yellow brick was predominantly produced by the Waldo & Murray brickyard and according to an article in the Milwaukee Daily Wisconsin, "compare[d] very favorably with the famous Milwaukee brick .... ".

The greatest nineteenth century population increase in Jefferson occurred between 1850 and 1860, when the population rose from 550 to 2,006. In 1856, Jefferson was chosen over Watertown as the county seat and a year later incorporated as a village-both contributed to the community's growth. Population and business growth were further spurred by Jefferson's connection to the railroad in the late 1850s. The first Chicago & Northwestern Railroad Company train arrived in Jefferson in October 1859, and regular service between Chicago and Oshkosh began in November of that same year.

After, 1860, the population influx slowed, only increasing slightly every decade. Four major industrial companies of early Jefferson were formed during the 1860s, including the Michael Kemmeter Brick & Coal Company; the Jefferson Boot and Shoe Factory, later known as Copeland & Ryder; the Jefferson Woolen Manufacturing Company; and the Wisconsin Manufacturing Company. Smaller businesses in Jefferson in the 1860s included sawmills, flour mills, and tanneries.

By 1870, there were 3,272 farms occupying 317,249 acres in Jefferson County. As farms were established in Jefferson Township in the 1860s and 1870s, the city of Jefferson became the commercial center for the surrounding agricultural community. Several new buildings were constructed during the large growth period of the 1860s and 1870s. Jefferson's first bank, the Farmers & Merchants Bank, was founded in 1873 and built on Main Street. The A. Puerner and Son Company grocery and dry goods store was established in 1878. These two prominent buildings were constructed in popular styles of the period, enhancing the architectural character of the downtown. Industries established in the 1870s included the Jefferson Foundry and the Riverside Cheese Factory.

With a population near 3,000, Jefferson was incorporated as a city in 1878, and Ira W. Bird, a lawyer in Jefferson, was elected as the city's first mayor. Due to the increased prosperity from a growing population, Jefferson's downtown expanded with many new commercial buildings constructed. By 1880, Jefferson contained ten general stores, a variety of millinery shops, drug stores, grocery stores, a bank, harnessmaker shops, blacksmith shops, law offices, physicians offices, a bottling works, flour and feed stores, and a meat packing company.

Two, major industries, brewing and cigar manufacturing, were found downtown in the early days of Jefferson. Both industries were located within the commercial district, providing both employment and services to the residents of Jefferson. Drawing from the readily available tobacco crops of southern Wisconsin, Jefferson was home to a large cigar industry that during the 1880s and 1890s supported more than eight manufacturers. Jefferson's proximity to Milwaukee and its large German population also made the city a prime location for the brewing industry. More than eight breweries were in operation between the early 1850s and Prohibition in Jefferson, with some breweries operating as long as 40 years. The success of these businesses influenced building trends in downtown Jefferson as well. Between 1870 and 1890, new buildings were constructed to house sample rooms operated by Neuer, Breunig, Bienfang, and the Jefferson Brewing Company, and cigar manufactories under Leutz, Seitz, and others.

From the 1890s through the turn of the twentieth century, many civic improvements enhanced life in Jefferson. Electricity was installed in Jefferson after 1893 and provided lighting services from sundown until midnight. License for the city water system was granted to Edward Mueller, proprietor of Jefferson House, in 1893. After 1900, the city acquired both utilities and merged them into the City Water and Electric Department. Other civic improvements included the first street paving in 1906 and the installation of sewers in 1908.

Specialized businesses established after the turn of the twentieth century included the Waverly Manufacturing Company, the Union Upholstering Company, and the Sheboygan Evaporated Milk Company. Prior to World War I, commercial businesses evolved, offering expanded services to the residents of Jefferson. Harness makers, carriage works, and liveries started to give way to gas stations. To attract larger numbers of customers, dry goods stores and general stores evolved into department stores that seemed to provide a myriad of items. Some grocery stores and meat markets combined to form one-stop grocery stores. New services in downtown Jefferson included four moving picture theaters, an American Express office, a separate building for the post office on South Main Street.

Specialty stores, such as bookstores and shoe stores, evolved to better serve the growing population of Jefferson. From working with several partners, Bruno Beck had become familiar with the clothing and shoe business. In 1921, Beck established "The Real Shoe Store" in a new building at the corner of Main and Racine Streets. The Real Shoe Store was successful as a specialty store in downtown Jefferson, operating for nearly 20 years. Hardware stores, furniture stores, professional offices, and saloons also remained important components of the commercial center.

The Beck Building was demolished in 1997 to make way for the replacement of the Racine Street Bridge.