1836-1859 Click HERE for the early history of the development of the village up to the time when it was divided into blocks and lots.
The 213-217 E. Main St. property in 2018 consists of the west 19’ of lot 1 and all of lot 2 in block 5. There were many owners from 1845 to 1967 when the current owners John and Patricia Foley purchased the property.
Lot 1: On Feb 15, 1845 Samuel and Adeline Russ sold Lot 1 in block 5 to Samuel Bridge.
Lot 2: On September 11, 1854 Samuel Russ sold Lot 2 in Block 5 to Barney Giesing and George Schaub. On September 12, 1854 Barney Giesing sold Lot 2 in Block 5 to George Schaub.1
1859 to 1941 – Fox River House and Fox River Hotel2
In 1859 George Schaub constructed a building which he rented to Jacob Shenkenberg who came to Racine in 1856 from Germany. He relocated to Waterford in 1859 and opened a hotel which he operated for three years. Mr. Shenkenberg moved to his own building on the opposite side of the street and continued in the hotel business for a number of years. The building was sold to Wenzell Drayhorst who also ran a hotel.
In 1868 the hotel was sold to Clausen and Mollzen. They named the hotel the Fox River House and operated it for 13 years. Carsten Clausen was born in Germany in 1832 and came to Racine in 1862. He served in the Civil War. In 1876 he became a resident of Waterford. Nicolac Mollzen was born in Germany in 1838 and came to Racine in 1865 where he worked for three years before going into the hotel business with his brother-in-law Mr. Clausen. For 23 years Mr. and Mrs. Clausen were residents of Waterford. They then moved to Milwaukee for six years after which they moved to live with their children in Racine.
The 1860 census shows George Schaupe (should have been Schaub per deeds). George was 40 years old and a carpenter. His real estate was valued at $1,200 and his personal estate at $100. He was born in Germany. His wife, Margaret, was 28, and they had four children: Peter, age 4; Augusta, age 2, Christian, age 8 and Mary age 6.
Due to the deterioration of the original document, the 1870 census is very difficult to read. Information from the entry shows:
Carron/Carson Clauson, age 38, was a Hotel Keeper, Value of real estate is $1,350 and personal estate is $250. Carron/Carson, his wife Mariah (age 32) and daughter Caroline (age 3) were born in Prussia (Germany) and son Ferdinand (age 1), was born in Wisconsin.
Nickolac Moulson, age 32, was a Hotel Keeper, Value of real estate is $1,350 and personal estate is $250. Nickolas, his wife Anna (age 37) and daughter Margaret were all born in Prussia.
Their domestic servant, Sonja Weage, was 30 years old and born in Wisconsin.
In May 1880, Clausen and Mollzen sold the property for $3,800 to Nelson Brothers, sons of Halver Nelson, one of the Norwegian pioneers of the early 1840’s who settled in the northwestern part of town of Waterford. The Nelson Brothers provided a good room, a large barn and a good cattle yard as was custom of the day for first class hotels.
1880 Census – Brothers Ole, Albert and John Nelson – U. S. census from http://www.ancestry.com.
The 1880 Census is also very difficult to read. Information from the entry shows:
Ole Nelson, age 34; John, age 21; and Albert, age 22 were Hotel Keepers. Ole was married to Clara, age 26, and they had two children: Nora, age 5 and Hilda, age 2. They were all born in Wisconsin.
Other residents at the hotel were Anna Giesing, age 19, servant; and Peter Jacoby, age 23, who was a merchant.
Ole Nelson bought out his two brothers Albert and John in 1882. Ole enlarged and improved both the hotel and barn.
The June 1885 issue of Waterford Post reported: “The Fox River House is being much beautified by a new coat of paint, of the most fashionable tint. The hotel when completed will be one of the finest in Racine County.” On September 12 the formal opening was held.
The night of July 2, 1898, the hotel, barns, along with all furniture and equipment were destroyed by fire. Within a few hours, Ole Nelson decided to rebuild and leased the new Amusement hall (formerly known as the “bowling alley” until it burned down on March 28, 2002) where he conducted business until the new hotel was ready. The destroyed hotel was replaced by a larger, better, more substantial one of brick with steam heat, acetylene gas lights and nearly every modern convenience.2
Click “THE GREAT FIRE OF 1898“ for the story about the fire that destroyed the greater part of the business district on Waterford’s east side. A number of articles were printed in the Waterford Post throughout the year chronicling the progress of the re-building effort.
Waterford Post, July 9, 1898:
“Ole Nelson, proprietor of Fox River house. Loss of hotel building, $5,000; insurance, $4,000. Furniture $1,000; no insurance and very small amount saved. Will rebuild with brick, size 44×78. He has leased the new amusement hall and will conduct a hotel in same until his new building is completed.”
Waterford Post, July 23, 1898:
“Ole Nelson’s new Fox River house will be a solid brick structure 44×80 ft, two stories high and a gravel roof. The lower floor will consist of an office-room, parlor, dining-room, kitchen, bar-room, wash-room and two bed-rooms. The upper story will contain fourteen bed-rooms and a bath-room. Either hot water or steam will be used and the handsome new structure will be brilliantly lighted with acetylene gas. The cellar has been cleared of the ashes and other debris and work on the new hotel will be pushed as fast as possible. In the meantime Landlord Nelson entertains his guests in the opera house, is having a good trade and soon will be the happy, smiling Ole as of old.”
Friends of Landlord Nelson plan a Benefit Ball (July 30, 1898).
Arrangements are about completed for ball (August 6,1898).
Benefit Ball largely attended (August 13, 1898).
Ole Nelson basement about completed. Mr. Nelson let contract for new hotel to Hans Hanson, Patrick & Geising for $3,400. They to furnish and build all above the walls, except sand, lime, cement, etc. (August 13, 1898).
The public spirited manner in which the farmers of Waterford and neighboring towns have turned out and hauled brick for the fire sufferers evinces a feeling which is pleasant to think of and those who have received this kindness desire the Post to express their sincere thanks and assure the donors that when prosperity returns to them they will not be forgotten. With all our faults this is the community to live in and so are the people. (August 27, 1898).
Brick work fast nearing completion. (September 17, 1898).
It is rather an inspiring sight to view the bustling activity on every hand in rebuilding the burned district. It reminds one of a bee hive. The brick walls of the new hotel are moving skyward at a rapid rate… (September 17,1898).
Should good weather continue… will witness completion of most of the new buildings…
They will be enclosed and made ready for finishing touches. (September 24, 1898).
Brick work finished and carpenters and roofers are now at work. (October 1, 1898).
The new Fox River Hotel received fixtures necessary for the use of acetylene gas. This light is something new and is said to be very brilliant and at the same time clean, safe and economical. (October 8, 1898).
New buildings will be soon ready for occupancy. (October 22, 1898).
OLE NELSON AND FAMILY MOVING INTO THE NEW FOX RIVER HOTEL.
On Dec 3, 1898, the Waterford Post reported the new building was completed and Nelson family took possession. Ole Nelson had married Clara on 14 June 1873 and they had four daughters: Nora (Mrs. John Francis of Janesville), Hilda (Mrs. O B Rittman of Browns Lake), Josephine (Mrs H A Runkel of Burlington) and Lulu (Mrs. Walter Borgnis of Edgerton). The entire family worked in the hotel. Family was Lutheran and Ole was Republican. The home they built after leaving the hotel was later owned by Mr. and Mrs. George Healy. Ole Nelson moved to his daughter Hilda Rittman’s home in Brown’s Lake.
Waterford Post December 10, 1898. Ole is doing business.
One of Ole’s first businesses after the fire was Dr. Ramsey, Dentist. He kept an office at the hotel.
In 1906 the Fox River Hotel was sold to Joseph Wieners and John Nelson (one of the Nelson Brothers) Joseph Wieners was born and reared on a farm just north of the Village of Waterford. He worked as a stone mason until he bought an interest in the hotel. On June 21, 1906, he married Emma Nelson at Winchester, WI. They immediately took up hotel duties after their honeymoon. This work was new to Joseph, but not to Emma, who had spent months with her uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. Ole Nelson, who had previously owned the hotel. The ad below was placed in the Waterford Post newspaper on January 4, 1917.
The hotel was very popular and Sunday dinners were often served to 75-100 people. Mr. and Mrs. Wieners had two children, Helen and Russell, during their time at the hotel. After leaving the hotel business they moved to a home on the west side and Joseph worked for T.M.E.R. & L. Co.
The Wieners and Hotel Staff.
After death of John “Johnnie” Nelson in 1920, the hotel was sold to Daniel Madden and Henry Plucker. Mr. Plucker withdrew from the partnership soon after and sold his interest to the heirs of John Nelson: John Alaxson, Ed Anderson, Gilbert Olson, Albert Nelson and Edmund Johnson. The stockholders incorporated Aug 23, 1922 under the name Fox River Hotel Company. The hotel was vacant after Oct 1922. For six months there was no welcome for travelers in Waterford.2
New Owners Henry Hartgers and Fred Levinston 2
Henry Hartgers who was born in Holland, purchased the property in 1923. He came to America in 1902 at age 23 and in 1903 was married in Racine and lived there five years where he was connected with S. Freeman & Son Manufacturing. In 1908 Mr. Hartgers and family moved to Milwaukee where he was employed as a locomotive mechanic for the Chicago, Milwaukee and St Paul Railroad. He worked there until September 18, 1919 when he had an accident which practically destroyed the use of his right arm, making it impossible for him to continue his work. In Jan 1920 his wife died leaving four children (Frank 16, Mary 15, Minnie 11 and Henrietta 4). Mr. Hartgers then engaged in several lines of work. He owned a 2-1/2 ton Parker truck which he and son Frank operated. In spring of 1922, he married Mrs. Menne of Milwaukee who ran a boarding home with her two children (Catherine 14 and George 7).
After their marriage, the boarding home was sold and a larger place of business was purchased where dinners, short orders, ice cream, seafood and soft drinks were served. Mr. and Mrs. Hartgers wanted to go into hotel work and sold the restaurant.
They purchased the Hotel Fox River through the Charles Thompson real estate agency in Waterford. The Hartgers family moved to the hotel the last week of March 1923.
Members of the Waterford Community Club held a banquet at the hotel on April 10, 1923. The hotel had 15 bedrooms and good substantial meals were served.
Henry Hartgers executed an Assignment to Fred and Annie Levinston on March 20, 1924. Fred Levinston took an ad in the Waterford Post in support of baseball games.2
Paved street and great vehicles in front of hotel, late 1920s.
The Fox River Hotel Company, a corporation, was dissolved on March 8, 1933. Racine County Register of Deeds.
A Sheriff’s sale was held with the property being sold at foreclosure for $6,500 to Edmund Anderson, Trustee, on March 20, 1934. Defendants were Henry and Mary Hartgers, Fred and Emily Levinston, Annie Levinston, William Foreman, Morris Wausman and Butler Brothers (corporation).
1941 Property no longer operated as a hotel.
Trustee Edmund Anderson sold the property to Edmund Johnson on September 17, 1941. This is the approximate time that the property ceased to be a hotel. Retail businesses were on the first floor and the second floor was apartments according to current owner John Foley. In 1961 Gordon and Margaret Kennedy purchased partial ownership in the property.
2018, CURRENT OWNERS, John and Patricia Foley purchased the property July 31, 1967. Mr. Foley is a retired Circuit Court Judge.The Foley family had a summer cottage, owned by John’s grandfather, in Waterford Woods. They remember riding the T.M.E.R.&L. interurban railroad to get here and subsequently became acquainted with the Village of Waterford. The Foley’s also owned three houses on Main Street across from the high school which they sold years ago. They purchased the former Fox River Hotel building as an investment and Mary Foley managed the building. They had four children who would helped with the maintenance of the building by painting, wallpapering, replacing carpet, etc. The Foley’s still own a small farm house in Big Bend where the family would also stay in the summers.
The 213-217 E. Main Street property has been rented to many businesses since 1966 including Carly’s Images (makeup), Granny’s Café (2000-2010), Grey’s Department Store (late 1960s-early 1970s), Driver’s Education Facility, a shoe store, Cafe’ 213 (2011), and Rendezvous Jewelers (2012-current).
The second floor currently has one 1-bedroom apartment and three 2-bedroom apartments. There are garages behind the building where barns were formerly located.
While the Foley’s are quite elderly, the property will stay in the family in the future. Daughter Colleen Foley is currently responsible for the property.
- Waterford Library History Room
- Racine County Register of Deeds, Racine, Wisconsin
- Waterford: Stories of Waterford and It’s Busy Life, 1923. Waterford Post, 1923.
- Architecture/History Survey, Wisconsin Department of Transportation