Walldogs mural artists will start painting 15 murals on the walls of downtown Beaver Dam businesses today.
For a schedule, go to bddowntown.com.
Each mural was designed to represent significant events and people of Beaver Dam’s past, from 1841 to around 1900. What follows is a summary of the themes chosen and what those artworks depict:
Ingraham Gould was born in Maine, and eventually became a farmer. Owing to a physical injury, he left the farm and traveled extensively throughout the expanding west, selling fruit trees and shrubs in newly settled communities.
In 1854, he traded 12 acres of land in Horicon for an equal number of acres in Beaver Dam and started the nursery which bore his name. Millions of trees and shrubs were shipped from the nursery to all parts of the country. A large greenhouse supplied the demand for flowers, plants, seeds and bulbs.
Whenever a new family moved to the community, Gould would plant a tree in their yard as a sign of welcome. He also donated the land for Oakwood Cemetery where he was buried upon his death.
A COMMUNITY OF FAITH
Wile traveling between churches he established in Milwaukee and Green Bay, the Rev. Moses Ordway stopped in Beaver Dam. Around 1841, he purchased land and built a house for his family. In 1843 he returned, and formed a congregation of eight members, and a Sabbath (Sunday) school of nine children.
Several attempts had been made to harness the power of the Beaver Dam River, but all of the early attempts either stalled or failed. Ordway agreed to complete the task using materials that had been gathered earlier and a sawmill was quickly completed.
Ordway and fellow founding father Jacob Brower surveyed and located all the roads in and out of Beaver Dam. He died on a missionary tour to Cambria.
SWAN CITY PARK
Dr. George E. Swan arrived in Beaver Dam in 1876. He found a homeopathic cure close to his home while looking for a plot of land to pasture the family’s milk cow.
There he developed a resort, Vita Park, which included an elaborate spring house, a bottling plant, a bathhouse for patrons to soak in tubs of the healing waters, a bandstand, roads, lagoons for fishing and boating, shelters, “Castles in the Air” with observation platforms in the treetops, strolling paths and entertainment.
He built a hotel with room for about 100 guests. Visitors came by rail mostly from Milwaukee, Chicago, St. Louis, New Orleans and Louisville. The waters were bottled and shipped as far away as England.
The hotel was not opened after the 1893 season. The park was sold to the city in 1906, with the proviso that it would thereafter be known as “Dr. Swan’s Park.”
CRYSTAL LAKE PARK Dr. Swan’s influence in Beaver Dam was not only felt with Vita (Swan City) Park. It was furthered by the purchase of Drake’s Pond, later to become Crystal Lake Park.
The site, through the influence of the Kiwanis Club, was offered to the city in 1941, and in 1942 the common council agreed to accept it as a gift from the Crystal Lake Recreation Company. The deed contains the restriction that “it shall at all times in the future be maintained by said city and used by the public for swimming, park and recreation purposes ... so long as natural water supply exists.”
WILLIAMS FREE LIBRARY
The first library in Beaver Dam opened Dec. 1, 1884, in a room of the old city hall on North Spring Street.
In 1890 wealthy businessman John J. Williams gave $25,000 for construction of a new library facility. The city purchased the site on the corner of Park Avenue and Front Street for the new building, which was designed by Walter Holbrook of Milwaukee. Williams Free Library was dedicated July 15, 1891.
The building now houses the Dodge County Historical Society.
HISTORY OF INDUSTRY
Beaver Dam has enjoyed the benefits of countless jobs provided by local industries over the course of its past 175 years including those listed below:
Rowell Manufacturing was established in 1855 on Rowell Street, with its founder making plows and repairing threshing machines. By 1861 he had made his first combination seeder and cultivator.
Breuer Metal Manufacturing has been fabricating all kinds of metal for more than 60 years, but began a generation earlier when Ben Breuer apprenticed as a locksmith in Germany in 1912. Ben immigrated to America in 1920, and eventually moved to Beaver Dam. Ben’s son, Bernard, learned metalworking skills from his father and established the Beaver Dam Ornamental Brass and Iron works in 1946. The business was housed in a garage which was part of Ziegler Brewery on Madison Street. In 1948 Bernie joined his father’s business. In 1956, Ben and his wife Toni, and Bernard Sr. and Simone, formed Breuer Metal Craftsmen Inc.
In 1911 Paramount Knitting Co./Bear Brand Hosiery was moved to Beaver Dam from Waupun in 1911. At that time the former cotton mill — at the site of the dam on Madison Street — was converted to hosiery manufacture. In 1934 a strike was called and both workers and the owner were prevented from entering the plant. Pope was spat upon and reviled, and the next day the plant was closed. Operations were moved to Gary, Indiana, and the city eventually purchased the vacant building.
Weyenberg Shoe Mfg. Co. occupied the building vacated by Bear Brand Hosiery, renting the property from the city for a nominal fee. Operations began Feb. 15, 1937, in the building which became the Lakeside plant, while the Spring Street plant also added jobs to the local economy. At its height the plant employed about 750 local workers with an annual payroll of more than $700,000. The Lakeside plant continued into the 1990s, and was reputedly the last shoe manufacturing plant operating in the United States.
Beaver Dam Overall Mfg. Co. was begun by George Beichl in 1906, manufacturing jackets and overalls in a little building on Front Street near Madison Street. Sewing was done by 15 to 20 operators on foot-powered sewing machines. Two years later the enterprise moved to 200 ½ Front St., and water power was harnessed to operate the sewing machinery. In 1913 Beichl bought the old Rowell Manufacturing office building. Electric power was used to operate the machines and the work force was increased to about 25 workers.
AMERICAN NATIONAL BANK The German National Bank opened for business on June 30, 1891, at 115 Front St., where it still remains. At that time it had $50,000 in capital, no surplus and two employees. Its first day deposits totaled $24,500.
In the face of anti-German sentiment during World War I, the name was changed to a more appropriate title, American National Bank, in 1912.
In 1965, the bank was remodeled and enlarged. In 1968, the old structure was demolished and a new one took its place, along with a drive-through off South Spring Street. In 1990 a north side branch was built at 1519 N. Spring St.
DODGE COUNTY FAIR
The Dodge County Fair began in 1886 at a site east of University Avenue and south of Park Avenue (now the athletic fields of Wayland Academy).
The emphasis was agricultural, with livestock and crop competitions and sales, the latest equipment, household skill (cooking) contests of all varieties, music, harness races and more. According to a poster from 1887, “The premium list is full and complete and embraces nearly every article of household and mechanical manufacture, as well as all agricultural products and implements.”
Special excursion rates were offered for railroad travel, and attendees came from throughout the Midwest to witness the three-day event.
RAYMOND Z. GALLUN
Raymond Zinke Gallun was an American science fiction writer. He was born in Beaver Dam. He left college after one year and traveled in Europe, living a drifter’s existence, working a multitude of jobs around the world in the years leading up to World War II.
His first book, “People Minus X,” was published in 1957 by Simon & Schuster. Gallun was honored with the I-CON Lifetime Achievement Award in 1985 at I-CON IV; the award was later renamed The Raymond Z. Gallun Award.
His pen names include Dow Elstar, E.V. Raymond and William Callahan.
WELCOME/BEAVER DAM RACEWAY
The logo for Downtown Beaver Dam Inc. welcomes visitors to Beaver Dam off Highway 151 on Beaver Dam’s south side.
To its right is Fred MacMurray in the flying car that he invented in the Disney film, “The Absent-Minded Professor.” MacMurray moved to Beaver Dam as a child with his mother, who was descended from S.P.K. “Spike” Lewis, one of Beaver Dam’s founding fathers. He went to Beaver Dam High School and participated in high school sports. He became famous in Hollywood for such movies at Double Indemnity and The Caine Mutiny, Flubber and The Shaggy Dog. On television, he played dad to My Three Sons.
A race park was being planned in 1950, with a site chosen on the farm of Paul R. Wheeler, a quarter mile south of Highway 33 just east of Beaver Dam. The quarter-mile track was to be equipped for daytime and nighttime racing.
Racers of note include Miles (the mouse, depicted in the mural) Melius, Fuzzy (the hound) Fassbender, Billy (the cat) Johnson, Willie (the rabbit) Goedden and Etchie (the flying grandpa) Biertzer.
MISCHLER’S HARLEY DAVIDSON
Mischler’s was begun in 1958 when William Mischler obtained a franchise for Harley Davidson motorcycles. He opened a shop on Center Street. In 1962 he purchased the building at 113 Parallel St., and in 1964 he built an addition there.
William moved to Highway 33 North, at its intersection with Highway B, in 1972. At that time he sold Harley Davidson, Triumph and BMW motorcycles and Ski-Doo snowmobiles. William’s son, Larry, reopened the store on Parallel Street in 1976. He sold Suzuki motorcycles and Arctic Cat snowmobiles.
MCKINSTRY’S HOME FURNISHINGS
McKinstry’s Home Furnishings is the oldest family-run business in the state. John McKinstry came from Quebec, Canada, in 1855 and started manufacturing furniture and caskets for early settlers. J. McKinstry Co. began in 1858.
The company outgrew its original location and moved to its current site at 131 Front St. in the early 1860s. The store included a funeral home as well. Due to rapid expansion furniture from other manufacturers was sold there.
When John McKinstry died the firm became known as W.D. McKinstry Furniture and Burial Goods. W.D. was later joined by his sons, Irwin R. and Randall. When Randall and Fred McMurray were in high school, Fred helped out at the store.
The veteran’s mural depicts the history of the glider pilots of World War II. Harold Reif, owner of Beaver Dam Paint and Glass, was a glider pilot in World War II. He is shown between fellow glider pilots.
The glider planes were attached by tow line to a C47 which got them airborne and then released the towline and they glided to their destination.
MORAINE PARK TECHNICAL COLLEGE
Moraine Park Technical College began with the appointment of a board in 1911, and was launched in 1912 as the Continuation School. Classes were taught at various locations.
In 1965 and 1966 a 22-acre parcel was acquired on Gould Street for the purpose of constructing a new, dedicated tech ed facility. A 30,000-square-foot facility was constructed, which opened Jan. 2, 1968.
Moraine Park changed its name to Moraine Park Technical Institute in 1971. The school changed its name to Moraine Park Technical College in 1989.
Ziegler Brewery was formed in 1905 when Louis Ziegler, of the Mayville brewing family, purchased the former Goeggerle Brewery on Madison Street.
A new, larger factory was built in 1906, and the old facility was demolished six years later. In 1913, a home was constructed on the old brewery site, and Louis and Anna Ziegler took up residence. Following Prohibition the firm was incorporated as the Louis Ziegler Brewing Company, and the facilities were enlarged. The revived brewery opened in April 1933 and continued under various leaders until it was sold to a California firm in 1949. It was closed in 1953.