Downtown 1958

Downtown 1958

Friday, July 3, 2015

Happy Independence Day!

I'm reposting a photo today that I first used for Independence Day three years ago.  It's a favorite because it shows a side of downtown that wasn't regularly photographed.  Needless to say, a lot has changed since this 1943 parade in downtown Menasha.

Here's wishing you a great and glorious Fourth of July weekend!  I'll be back next Tuesday, July 7th. Keep safe!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Wooden Ware Log

How fitting is it that the house journal for the old Wooden Ware was named the "Log?"

The Oshkosh Northwestern of February 21, 1921 reports:

                       The "Wooden Ware Log" is the title of a publication which is being issued by-
                       monthly by the employees of the Menasha Wooden Ware Company. The
                       paper is devoted to social and industrial questions. Miss Catherine Hickey is
                       editor-in-chief and other members of the staff are taken from the various
                       departments of the mill and office.

I'm not sure if I should groan or applaud the pun.   

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Driving Park's First Day...and Eventual Demise

 Neenah City Times, September 13, 1879
It must have been a glorious day for the community, to have had such a fine facility in its stead, the envy of all in the state, if one could believe the publicity. 
Neenah Daily Times, April 18, 1890
But as reported here on Monday, the driving park met its demise around 1889/1890, as the crowds dwindled and the potential (perceived or otherwise) for vice and ruinous behavior permeated the area around the track.  And in a Victorian age of modesty and decorum, such temptations were not welcome around God-fearing communities like Menasha or Neenah, not to mention that they likely kept some well-heeled patrons from the park because of its "reputation." 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

More on the Doty Island Driving Park

A reader of this blog, Don Nussbaum, was so kind as to share with me (and us) some newspaper articles he'd collected regarding the driving park.  As he stated yesterday in the comments section, the original name for the association was the Menasha Driving Park Association and these articles prove bear that out.  It was only ten years later, in 1879 that the designation was altered to the new name after some changes in the membership of the association.

 Island City Times, July 11, 1868
 Island City Times, July 25, 1868
Island City Times, August 22, 1868

Neenah City Times, June 13, 1879

Tomorrow, we look at the news reports of the first day of operation at the park.  

Monday, June 29, 2015

Doty Island Driving Park

As early as 1868, there had been talk of a developing a horse track and/or fairgrounds on Doty Island.  Later that year, 60 acres were purchased at the east end of "The Avenue," as Nicolet Boulevard was known then, but on the Neenah side. 

As reported in Memories of Doty Island (1999):

   Raising money to purchase the necessary land was difficult and things did not move along as rapidly as expected. A group of men had pledged $15,000, but it was not enough. In June of 1879, 20 acres of Moore's 60 acre tract on the lake shore was bought by the stockholders of "The Doty Island Park Assn." The officers at this time were: President - C. S. Felton; Vice- President - F. C. Shattuck; Treasurer - A. H. F. Krueger; Secretary - G. W. Dodge. Now both cities were represented.
   Finally, it was announced that the park was completed and would be open to the public on Sunday, August 23, 1879. Season tickets $5; carriage and two persons 25¢ and for each additional person 10c; children under 12 free. The track officially opened September 6, and most of the racing entries were local. On September 13 the Menasha Saturday Evening Press announced: "The opening of the Doty Island Driving Park took place on Saturday last. The weather was pleasant and a large crowd in attendance. Several turf-men present gave their opinion that the track was the best half-mile course in this part of the state."
    Regular sulky races began in October and were held on Wednesdays and Thursdays. The price of admission was 25c, and the first race had a purse of $225. Soon the races became an accepted part of the community, and for several years harness racing was a part of the 4th of July celebrations.

   A grandstand was built in front of a twelve-stall stable, and a huge barn in the Gothic style was also erected. Enthusiastic horse owners brought their sulkies and pure-bred horses from a considerable distance to have them race for the fairly substantial prize. It was said that the money won by betting was often larger than the prize.
   The attendance by the general citizenry was not as great as had been anticipated. Rumors of large betting and a brothel nearby to accept cash from the winners or to console the losers kept many of the church-going ladies and their husbands away. Constant changes of owners and officers were not conducive to establishing interest.
   By 1889 no races were being held on the Fourth, only in the Fall. By that time S. A. Cook was the owner but he was hoping to sell it to the Chautauqua Assembly. Finally, horse races were discontinued entirely, and the area became, in succession, a campground, a picnic grounds, a bike racing track, a baseball field, and a park. Families came by the wagonload for their outings.
   Eventually the prime location was sought for residential lots, and the Smiths bought part of the land. The Smith home was built in 1917, long after the last horse ran, but their driveway followed the curve of the track. Soon the entire area became a development of lovely homes and of the Congregational United Church of Christ.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Auto Electric

Because of address numbering changes over the years (St. Patrick's is now 324 Nicolet), I didn't have a clue where this business was located.  But thanks to the good ol' city directory for 1939, I have a much clearer picture now.  (Thanks goodness for reference books.)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Butte des Morts Beach

 1931 N-M City Directory
I learn something new every day; yet another surprise from the city directory.  I had no idea there was ever a Butte des Morts Beach.  And apparently this cottage area eventually became the lots and homes along Lakeshore Drive.  Current maps show a West Butte des Morts Beach Road on the west side of LLBDM, between the railroad tracks and the lake shore.  One would think that it would follow that there'd be an East Butte des Morts Beach Road, yet the Menasha side, where the beach area is shown, became known as Lakeshore Drive.