History of Downtown Pewaukee
Second depot built in Pewaukee east of Oakton Avenue
A few years after the end of the War Between the States the charm of
Pewaukee and its surroundings began to attract summer visitors in
increasing numbers. Remarkable changes had come with the extending of
the railroad from Milwaukee to Watertown during 1854-56. For
passengers at Pewaukee, located about midway between the two stations,
the first depot, a small wooden structure, was built at the foot of
High St and Capitol Drive. Later, when the railroad was purchased by the Chicago,
Milwaukee and St. Paul Co., that building was moved to Oconomowoc
Street, now Wisconsin Avenue, and converted into a residence, later
torn down. In 1881 a sturdier brick structure was built near the
present site of the Ken Weber Towing Service building, on Capitol Dr
at Sussex Street.
Its extended overhanging roof offered shelter to passengers boarding
or alighting from trains. A wooden platform extended around
three sides. Inside, long benches furnished the waiting room,
supplied with a pot-bellied stove to provide warmth on chilly days.
In 1901, when Pewaukee continued its reputation as a popular summer
resort area, a larger brick depot was built near the site of the first
wooden one. The old one, which had served well for twenty years,
became known as the freight depot for it was there that all manner of
merchandise was unloaded, and cattle, sheep and pigs shipped
from the local farms. The "new" depot, as it was
known, until its predecessor was razed in the 1920's, was
commodious and well-proportioned. While it stood it was
cited as one of the most attractive on the line for a village the size
of Pewaukee. Artists, professional and amateur, have captured
its image for posterity, and now, since its destruction in 1972, that
is all that remains.
The railroad promoters vied in enticing passengers to use the trains
to visit the unspoiled beauty of the areas made possible by that mode
of travel. Here the lure of the lake and the convenience of
reaching it drew families from Milwaukee, Chicago and from more
distant parts of the country.
Pewaukee was endowed not only with a future for ice, but also with a
natural mill pond where ice could be cut. With the growth of Milwaukee
and Chicago, a demand for natural ice was created.
The natural mill pond was the lower lake. When Deacon Clark
received an enactment permitting him to maintain a dam which raised
the lake six feet above the natural level, almost immediately ice was
cut on the lake for local use. Seldom was ice cut on the upper
or big lake, as it froze over later and broke up earlier in the
spring,, thus increasing the dangers of ice harvesting.
In the beginning, little or no ice was shipped out of the village due
to poor roads and transportation methods. When the Milwaukee and
Watertown Railroad opened as far as Oconomowoc in 1854, the curtain
was going up on one of the greatest single industries ever experienced
by Pewaukee. Pewaukee not only had natural ice, but a quick and
practical way of shipping it.
In 1876 Matthias Schock chose Pewaukee as the site for his brewery.
A huge ice house was built at his direction to keep cool the beer
which he supplied to the surrounding area. The Best Brewery
Company also pioneered the commercial use of ice. In 1878 an ice
house 50 x 450 feet was erected. From it eight carloads of ice were
shipped daily to Milwaukee breweries.
Ice houses were referred to locally by color rather than by company
names. Kopmeier's red ice house was located north of the small
island. It later became property of the Wisconsin Lakes
Company. Armour's yellow ice house occupied the area now known as
Parkside. One Sunday in the fall of 1901, Armour's ice house was
struck by lightning. In spite of fire fighting equipment shipped
from Milwaukee, all attempts to save the building failed, and by morning
charred remains of equipment and misshappen ice cakes were all that
remained. The fire ended the operation of one of the five big
companies which flourished between 1890 and 1920 in Pewaukee.
Pawling's yellow ice house was built in 1911 with investments of
local residents, in the hope of reviving the industry and creating
jobs. Pawling's was located east of Armour's. Lack of paint
caused the Cudahy Company's ice house to be later nicknamed the black ice
The Savoy ice house was located on the south shore of the lake west
of the Savoy hotel, the site now occupied by the Shores condominiums.
A railroad siding was built from the main line to the ice house.
Remains of the siding may be seen today from the NW corner of the Koepp Park
Parking Lot that has the covered bridge sitting on its foundation off of Oakton Avenue.downtown.
The Milwaukee Road siding which served the various ice companies as
at that time known as the Alaskan Station. A switch engine was
kept at Pewaukee to serve the ice companies during the peak shipping
Pewaukee as rated second in southern Wisconsin as an ice
producer. It is estimated that over 1/2 million tons of ice was
cut and shipped yearly from Pewaukee Lake directly to Chicago and
Milwaukee. Pewaukee's ice houses served as warehouses for the
larger companies. Loaded cars were taken to a weight station
located 1/2 mile east of Pewaukee to determine their shipping rates and
contents. Some ice was hauled through the village on wagons and
loaded at the old freight depot near the present Ken Weber Towing
Mail carrier, Joseph White, took the mail to and from
the train twice daily in all seasons. The outgoing mail was hung
on the mail hook since the trains didn't stop. The picture shows
that he needed a "boost" to complete the
Information taken from "A History of the Settlement and Progress
of Pewaukee, Wisconsin 1836-1976" by Lorraine Redfield.
(without permission I might add, but updated a little)