Wisconsin Historical Society

Property Record

124-128 E 3RD ST

Architecture and History Inventory
124-128 E 3RD ST | Property Record | Wisconsin Historical Society
Historic Name:Julius J. Martens Company Building
Other Name:Garments and Gables Clothing Store
Reference Number:16763
Location (Address):124-128 E 3RD ST
Unincorporated Community:
Quarter Section:
Quarter/Quarter Section:
Year Built:1901
Additions: 1933
Survey Date:1983
Historic Use:retail building
Architectural Style:Italianate
Structural System:
Wall Material:Brick
Other Buildings On Site:
Demolished Date:
National/State Register Listing Name: Martens, Julius J., Company Building
National Register Listing Date:3/29/1984 12:00:00 AM
State Register Listing Date:1/1/1989 12:00:00 AM
National Register Multiple Property Name:Multiple Resources of Kaukauna
Additional Information:A 'site file' (Kaukauna Historic Properties) exists for this property. It contains additional information such as correspondence, newspaper clippings, or historical information. It is a public record and may be viewed in person at the Wisconsin Historical Society, Division of Historic Preservation-Public History.

Materials from nearby quarries were used to construct this large two story brick commercial structure. Built in 1901 by Julius J. Martens, the Garments and Gables Building is a visual focal point of East Third Street. String courses form horizontal strips beneath the brick corbelling. Pilasters balance the composition of the building by dividing the upper floor into four sections. Metal cresting (one section removed) and rounded finials placed at regular intervals decorate the cornice. Fenestration on the second floor includes an arched window, a bay and six verical double hung windows. Although the storefront has been altered (1962-A), the current owner is planning to restore the building to its original appearance.

In 1923, the lower floor (now used as a women's clothing and cosmetics store) sufferred damage from a fire thus changing its original appearance. However, the store has been tastefully remodeled. The second level has a beautiful west apartment (now vacant) that has retained most of its original features including its oak trim, brass hardware, and lighting fixtures. The main access into the apartment is through a west door which opens to an oak staircase. At the top of the stairs is a reception room with a skylight. Between the reception room and west parlor are decorative Corinthian columns. Two additional parlors have beautiful parquet floors in good condition. The main rooms can be closed off by either Glass French doors or sliding oak pocket doors. A fireplace with its original metal screen is the focal point of the end parlor (probably the library). Skylights lighten the middle rooms which include the large dining room. The apartment also has three bedrooms, a bathroom, and a kitchen with its original cabinets. Most of the ceilings are about 12' high but the rooms with skylights probably reach to about 16'. With proper restoration this apartment could be returned to a gracious residence or converted into an elegant office.

The upper level also has a much smaller apartment to the east which is currently occupied and not accessible for viewing during the intensive survey project.

The unusually elaborate upper story with its excellent integrity along with the exceptional upper level west apartment also retaining its original features contribute to make the Martens Building one of the key architectural landmarks of Kaukauna's southside business district. Plans for the near future to restore the building (including its storefront) will further enhance its aesthetic quality.

The Martens Building has been a mecca for rural as well as urban clientele as a major "farmers' store" in south Kaukauna since it was built in 1901. It represents a period of maturity of the commercial district of south Kaukauna after the enormous expansion of the late 1800's. In 1899 Julius J. Martens and two partners formed a stock company to operate dry goods stores. In 1901 Martens bought out his partners and formed a family run corporation which built the Martens Building and sold dry goods, groceries, and crokery. The handsome, imposing style of the building well reflects the coming age of the south side commercial district, which by 1899 had encompassed Second and Third Streets south of the river, with First Street vacated for the use of the all-important Milwaukee, Lakeshore, and Western railroad offices and yards.

J.J. Martens represented a generation of locally trained Kaukauna businessmen. His father, a German immigrant, had operated a hotel in Kaukauna, where Julius Martens attended school until he could work as a store clerk. He also "traveled for a grocery company for two years," preparing to invest in commerce permanently.

Martens was known as an outstanding citizen and community booster. He served three terms as a Kaukauna alderman; was president of the Board of Education; Mayor in 1909; southside postmaster in 1910; and president of the First National Bank. Through his business interests he served as a liason between the rural and urban communities: besides the Martens store, Martens dealt with farmers as president of the Kaukauna Farmers Elevator and Produce Company, and through his work as manager of the Hotel Kaukauna. Martens also organized the first successful Kaukauna Farmers' Market or "Pig Fair", located outside his store in 1908. Through the efforts of the Martens family, the Martens Store helped to develop major local outlets for agricultural products, as well as catering to the material needs of Kaukauna are residents for nearly 75 years.
Bibliographic References:(A) Building inscription. (B) History of Outagamie County, p. 1063-1064. (C) Appleton City Directory, 1901, p. 373. (D) Kaukauna Assessment Rolls, 1900-78. (E) Appleton/Outagamie County Directory, 1940, p. 629. (F) Appleton Evening Crescent, March 23, 1908. (G) Blueprints.
Wisconsin Architecture and History Inventory, Division of Historic Preservation, Wisconsin Historical Society, Madison, Wisconsin

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