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Sail our electronic waters and find out what makes Manitowoc, Wisconsin, U.S.A. such a great place to raise a family, run a business or just plain have fun! You're Captain on this ship so grab a wheel below to embark on an exciting and informative cruise!
From its earliest days as a pioneer settlement, Manitowoc has viewed its downtown district as the center of commercial and industrial trade for the community. Populated first by simple frame buildings, and later as prosperity grew, by massive brick blocks, the area surrounding 8th Street reflects a community rich in history and civic pride. This tour of the downtown area, highlights buildings noteworthy for their splended and varied architecture or for their place in the growth of this lakeport community. Refer to the tour map for reference.
Landing site - The first settlers sent by Chicago land speculator Benjamin Jones landed at the mouth of the Manitowoc River and built a log cabin near this spot in May, 1836.
USS Cobia - Launched in 1943 by the Electric Boat Company of Groton, Connecticut, this 312-foot submarine is similar to the 28 U.S. Navy submarines built in Manitowoc during World War II.
Dempsey Building - 101-108 North 8th Street: Built between 1910-15 by Michael H. Dempsey, the Dempsey block is one of the few commercial buildings in Manitowoc to feature white glazed terra cotta tile as its exterior. The interior displays mosaic-patterned floors in a Classical Greek design.
Torrison Building - 2 North 8th Street: Built in stages between 1880 and 1890 by general merchant Osuld Torrison, this large building was originally and for many years a department store, occupied in succession by Torrison, Henderson-Hoyt, Boston Store and Johnson Hills.
Eighth Street Bridge - The first 8th Street Bridge to span the Manitowoc River was built in 1851. Prior to that an Indian girl ran a ferry service across the river for the cost of one penny. The city erected a row of pilings across the swampy river and those pioneers that were too thrifty to pay the penny could leapfrog across the boards laid across the pilings.
Kresge Building - 836 South 8th Street: The Kresge Building housed the famous department store from the time of its construction in 1929 until 1986. The store was originally divided in half with a wall separating the 5 and 10 cents store from the 25 cent store.
Wood Block - 902-908 South 8th Street: The Wood Block was built by pioneer Sam A. Wood in the 1910s following the destruction by fire of a similar store building on the same site in 1901.
Henry Berner Hardware Block---901 South 8th Street: This Italianate building, once housing a hardware store in the mid 1800s, is typical of most downtown Manitowoc stores built in the late 1880s: segmented arched hood moldings above the second floor windows, heavy roof cornice supported by paired brackets and yellow brick construction with larger plate glass windows at street level. Built in 1857, this building is the oldest commercial building in the 8th Street Historic District.
Fred Schultz House---701 Franklin Street: This small two-story, cream brick, L-shaped house dates from c.1853 and is the oldest remaining building in the 8th Street Historic District.
Townhouses - The two-story Ed Zander house at 707 Franklin Street was built in c.1873 and features long, narrow windows on the front facade accented by segmented arched hood moldings with keystones, large overhanging eaves and a bracketed wood cornice. The design is identical to the adjacent August Schmidt house at 709 Franklin Street built in 1877 as two townhouse units. All windows, doorways and architectural details remain intact.
Rank Dressmaker's Shop---713 Franklin Street: This small one-story frame building dates from the early 1890s and was once the dressmaking shop of Mrs. Frances Rank, one of several seamstresses in Manitowoc at the turn-of-the-century.
Fehrs Jewelry Story---910 South 8th Street: This small two-story brick commercial building was built in 1867 by a German immigrant who opened the first jewelry story in Manitowoc in 1855. The interior features blue and white terra-cotta bas-relief ornamentation on the ceilings and solid mahogany display cases made by his son.
Schuette's Department Store---804 Jay Street: Schuette Brothers, founded in a small frame building on this corner by John Schuette in 1848, is the oldest department store in Manitowoc and is one of the oldest retail establishments in Wisconsin. Today, one of its greatest charms is its pneumatic tube system of handling money.
Manitowoc Savings Bank---922-930 South 8th Street: The Manitowoc Savings Bank was founded in 1884 by John Schuette, local business and political leader. This building, built in a Neo-Classical style in 1927, was the second home of the bank, replacing an earlier three-story Italianate brick building erected on this corner in 1857 and formerly used as a bank.
Manitowoc County Courthouse---1010 S. 8th Street: The Manitowoc County Courthouse was designed by Manitowoc architect Christ H. Tegen and built in 1906. The Beaux Arts, Neo-Classical "Temple of Justice" originally supported a glass dome, permitting light to stream into the interior rotunda.
Wernecke-Schmitz Hardware Store/Vogelsang and Murphy Undertakers---939 South 8th Street: This large commercial building was constructed in 1894 as two stores with apartments above. Built of cream brick, the original street level featured large plate glass windows and two commercial entrances. The central panel is highlighted by a single window with brick arch and stone spiked keystone.
Buerstate Drug Store---913 South 8th Street: This two-story cream brick Italianate building was built in 1872 by druggist Frederick C. Buerstatte. Notice the corbelled cornice and the round arch hood moldings over the second floor windows.
Wernecke Bakery Building---815 Jay Street: This two-story, red brick commercial building is one of the most decorative in the downtown. Although the first floor has been completely altered, the upper floor remains largely intact with an elaborately carved cornice outlining the shaped gable and a brick arch with wooden spike keystone over 3 windows with straight, cut stone lintels. Built in the mid 1870s by local baker and confectioner William Wernecke, the architectural details of this building are reminescent of the baker's art.
Henry Esch & Sons Building-Gasco Block---823 Jay Street: One of the major business blocks built during the 1890s in the downtown area, the Esch building replaced two smaller buildings formerly occupied by the general merchandise firm. The cream brick building originally featured a second floor turret at its northwest corner, balancing what now seems to be the asymmetrical arrangement of the second floor windows.
Manitowoc Municipal Building---817 Franklin Street: Built in 1937 as a federal Works Progress Administration (WPA) project, this three-story brick building includes the old Victoria Hotel as its east wing. One of the town's smaller hotels, the Victoria, built in 1890, served that purpose until 1920 when it was sold to the city for use as administrative offices. During construction a large west wing erected on this corner along Ninth Street was attached to the old hotel structure and the facades of both buildings covered with matching brick. The Victoria's painted sign is still faintly visible on the east side of the building along Franklin Street.
Hamachek-Bleser Company/Auto Dealer Building---822 Franklin Street: This unusually elaborate auto dealership, built entirely of brick, reflects the permanence of the automobile in American society by the year of its construction, 1922. Equipped with such modern features as a large, pavilion-like showroom and expansive show windows, the building also carries the Neo-Classical details such as ornamental Corinthian capitals, surmounted by a decorative entablature, and a balustrade above the street-level windows.
Mariners Landing Park---Southwest side of the 8th Street Bridge: This vest-pocket park provides a good vantage point for viewing the river, 8th Street Bridge and 10th Street Bridge (constructed in 1987). An official State of Wisconsin historical marker commemorates the local shipbuilding industry.