Douglas County Historical Society creates display boards featuring buildings' histories for owner
The research staff dug into the buildings' histories and their different incarnations.
The historic beginnings of two Superior businesses were put under scrutiny this winter. The end result: two panels featuring the background of the Badger Building and its neighbor, 1228 Banks, which houses Studio One Photography, will soon be on display.
Matt Cich, who owns the buildings under the business name JB Building LLC, said JoAnn Jardine of Studio One gave him the idea for the panels. She shared with him a story she’d seen about the 1228 Banks property online, a “slice of history” post from the Douglas County Historical Society .
“I thought, 'That’s cool; maybe they have something about the Badger Building.' So I went over to the historical society,” Cich said. “I thought maybe if I had a couple of boards made up of the building and hung them up inside there, it would be kind of nice for the people coming in the building.”
It was a new request for the historical society, but one business manager Jon Winter embraced. The research staff dug into the buildings' histories and their different incarnations.
Maryland Block evolves as tenants change
The Badger Building hasn’t always been named for Wisconsin’s state animal. When it was built in 1892, it was known as the Maryland Block. Early tenants included the Billings Hardware Company, New Era Business College and the Turnbull-Cameron-Degler Company, which specialized in furnishings and decor for homes.
The building was purchased by the Evening Telegram in 1919, and the paper moved to the site following a three-year, $75,000 remodeling project. It soon became known as the Telegram Building.
The remodeled building continued to offer retail space — the upper floors included doctors, dentists, attorneys and even a barber shop — but the showpiece was the newspaper. The pressroom rose from the basement to the mezzanine on the North 13th Street side of the building. People on the sidewalk were able to watch the presses running, and often did.
The Telegram Building was the site of the first commercial radio station at the Head of the Lakes, WEBC. The station was founded by Morgan Murphy, son of Telegram founder John T. Murphy, and radio pioneer Walter Bridges. The transmitter was located in the penthouse on the roof, and two antenna towers were added to the roof.
When the Telegram relocated to 1226 Ogden Ave. in 1972, the building was renamed the Badger Building.
From shirts to liquor
The Superior Shirt Company was the first tenant of the building at 1228 Banks Ave., which was also completed in 1892. About 35 employees were hired with hopes of up to 100 in the future, but financial problems caused the business to close in 1894. At its zenith, the company manufactured about 30 dozen shirts per day.
As with the Badger Building, an established business was next to occupy the site. Superior Cycle Co., which began manufacturing bicycles in 1896 at the junction of the Northern Pacific and Great Northern Railroads near North 64th Street, relocated to the 1228 Banks Ave. Building in 1897 and remained there until 1901.
A wholesale liquor company, the I.L. Lamm Company, moved into the building in 1902. The business would continue operations at the site until 1916, a casualty of the temperance movement. The move to liquor-free life wavered back and forth in Superior prior to Prohibition, propelled by voters.
“Superior went dry in 1916; then they went wet again in 1917; then they went dry again in 1918; and then Prohibition took for the duration, so it’s pretty safe to assume that in 1916, that business went out of business because you could no longer sell liquor,” Winter said.
A fan of the History Channel, the project gave Cich a look at two stories closer to home. There were no big surprises or reveals, but he was happy with the result.
"It’s always interesting if you own something to find the history," he said.
Cich said he sent the panels out to be framed and plans to display both on the first floor of the Badger Building. Winter said similar panels could be created for other local buildings, if owners are interested.