Walldogs of Plymouth, Wisconsin --- describing the town’s history through wall art

September 18, 2012

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We stayed at the Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake in Sheboygan County and did some exploring from there. That took us to the town of Plymouth, to the south. Plymouth boasts that it has been the cheese hub of Wisconsin’s dairy and cheese industry since the city was founded in 1877. The city father’s say it is known as the Cheese Capital of the World.

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They set up this monument in 1977 to celebrate that and the city’s centennial.

I surely won’t argue with the city fathers. But cheese is not what caught my attention. I was enamored immediately on entering the town with its many old buildings, most of which were either being kept in good shape or were being renovated and updated. I was so struck by them that I parked my car, walked the length of East Mill Street, from what I could tell, the main commercial street in town, and took photos. I show a few at the end of this report.

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Art by Ray Guzman, Hoboken, N.J. Sargento Foods has its headquarters in Plymouth. It is a family-owned business. Leonard Gentine started the Plymouth Cheese Counter, a cheese gift and mail order business. He became aware of Italian-style cheeses and approached Joe Sartori. Together, in t1953 they formed a partnership with the name derived from their own names: Sargento. . It opened a new headquarters in Plymouth in 2011.

Once I got to the end of the street, and thought I was finished, a man standing by one of the stores asked me if I saw the murals on the buildings. I was so focused on the ornamental aspects of the old buildings’ architecture that I had to say, “no.” So he pointed a few out me and I was startled. I had walked right by them without paint much attention. The man said a group of artists painted 21 murals on the sides of buildings in four days! He urged me to walk the length of East Mill Street again to look at them. I was shocked at what I saw. The Sargento painting above is an example.

I think a marvelous aspect to all this is that this man did not look well to do, in fact he seemed unemployed without much to do. But he was very proud of these murals and his city. I have to hand it to him.

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It turns out that and organization called the Walldog Movement painted all these murals. The Walldogs are groups of artists who, upon request, and with pay, paint the sides of buildings or barns to preserve the tradition of the town, hand painting old time advertisements on brick walls and barns across the nation. As a result, Plymouth now not only brags about being the Cheese Capital, but also “Your mural destination.”

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Art by Carol Kaufman of Watseke, Illinois. The Plymouth Canning Co. was founded in 1908 and became the Plymouth Packing Co. in 1917. On November 26, 1937, The Sheboygan Press reported that Stokely Brothers acquired the company and all its assets. At the time, the intent was to maintain all Plymouth’s plants and expand production. I know it was still operating in 1959 but have not been able to determine what has happened to it thereafter. Stokely Brothers later became the Stokely-Van Camp Co., later bought by Quaker Oats. In 1995 Conagra bought the Stokely-Van Camp brand from Quaker Oats.


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Need some background on this one.

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J.H. Ebeling was one of the most prominent millers in Green Bay, born in 1836 in Holstein, Germany. He came to the US in 1864 and moved to Green Bay in 1866. He went into a partnership in New Franken, brown County, but the mill burned down in 1876. He joined with H.A. Straubel and built flour mills in Green Bay in 1877. The mills were built with four run of buhrs, and later rebuilt to the roller system and
enlarged to a capacity of 300 barrels of flour per day, with an elevator attached, of 45,000 bushels capacity. The mills were run under the firm name of Ebeling & Straubel's mill until March, 1894, when Mr. Ebeling bought his partner's interest. In 1888 the John E. Ebeling Milling Co. completed a new 500 barrel flour milling Green Bay. Cream of Wheat is a porridge-type breakfast food that is currently manufactured and sold by B&G Foods. Until 2007, it was the Nabisco Brand made by Kraft Foods.

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Art by Andy Goretski of Tomahawk, Wisconsin. This is of the Aristos Flour Mill of Plymouth which specialized in King Midas Flour. The mill was built in 1848 by Henry L. davidson, and was known as the Quit Qui Oc Mill. There then was a series of owners until the mill was razed in 1966. In the early 1900's, brothers Fred and George Shane were the owners of the Millbourne Mills in Philadelphia. Millbourne Mills at that time produced a flour branded, "King Midas Flour." There was a King Midas Mill in Minnesota and there was also a King Midas Flour, a hard durum wheat flour for pasta. The history here is hard to follow, but the Peavey Company, a large and powerful mill in Minneapolis, moved the production of King Midas durum to Superior, Wisconsin. The Superior facility fell into disuse. As far as I can tell, the Aristos Flour Mill in Plymouth produced this type of flour called King Midas.


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Art by Scott “Cornbread” Lindley of Mt. Pulaski, Illinois. Wadham's Oil and Grease Company of Milwaukee was a chain of filling and service stations based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in the early 20th century. It was one of the nation’s earliest petroleum companies. Their refinery was in Indiana. Wadham’s gas stations had a signature pagoda style. Few of these stations remain. One, built in 1927, was in use as a gas station until 1978. It was restored in 2000, and is now a Registered Historic Place and maintained as a museum display by the city of West Allis, Wisconsin. Another, built in 1926, is part of the Washington Avenue Historic District in Cedarburg, Wisconsin and is in use as a jewelry store.


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Art by Carol Bersin, Bernie Gietle, the latter of Carlinville, Illinois. Isaac Thorp arrived in the Plymouth area in May 1845, and settled there. He and his family are considered the first settlers in what became Plymouth. BY fall of 1845, Isaac’s sons had cleared four acres of land and sown the first winter wheat in what was already a small town. By 1862 all the Thorps, except Stephen, moved to Kansas. Stephen remained until 1875


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Plymouth established itself as a “Cheese capital of the world” because of its numerous cheese plants. In 1920, cheese plants in Wisconsin produced 64 percent of the cheese in the US. Until 1955, the Cheese Exchange in Plymouth helped establish and influence national cheese prices. Initially, dealers bought their cheese directly from the factories. Then a Call Board system was developed to encourage competitive bidding among dealers. By 1890 there were 18 Call Boards, serving small regions. In 1909, the Dairy Board in Plymouth changed its rules to permit any factory in Wisconsin to sell to the board. In 1913 it was renamed the Plymouth Call Board of Trade. In 1918 the Central Call Board of Trade was reorganized to give full membership only to dealers and was incorporated as the Wisconsin Cheese Board.


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Art by Adam May. Plymouth Radio & Phonograph Co. made furniture, phonographs, coin operated phonographs and radios. The Plymouth Phonograph Co. (PPC) was established in 1919 under an agreement with the Pathe Phonograph Co of Sheboygan. It changed names in 1921 to the Plymouth Radio and Phonograph Co. (PRP). They also produced cabinets for Weestern Coil and Electric of Racine and for Westinghouse. The company did well for quite some time but went bankrupt in September 1932.


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Art by Ben and oe Diaz of Pontiac, Illinois. Hi-Ho Bottling Company played an important role in the history of Plymouth. Donald Holzschuh and Joseph Hildebrand started the company after WWII. The name was drawn from their last names. Donald did the bottling while Joseph did the selling. In 1949 Joseph sold his pat of the business to Donalad, and Donald kept at it until 1955. Bonnie Colleen (Wright) Nowicki (now deceased) and her husband and family moved to Plymouth where they owned and operated the Hi-Ho Bottling Co. Sheboygan County hosted many bottling companies, and they were not for beer alone!


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Art by Brent Logan now living in Reno, Nevada. The Review is the oldest business in Plymouth, begun under this name in 1895 Barry and Christie Johanson bought a majority interest in Wisocnsin Newspress Inc., the family-owned business that now published The Review. Robert and Margaret Johanson run it today. The boy pictured here is Paul Sartori, now retired from the Sartori Co.


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Artists Bill and Jane Diaz of Pontiac, Illinois. The first brewery in PLymouth was built by Mr. G. Weber in 1865. He produced 1,100 barrels of beer a year by 1885 In 1887, the company officially organized and by 1893 was producing ,000 barrels per year. Ownership was changed a few times. The Prohibition era doomed the company and it ceased operations in 1932. Hattie Smith Curtiss reopened the brewery sometime in the 1930s and the firm built to produce 60,000 barrels per day.


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Art by Sonny Franks of Atlanta, Georgia. After Harry Chaplin returned from WWII, his grandmother gave him part of the family farm to start an airport. He was an aircraft maintenance man in the Army Air Corps. He opened the airport in 1946 running it as Chaplin Airport. It had one runway over mowed grass. He would pick up crashed aircraft and rebuild them. Flight instruction also began. In 1965 he was the first chairman of the Wisconsin Council of Aviation. The airport was closed in favor of a more centralized one for Sheboygan County, the Memorial Airpot, and Harry became the appointed manager.


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Art by the Butler Design Agency, David Butler.

By the way, I have since learned I missed a bunch of others, hard to believe because its was hot, I walked slowly, and I sweat like a Polish hog, determined to get ever yone! Have to go back. What a treat!


Some buildings

I was lured to the beauty of the many old buildings that line East Mill Street. Here are a few photos.

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Built in 1894

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H.C. Laack building, put up in 1898. Henry C. Laack, a local businessman, bought various properties in Plymouth as early as the late 1870s. This one is named after him. He built a block of buildings. The chimneys, brick korbeling and triangular parapeting give the building a medieval appearance.

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Storefront on E. Mill Street

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More retail space on E. Mill

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The Oddfellows Building, 1877

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Too bad I was shooting into the sun. This is a beautiful building. It is the Stafford House Bed and Breakfast, a National Registered historic inn. Built in 1892, it is the longest continuously operating hotels in Wisconsin.

Visit Plymouth. Great fun. As an aside, the town is the home of many, many very fine antique shops.