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Port Washington 1835 to 1985

People, places and events,   pp. 22-31

Page 25

Rampage of Sauk Creek
On August 4, 1924, normally docile little Sauk
Creek showed a side of its character not normally
seen or expected. Its swollen waters rampaged
through Port Washington, severely damaging the
downtown area, and washing out Fisherman's
Row. The creek raged over its banks following a
six inch rainfall which occurred within one hour,
undermining the Grand Avenue Bridge and
destroying the Wisconsin Street Bridge as well as
all the fish shanties lining the banks of the west
Storms tossing boats in the west slip have long been feared by
Port Washington residents. This photo was taken in the 1930s,
when commercial fishing was still very active in Port
Washington.      Photo courtesy of Ambrose Mayer
The Tragedy of the
Three Fishermen
Early one morning in 1882, three fishermen,
John Soule, Charles French and Gabriel
Hollander, left port in their small fishing craft to
check their pound nets located about three miles
north of Port Washington. Just as they reached
their nets, the sky blackened, and in an instant a
roaring tornado raced over the bluffs and down in-
to the lake, sweeping the waters high into swirling
spouts. It is noted that the three men were most
likely drowned before their little boat capsized in
the raging waters. The overturned boat was all
that remained after the storm swept across the
lake. Two of the bodies were later recovered. Lake
Michigan still holds claim on the third.
The Chair Factory Fire
On the evening of February 19, 1899 the entire
sky was lit up according to the recollection of
Mary Bohnsack, a resident of Port Washington
who at 94, remembers the night in question. The
city's worst fire started in the Wisconsin Chair
Factory, gutting everything east of Franklin Street
to the lakefront, and from Grand Avenue north to
Pier Street. The Chair Factory, 14 homes and 11
businesses were totally destroyed before the fire
was brought under control by the Port
Washington Fire Department with the assistance
of fire departments from Milwaukee and
Sheboygan. Daybreak found 800 Wisconsin Chair
Factory employees without jobs. Within two mon-
ths a new and larger chair factory was under con-
struction, and the restoration of the downtown
area was well underway.
When Sauk Creek went on a rampage, buildings were
destroyed bridges undermined and thousands of dollars damage
done. The Pebble House can be seen in the background in the
right hand portion of the picture.
Photo courtesy of Ambrose Mayer
Taking advantage of the traffic created by per-
sons who came to view the wreakage, Captain
Delos Smith rented a vacant store, and opened a
retail fish market to sell his fish to the visitors.
The store provided his daughter, Evelyn, with an
opportunity to test-market a fried-fish sandwich
which became a very popular item. The fish sand-
wich eventually led to the creation of the first Fish
Shanty restaurant in 1934, developing a reputa-
tion which brought many visitors to the city to
dine at Smith Brothers, and to enjoy the view from
Port Washington's harbor.
~A&I~(~vt 2 4w

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