Middleton is rich with history and you can experience it just by walking around the city and paying a visit to these historical shops and restaurants along the way.
Villa Dolce – Now a modern Italian café, the Weinberg-Schroeder Building, at 1828 Parmenter Street, was built in 1868 as a store and saloon briefly operated by Charles Weinberg. He was one of several German-born Jewish merchants who did business in early Middleton. The original false front boomtown appearance of the building is documented in an 1872 photograph taken by Andreas Dahl. Later remodeling for a residential addition produced the current more Queen Anne style appearance. In 1869, John Green purchased the business. After retiring from politics around 1879, State Senator Romanzo E. Davis operated a general store at this location until 1887. In 1888, Salome Schroeder, a Civil War widow, became the Middleton postmaster, and she established her office and a confectionery store in the building. The post office appointment continued in the Schroeder family for 31 years with Mrs Schroeder’s daughter Emma DuFrenne serving as postmaster until 1919. In 1924, Burmester & Kruse opened their mercantile business in the building. Thanks to support from Erna Kruse, the Women’s Club started the Middleton public library at this location in 1926. The building was also the first telephone exchange of the Farmers Union Telephone Company.
- Marilyn’s Salon & Chauette – Now a salon and fashion and home boutique, the historic Opera House, 1827-1833 Parmenter Street, was built in 1903. The original Opera House, built by Fritz Hoffman in 1885, was destroyed during the Great Fire of 1900. John Albrecht built the structure we see today in 1903 asthe Elks Hotel, which was designed by Madison architects Rawson & Paunack. Despite its formal name, the new building, like its predecessor, was familiarly known as the Opera House because of the large hall and stage on the second floor. Under a succession of owners, the Opera House hosted many community events such as dances, political rallies and high school graduations. The first floor contained bars, a drug store and a soda fountain. More recent owners have converted the building into apartments and retail space.
- 1847 at the Stamm House – Now a beautifully remodeled gourmet restaurant, the Stamm House, 6625 Century Avenue, was built in 1847 by Milo K. Cody and Horace A. Winston. The building was enlarged with limestone by John A Roloff in 1858. The Stamm House is the oldest hotel in Dane County. During its early history, the hotel and tavern served travelers on what was then the main route from Madison to Minneapolis. Under later owners, it was a post office, dance hall and restaurant. During the 1920s, the building was dubbed the Stamm House from the German “stammtisch,” or gathering table. Another local legend contends that the Stamm House was a speakeasy during Prohibition. In 2013, the Stamm House was extensively remodeled and the original stone exterior restored.
- Club Tavern – Now the biggest bar in Middleton, this building at 1915 Branch Street was erected between 1860 and 1880 as the boarding house and stables for the Stamm House. The Club Tavern itself opened its doors in 1921, even remaining open during Prohibition.
- The Regal Find – Now home to a unique gift shop, the Du Frenne Building, 1834 Parmenter Street, was built as a general store. When the Dufrenne family built this brick mercantile store in 1898, the family already had a long history in Middleton business. Their story began in 1869 at the corner of Hubbard and Parmenter Streets when Frederick F. Dufrenne, Sr., a German-born Civil War veteran, established partnerships first with Samuel Thuringer and subsequently with David Lyle. Dry goods and hardware were sold on the first floor of the new DuFrenne building while the second floor provided offices for Charles F. Allen, a physician, and Erwin Schuster, a dentist. The Dufrennes eventually moved to Madison. Under subsequent owners, the building served many commercial purposes. it was a grocery store, furniture store, hardware store, funeral home, printing shop, bakery and now a gift shop.
- American Hotel, otherwise known as the Free House Pub, at 1904 Parmenter Street, was built in 1867-1870 with a later addition to the rear, the American Hotel was first operated by John Colton, then by Gerhard Aussem, and from about 1884 to 1950, by several generations of the Stricker family. Over the years, the establishment earned a renowned reputation for its inexpensive chicken dinners. Local tradition also holds that the hotel served alcohol when other establishments were “dry.” After closing as a hotel, the building became the office of Dr. Marvin F. Stricker. This brick Gabled-Ell building has been an art gallery and is currently a restaurant.
*All photos are used with the permission of the Middleton Historical Society