WAUPACA, WAUPACA COUNTY, WISCONSIN
(Information provided courtesy of JJ Johnson)
In 1912 the Yellowstone Trail became proposed as America's first trans-continental highway across the northern tier of states– stretching from the east coast at Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts and ending on the west coast at Puget Sound, Washington. Wisconsin began giving highway number designations in 1918, but, on the whole, highways were not given number designations until Congress passed the Federal Highway Act in 1926.
Most records say the route was named the Yellowstone Trail because it was the national highway that people traveled to reach Yellowstone National Park. Some records reflect that the course followed by these early travelers was so-named as the route was marked with yellow paint on stones, trees, fence posts or other visible marker (called "hoodoos") – serving as the first road signs for the adventurous traveler. In the Waupaca area the route was marked with yellow bands on trees and light poles.
The Yellowstone Trail traversed 18 Wisconsin counties, covering a total of 406 miles. The mud roads were graveled and later paved with concrete. After being designated highway 18 and then later as Highway 10, brown and yellow signs were erected at various points to mark its historical significance; however, throughout the years these signs were removed during highway improvement projects.
Work in central Wisconsin began in 1915. During initial meetings in Marshfield, cities such as Grand Rapids, Shawano and Wausau tried to divert the route through their areas citing the bad condition of roads in the Waupaca/Weyauwega area. Under the guidance of Erle Whipple, of Waupaca, it was determined to leave the route as initially proposed. Whipple was active in setting up "Trail Days" to im-prove the roads. He was also the sub-relay manager in September, 1916, when the War Department and Yellowstone Trail Association set up a relay to send an official War Department message from coast to coast in 5 days. An average of 30 miles an hour was required to meet this challenge and the sub-manager not only arranged for cars capable of traveling these speeds required to meet the deadline, but arranged for drivers not to be arrested by police while driving through their areas at such reckless speeds.
The Yellowstone Trail entered the city of Waupaca by what was the Bunker Hill School located on the south side of current Highway 10 at County Road A (on Appletree Lane). It followed Appletree Lane north through the original Barnes Apple Orchard and into what is now Churchill Street. From Churchill Street the Yellowstone Trail turned west onto School Street (which becomes Badger Street) to the downtown area. A north turn at Badger Street the traveler went up Main Street, turning north at the Dane's Home onto Granite Street. It continued west onto Hillcrest where it merges into Fulton Street, leaving town westward past "Chady's Corner" (State Hwy. 54 and County Hwy. QQ).
A few of the notable locations one would pass in Waupaca while retracing the Yellowstone Trail are:
The John W. Evans House – 1332 Churchill Street
John Evans was a partner and later sole owner of the Woolen Mills. The mills were located across on the east side of the road and Mr. Evans' home on the west side housed their offices. Mr. Evans also built a starch factory that played a part in serving Waupaca as "The Potato Capital of the World". At various times he served the community as a member of the city council and county board.
SHANAK FOUNDRY & MACHINE COMPANY - 1325 Churchill Street
A manufacturer of heavy machinery, the building is one of the older Waupaca industries. In 1976 an old wooden gear turbine was still operating day and night, though it is now removed for preservation. Shanak's is located on one of the earliest business sites in Waupaca. It started with Wright's feed mill and repair shop (built long before 1867). The grist mill was remodeled into Evan's woolen mills. A foundry was built on the site in 1917. One of the buildings burned down in 1930 and was not rebuilt. The foundry passed through several owners prior to Shanak's purchase.
BANDSTAND – 111 South Main Street.
The bandstand, which has become Waupaca's trademark, was built in 1898 to accommodate the city's two bands and provide a place for civic and social gatherings. It is one of the oldest bandstands in the state. When it was restored in 1997 the green base was made approximately three feet lower than its original construction. President-to-be Ronald Reagan spoke to a national audience in 1980 from this location.
LIGHTHOUSE GIFT AND OFFICE SUPPLY - 100 North Main Street.
Built for the Odd Fellows Fraternal Organization, this building became Asa Holly's second and most well known location for his furniture and funeral business in 1889. It had the first, and then only, elevator in the city. The elevator operated by a system of ropes that were pulled by hand. The building's mezzanine was the site for the broadcasting of Waupaca's first radio station: WPAH. (Holly discontinued the furniture line when he relocated his funeral business to the corner of Lake and Main Streets.)
THE DANE'S HOME – 301 North Main Street.
The Dane's Home Society was organized in 1877 for social and literary purposes. Due to growth and fires they had this building, the sixth to house the Society, constructed in 1884. The Society provided a Danish language library, insurance, and other help to its Danish membership and its doors were open to the community for its social gatherings. The building was referred to as the Dane's Opera House after the city's opera house burned in 1904. It was also used for drilling the National Guard, school graduations, and public lectures. The Society disbanded in the 1940's.
HANSON AUTO EXCHANGE - 112 Granite Street.
This building was constructed approximately 1909. C. E. Johnson rented it as a garage in 1913. In 1915 he purchased the building and made extensive improvements. In February 1917 Dayton Baldwin leased the garage, now called "The Yellow-stone Garage," from Johnson, who remained on as a mechanic, and an office was added for use in selling Oldsmobile and Oakland automobiles.
WINFIELD SCOTT HOME - 405 Granite Street.
The two-story wood framed Greek Revival house was built in 1855. The second story of the ell was added on sometime between 1870 and the 1890's. It is one of the oldest residences in the city. Scott ran an abstract and real estate business. He also invested in real estate and at one time owned as many as 200 lots in Waupaca. He held numerous county government positions, including a term as county judge.
THE P. M. OLFSON HOME - 415 Granite Street.
The Olfson house was constructed in 1899. During Waupaca's era as "The Potato Capitol of the World." Olfson was one of the top five dealers of potatoes, grain, and other produce. Among his many diversified interests, he was a stockholder in the Chain o' Lakes Grandview property and half owner of an Illinois coal company which he ran through his Waupaca office. He also served the community as an alderman.
Prepared in August 2001and revised March 2002, this guide is provided for your enjoyment through the co-operative efforts of the Waupaca Area Chamber of Commerce (221 S. Main Street) and Waupaca Historical Society (321 S. Main Street), Waupaca Wisconsin 54981. Waupaca is a community with a large variety of buildings of historic interest. Please contact us if you wish additional information on these or other locations.