Newsletter - September 2008


Burlington Historian

September 2008

Remodeling Project Started, But Still A Long Way To Go

The long-anticipated remodeling project to add a second floor to the Museum building and a restroom on the first floor has finally started. The footings for the eleven posts that will support the second floor were dug out in the basement and the concrete was poured in mid-August. The contractor now has to measure for and order the specially built posts that will extend from the basement, through the first floor, and up to the second floor.

Once the posts are in, the floor supports can be attached and the floor can be installed. A new staircase will also be built from the first to the second floor. Then will come the carpentry and electrical work to make the Museum interior ready for displays and exhibits.

There's still a lot of work to do as the project moves forward. Creating interesting and meaningful displays of our artifacts and telling the story of Burlington's history, and the history of various Burlington institutions and groups, remains a challenge. Volunteers will be needed to help construct exhibit spaces and arrange the displays.





The footings for the posts to support the new second floor were dug out in the basement of the Museum (above) and filled with concrete (left) in mid-August.


The Society, which is celebrating its 80th anniversary in 2008, is accepting financial donations from individuals, businesses, and groups to help defray remodeling costs. The Racine County Board of Supervisors, the Lester and Jane Hoganson Trust, and Runzheimer International have already made sizeable monetary contributions, and several businesses and individuals have also sent in varying amounts to support the project.

Donations to the Society, organized under the provisions of section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, are tax-deductible. Checks can be made payable to the Burlington Historical Society, and mailed to the Society at 232 N. Perkins Boulevard, Burlington, WI 53105.

President’s Message

Try to picture our Burlington community as it appeared in 1928, the year our Burlington Historical Society was established. All the "action" was located in or near downtown. About the only activity north of Echo Lake was some farm markets, some auto traffic heading towards Waterford, and the Milwaukee Electric Line train heading to and from Milwaukee. Our small industrial and farming community had no idea how its borders would spread out and what it would look like in 2008. We now are planning for a new look in our Society's Museum.

Work is now underway to add a second floor and additional space for display and research. We look to the day we will be able to look at past photos of our museum and compare the changes. We also look forward to a fun and beautiful fall season in our great state of Wisconsin.

        Dennis Tully

Racine County Government Contributes Funds to Help Meet Remodeling Expenses






Racine County Executive William McReynolds (right) and County Supervisor Tom Pringle (center) presented a check to the Society in July 2008 to help with remodeling costs.  Society board members at the event were (from left) Don Vande Sand, John Smith, Roger Bieneman, Priscilla Crowley, Jackie Heiligenthal, and Dennis Tully.



Burlington Area Garden Club and Master Gardeners Keep the Legacy and Vintage Gardens Attractive for Our Community


At right:  Members of the Burlington Area Garden Club work in the Legacy Garden next to the Museum in mid-August. The garden, on which the Club has done much "revamping" this year, receives many compliments from people passing by as well as from those who stop by to visit.


Below:  Paula Puntenney of the Burlington Area Garden Club pauses while tending the kitchen garden next to Pioneer Cabin in mid-August.  The primary crops in the garden this year are cabbage, tomatoes, squash, beans, rhubarb, and hops.  Ms. Puntenney and other Garden Club members also help keep the Vintage Garden surrounding the Cabin looking good.

Annual Ice Cream Social Again Successful

The Society's annual ice cream social, held in conjunction with Burlington's Maxwell Street Days on the last Saturday in July, was again well-supported by the public. Thanks to the Society volunteers who worked to make the event a success.

Did You Know?

The first baby born at Burlington Memorial Hospital was Alpha Omega Johnston, daughter of George and Doris Johnston; she was born June 16, 1924, one day before the Hospital officially opened.

Over the River and Through the Woods . . .

                                   Contributed by Priscilla Crowley

Thanksgiving means so many different things to everyone. It means gathering with family and friends, football, food, crisp autumn days with just a hint of frost in the air, Christmas lurking around the corner, Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, did I mention food? And most important of all - remembering to be thankful for all of these things and so much more.

Remember what it was like? How the house had to be cleaned from top to bottom because grandma and grandpa were coming and this aunt or that uncle or these cousins were coming? I remember the way the table looked, Mom's beautiful lace tablecloth, the good dishes, the good silverware, candles on the table and the smells, the incredible smells. Days before the big event it was time to bake the pies - pumpkin, apple, cherry, lemon meringue and a few different cookies thrown in just in case we got hungry! The night before I can remember Mom and Dad working on the stuffing for the turkey - dicing onions, celery, the dried bread, the seasonings - salt, pepper, sage, an egg, some water, some butter, more seasonings, a little sausage for flavor, cutting up the gizzard and liver for more flavor and then mixing it all together and watching Dad stuff the bird in preparation for the next day's meal. Mom had to get up very early on Thanksgiving morning to put the turkey in the oven so it would be ready on time. You would wake up in the morning to the mouthwatering smell of the baking turkey. Mom and Dad were busy peeling mounds of potatoes, making Jell-O, vegetables, salad, whipping cream for the pies and baking rolls. Then you had to set the table and everything had to be just so. While setting the table, Mom would give us the lecture about being good and not doing anything we shouldn't; we needed to remember to be polite even if they weren't our favorite cousins and we were not to eat like we had never seen food before. In other words, we were not to be our usual selves; we were to be something better than that.

Soon our company would arrive. Mom figured we would be polite and well-mannered even if she had to tie us to our chairs to keep us in one place. We really did behave very well, we didn't belch in front of company, we didn't shove anybody out of the way so we could get to the table first, we didn't eat like there was no tomorrow, we didn't chew with our mouths open, we didn't tell any embarrassing stories (well at least not anything real embarrassing), and we didn't stare at anyone who did strange and fascinating things at the dinner table. These were such memorable occasions. It was wonderful.

After everyone had stuffed themselves full of food, the women would clear the table and if you weren't quick about it, you got drafted to help with the dishes. The men would all head for the living room and a comfortable chair to watch football or nap or both. While the women worked in the kitchen, they had an opportunity to catch up on all the latest family gossip. As a kid if you were smart and kept your mouth shut, very often you could learn a lot of stuff you weren't really supposed to know anything about. The trick was to make yourself invisible and not do anything to call attention to yourself. It took years of practice to perfect this ability. It seemed as if there was always one aunt in the crowd who would spot you and shoo you out the door with a, "What are you doing in here? Go outside with the others."

Thanksgiving is a great holiday -- it's more relaxed than Christmas and everyone has an opportunity to visit and just be themselves. People who think Thanksgiving is just about the food are so wrong. Thanksgiving is about loving and caring and sharing and gratitude for what we all have. It doesn't matter that your neighbor has a fancier house or car or more money; it only matters that you share this special day with those you love and that you appreciate the opportunity to create memories for everyone. None of the Thanksgivings we celebrated as children were spectacular, they consisted of a gathering of ordinary people who loved and cared for each other. The women in the kitchen gossiping and doing dishes, the men in the living room napping and watching football and exchanging stories, and all the kids running outside and inside playing, laughing and generally having a good time -- this is what it was all about. Remember back and enjoy some of those Thanksgivings all over again. Share some of those memories and dare to re-create some of those good times with your family. It is well worth the time and effort. Turkeys come and go but memories live on forever.

September 1925's Killer Storm

While heavy wind and rain storms in and around Burlington are not uncommon, and occasionally tornadoes and cyclones have hit parts of the area – such as the tornado that caused extensive damage in the town of Wheatland on January 7, 2008 – very few Burlington-area storms have ever resulted in people dying. One that did, however, occurred September 9, 1925, when Burlington resident, Henry Storey, died as a result of injuries suffered when a chimney was blown over and crashed through the roof of the engine house at the Burlington Floral Co., burying Mr. Storey in the wreckage. Mr. Storey was taken to Memorial Hospital where he died two days later.

Although the two Burlington newspapers at the time differed in their characterizations of the storm – the Free Press calling it a cyclone while the Standard Democrat called it a terrific wind storm – the storm also caused considerable damage in and around Burlington. The September 11 Standard ran the following article. The accompanying photos, from the Historical Society’s collection, were taken by Burlington photographer John Asder.


Henry Storey and Henry Thiegs Receive Serious Injuries by Falling Debris – Hundreds of Shade Trees Uprooted and Broken – Barns Wrecked – Chimneys Down – Windows Broken – Overhead Wires a Tangled Mass – Several Freak Results

Two men suffered serious injuries in a terrific wind storm that struck Burlington Wednesday afternoon, causing a property damage that will run into thousands of dollars and which will leave its scars upon the many beautiful trees of the city for many years to come.

Shortly before 3 o’clock a dark cloud appeared in the west and before citizens had time to reach cover the storm broke in all its fury. It didn’t seem to have the twisting effect of the usual cyclone. The wind came from almost straight west and trees and buildings give no evidence of a twister.

At the Burlington Floral Co.'s engine house (right), the chimney
was hurled through the roof burying Henry Storey in the wreckage; Storey died 2 days later.

With a crash and a bang trees and telephone poles went down, windows were caved in, chimneys were blown off, while humanity looked on and shivered. Autos parked on the streets were jammed into each other or into curbs and buildings, and the roof of practically every open car was torn to ribbons. Rain and hail driven by the high wind added to the confusion. Sheets of water, filled with leaves, limbs, and debris, made it impossible to see across the streets and made being out of doors impossible.

The storm lasted less than five minutes and fifteen minutes later the sun was shining.

When the storm was over and citizens emerged from their hiding places, wreckage greeted them on every side. Trees by the hundreds were torn down. Service poles were broken and electric light and telephone wires were down in a tangled mass and for some time it was almost impossible to get through any of the streets of the city.

Then reports of more serious damage commenced to come in. Chief among these was that Henry Storey had been seriously injured at the plant of the Burlington Floral Co. Mr. Storey had taken refuge in the engine house. The wind caught the chimney, hurling it through the roof of the structure and burying Mr. Storey in the wreckage. He was taken to the Memorial hospital where Drs. Newell found he had a fractured skull and other injuries.

     When the storm was over, wreckage greeted residents on every side. Trees by the hundreds were torn down, service poles were broken, and electric light and telephone wires were down in a tangled mass.

Then came a call from Brown’s lake that part of the Consumer’s Ice Co. ice house had blown down and that Henry Thiegs had been caught in the wreckage. Dr. Fulton attended him and found a broken arm and serious internal injuries.

As a result of the storm Burlington will be without gas for several days. The chimney of the Citizens’ Gas Co. was blown over onto the gas reservoir, breaking through the roof of the reservoir. The tank has to be emptied, a new roof rushed herefrom the city and welded into place before pressure can be restored. Many homes have only gas ranges and they will have cold meals until the reservoir is repaired.

At the plant of the Murphy Products Co. the large new warehouse built a year ago was completely wrecked (left) and the rain did considerable damage to the stock.

    The Murphy Products Co.'s year-old warehouse was completely wrecked.

Part of the window frames and walls on two sides of the new St. Mary’s high school were blown in. At the Episcopal church the steeple was blown over onto the roof.

At the Prasch Bros. farm on Geneva street the large barn was unroofed, and a stave silo and windmill reduced to kindling wood. One section of the roof twenty-five feet square was carried over fifty feet.

On the John Cook farm in the town of Lyons, most of the buildings were completely wrecked. Two horses were killed.

The barns and sheep sheds on the Howard Wood farm near the Milwaukee road depot were a mass of wreckage. At the Wm. Kruckman residence on Kendall street a large barn was lifted off the foundation and dumped on one end.

The 100 foot smokestack at the plant of the Burlington Brass Works was blown down as was the fifty foot stack at the plant of the F. G. Klein Co. Throughout the city any number of chimneys were blown from private homes.

The coping along the top of the Hotel Burlington was torn off and the wreckage strewn all over the roof, driving holes in the roof in several places.


The barn of A. Hess (corrected later to Otto Haase) on Origen street  was  crushed to splinters and blown for hundreds of feet. The back yards of G. Heublein, R. Carpenter and Ed. Ayers on Lewis street were filled with the wreckage, the big doors crashing against an apple tree in the Heublein yard, and timbers putting immense holes in the Ayers barn. A freak thing was that the Hess automobile in the barn was untouched and stood intact among the wreckage.


The chimney of the Citizens' Gas Co. was blown over onto
the gas reservoir, breaking through the roof of the reservoir.

Telephone, electric light and interurban service is at a standstill. Some twenty poles were blown down in the city and this together with the hundreds of trees falling across the wires made a tangled mass that will take days to straighten.

The storm seemed at its worst in the city although crippled wire service prevents reports from outside reaching here.

At the Prasch Bros. farm on Geneva (now W. State) Street, 
the large barn was unroofed, and a stave silo and windmill 
were reduced to kindling wood.

                                      -  -  -  -  -

The Free Press reported additional damage:

-- a large window on the Geneva Street (now Milwaukee Ave.) side of the Burlington National bank was wrecked;

-- many other windows in the business district, at the old high school building (the former Cooper School building), and in many residences were blown in;

-- at the Burlington Floral Co., much glass in the green houses was broken; and

-- large shade trees in various city areas were blown down, including one on Kane Street at the Meinhardt home.

In their next editions, the papers reported Mr. Storey's death and that the storm had wrecked a barn at the Theodore Lemmerhirt residence on Perkins Boulevard; demolished an estimated 40 chimneys and smokestacks in the city; and blown down 14 of Lawrence Stang, Jr.’s bill boards, a silo on the John Uhen farm west of the city, and a small spire on St. Mary’s church, which went through the roof and landed in the organ loft.

At St. John the Divine Episcopal church, the steeple was
blown over onto the roof.


The papers also reported that Henry Thiegs, who had sustained a broken rib and other bruises at the Consumers Ice Co. at Norton’s Lake, was able to be around again. The Wisconsin Telephone Co. brought four crews, about 40 men, to repair the damage to its lines; and the Wisconsin Gas & Electric Co. had about 20 men from Milwaukee, Waukesha, and Whitewater working on its electric lines until "order was restored." Gas service from the Citizens' Gas Co. was not restored for nearly 2 weeks.