ebook  History of Watertown, Wisconsin


City Morgue




02 17       A MORGUE AT LAST

       After Much Discussion the Council Takes Definite Action

            Proposed for 116 S. First St.


The city is at length to possess a morgue where the bodies of dead strangers may be properly attended to without resorting to the seemingly inhumane practices which have been in vogue here from time beyond memory.  The question has been under discussion for years, but the city fathers have never taken decided action. It seems now that the morgue is to be a reality.  At last night’s session of the council the following report was read:


To the Honorable, the Mayor and Common Council of the City of Watertown, Wisconsin:


The board of public works and the committee on public building's, to whom was referred the plans and specifications for a morgue and the advisability of constructing the same and the probable cost thereof, make the following report: We disapprove of the plans and specifications, but deem it advisable to construct a morgue, and recommend the “Old Engine House" site situated in the First ward of this city [116 S. First] as the proper place for the same; the probable cost of repairing the building, including roof, and fitting room in same for purpose of a morgue will not in our opinion exceed the sum of $500.


All of which is respectfully submitted.


Nicholas Thauer,

Henry Bieber,

A. E. Needham,

Board of Public Works.

Alf. Meyer,

Jas. J. Prendergast,

H. Wertheimer,

Committee on Public Buildings.


Before the question on the adoption of the report was put, the mayor stated that unless objection was raised Edward Specht would be allowed to speak on the recommendations of the report.  Mr. Specht said petitions had been freely signed remonstrating against the location of the morgue as proposed.  He called attention to the fact that it is in the heart of the city and that the surroundings are not suitable for its establishment there; that the property in question has laid idle for twelve years, is in very poor condition and a detriment to the neighborhood.  He was ready to purchase the property at a fair price if necessary to prevent the proposed action.  In reply to his remarks a number of the aldermen were heard.  It was the opinion that the charter would not permit the property to be disposed of except at auction, which would not be advisable, as no price could be guaranteed.  It was doubtful if a morgue could be located elsewhere as cheaply and suitably.  Alderman Needham explained that the plan was to locate the morgue in the basement, with a rear entrance, out of sight of the surroundings.  The report was adopted by a unanimous vote and a resolution calling for plans to refit the building to be submitted at the next meeting was passed later in the session.               Watertown Republican. February 17, 1897


02 24       DO WE NEED A MORGUE?

Council Is Apparently Not Discreet —

       No Occasion for Spending the Taxpayers’ Money.


Since our last issue our eyes have been opened to the fact that the proposed action of the common council regarding the establishment of a city morgue is wholly without precedent, an imposition on the taxpayers and a senseless proceeding.  In the first place is it customary for cities to establish morgues?  Can the members of the council cite any city that has a public morgue?  We think not.  They are generally the private concerns of undertakers, and perhaps in rare cases county institutions.  It stands to reason that cities have no business erecting morgues.  The care of dead strangers is wholly a county charge, all expenses being met by the county.  Why, then should our city authorities interfere and expend $500 of the taxpayers’ money for no reason whatever?  Has the city money to throw away?  It seems to us sheer nonsense that the tumble-down eye-sore on First Street, known as the old engine house, should have any money expended on it.  The city had much better dispose of it.


When this matter is seriously considered, most everyone will agree that the council has no right to appropriate money from the city treasury to be expended on a morgue.  If one is to be established here let the county pay for it.  The matter certainly comes under the head of expenses entailed on account of dead strangers, who, as is well known, are county charges.  The action of the council on this matter at the last meeting should be reconsidered, or else Mayor Racek should veto the report and the veto should be sustained.  Such action would be in the interests of the taxpayers.                 Watertown Republican, February 24, 1897



Room to Re Fitted up in City Hall on North First St.

             Repairs for Old Engine House


Action was taken at last night’s meeting of the common council which will no doubt definitely settle the question of a public morgue.  Alderman Skinner offered the following resolution, the board of public works failing to make any report on the resolution passed at the meeting February 16:


Resolved, That a new roof be put on the old jail building at a cost not to exceed $55 and that the contract for the same be let by the committee herein provided for at not to exceed said figure; also


Resolved, That a room be fitted up in the southwest corner of the city hall basement, according to specifications hereto attached, at a cost not to exceed $65, and that the contract for the same be let by the committee herein provided for at not to exceed said figure; and


Resolved , That a committee of three be appointed by the mayor to let the above contracts for said work; and said committee is hereby authorized to enter into said contracts as above and have the work done immediately; and that said committee superintend said work and report to this council of its doings at its next regular meeting.  The resolution was adopted by a vote of 10 to 2, and the mayor named the following as the committee: Aldermen Stone, Wertheimer and Kessler.              Watertown Republican,  March 24, 1897





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