ebook  History of Watertown, Wisconsin


Charles Piper

Piper Building


506 & 508 E Main

Later, 508 E Main


Charles Piper, 1870s

Watertown Fire Dept Special Police

Watertown Fire Dept Civil Police, WHS_006_223




Piper Building, Leather goods, 1956c,

508 E Main, city assessor image, WHS_006_070b



    Watertown Daily Times, 11 26 1951

Mrs. Amanda Piper

1872 - 1951


Woman Dies, Sister is Rescued in $15,000 Fire

Piper Building Badly Damaged; Body Recovered


Mrs. Amanda Piper, 79, member of an old Watertown family, was found dead early Sunday and her sister, Miss Adelia Piper, 78, was carried down a ladder to safety during a spectacular fire which swept the Piper building at 508 Main Street early Sunday.


The two sisters occupied the apartment on the second floor of the large brick structure which for many years has housed the Chas. Piper leather goods store.


Fire Chief Al Linde reported the fire started from defective electric wiring which runs in the ceiling above the store quarters, directly under the apartment. The spot where the blaze started was clearly visible during an inspection after the fire.  A large hole was burned in the apartment floor.


Picture frames still hang grotesquely on the walls, with the glasses broken and the pictures burned away.


Loss Put at $15,000


The fire chief placed the loss at $15,000 or more. He made his estimate yesterday morning at 9 o'clock after a thorough inspection of the ruins in company with a former city engineer, Richard S. Podolske, who is the son-in-law of Chas. T. Piper.  Mr. Piper does not live in the store building.  His home is a short distance away, around the corner in North Sixth Street where he has been living alone since the death of his wife a year ago.


The chief said the loss would be between $15,000 and $20,000, based on current prices for replacements and repairs.


Discovered by Patrolman


The fire was discovered by a member of the police department, Patrolman M. K. Mann while he was making a routine checkup at a filling station across the street.  It was about 2:25 a.m. when he saw a brief flash of light in one of the windows of the apartment across the way.  Turning his flash light to the spot he saw smoke curling out near a window and then, at another window his flash light revealed the face of a woman pressed against the glass.  She appeared dazed and unable to speak.  It was Miss Adelia Piper who for many years has lived in the apartment with her sister, a virtual recluse and invalid.


It took only a second or two for Officer Mann to realize that a fire was raging in the apartment.  He yelled at the top of his voice to the woman at the window to open it and stick her head out.  She faltered for a moment, as if she was unable to get his message, then obeyed and her head came out, but she pulled back as if in terror.  He again yelled so loudly that it startled her and this time she again stuck her head out the window while he ran to turn in an alarm.


Firemen responded and when they arrived the woman was brought down through a window with a ladder.  She was taken to the Hotel Washington which is near the Piper building and from there was later taken to St. Joseph’s Horne for the Aged where she is at present.


Body Not Burned


When firemen forced their way up the long flight of stairs they found fire raging throughout the apartment and dense smoke filled the place.  At that time no one knew of the whereabouts of the elder sister.  Her sister was unable to give any indication about her.  The body was later found behind a door in a bedroom by Fire Chief Linde.  She had been suffocated.  No fire reached her. She was apparently stumbling in the dark and smoke-filled apartment after awakening and collapsed near the door. The bedroom in which she was found is at the rear the apartment.


Both sisters were fully clothed and were not in night attire.


The entire apartment, large in size, since it covers the whole top floor of the building, was badly gutted.  Walls and woodwork are charred and smoke stained.  The floors are badly burned.  Furniture, including bedding and a piano, a well as tables, chairs, lamps and everything else is a total loss.  Many of the windows were broken and were either boarded up or covered with canvass after the fire.


Stock is Damaged


Water seeping down into the store did considerable damage to the stock though the flames did not reach the store itself except for the part of the ceiling where the fire began.


A wall and part of the roof of the First Methodist Church, directly west of the building, were scorched and only the fact that the walls of the Piper building are thick and well constructed saved the church from the fire itself.


Hundreds of persons visited the scene of the fire. But the full damage cannot be realized from the outside of the building.  It is the upstairs apartment that shows the extent of the raging fire.  And hardly anyone got up there.  The exterior of the building, except for broken windows, is practically untouched.




Funeral services for Miss Piper will be conducted at 2 a.m. Wednesday at the Nowack funeral home, the Rev. Gerhard Redlin officiating.  Interment will be in Oak Hill cemetery.


Miss Piper was born here November 25, 1872, and lived here her entire life.  She is survived by the one sister and one brother. Another brother preceded her in death.  Several nieces and nephews survive.


She was a member of St. Mark's Lutheran church.  For many years she worked in the leather goods store.  She was among the best known women in the city, though in recent years she had lived more or less in retirement.



    Watertown Daily Times, 07 20 1956


An agreement for sale of the Piper building at 508 Main Street was concluded today between the heirs of Charles T. Piper, deceased, and Kehr Bros. of this city.  The building was occupied for many years by the late Mr. Piper, who was a retailer of leather goods.


Kehr Bros. is one of the older businesses of Watertown and the partnership will soon observe its 50th anniversary as heating contractors.  The founders were Emil and Frank Kehr, who were brothers.  The present partners are Donald A. Kehr and Robert T. Kehr, their sons, who also sell, install and service ventilating and air conditioning equipment as well as awnings.


Cross Reference:


    1952 photo




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History of Watertown, Wisconsin