ebook  History of Watertown, Wisconsin




1 West Main Street



___ 2021 __________________


The city’s redevelopment authority approved Maas Brothers Construction Inc. of Watertown for construction management services to work with SmithGroup Inc. in overseeing the development of the Town Square project.


The board made the decision after the public request for proposals closed in mid-October and submissions were reviewed.


Within the next few weeks, a project manager from Maas Brothers will conduct a review of plans, identify long lead items   establish a schedule, and provide a buildable construction bid package to be released for public bidding in early 2022, if not sooner. Items identified as “long lead” may be put out for public bid earlier.


To reduce added costs of winter construction, the project is anticipated to begin in early spring with an estimated late summer, early fall completion date.


Efforts will be made to coordinate staging areas and identify possible work sharing opportunities with T. Wall Enterprises, the development company building a mixed-use, high-end apartment complex to the south of the square.



The Watertown Redevelopment Authority (RDA) has received a $1 million gift from the Bentzin Family for construction of the City of Watertown’s new Town Square.  Continuing a legacy of generosity and civic engagement, the Bentzin Family’s contribution puts the fundraising committee at the edge of its goal.


“I’ve always connected with the idea that you don’t truly know where you are going until you know where you have been,” said Barton Bentzin, representing the family on this donation.  Barton is the son of Watertown native Charles G. Bentzin.  “Dad was a firm believer in wanting Watertown to keep its identity,” he continued . “Watertown has a unique and rich history full of innovative thinkers. I join my dad and my family in believing that the history of the community needs to be remembered and celebrated as a reflection of what the future holds.”


As part of the Bentzin Family contribution, an additional donation will sponsor the installation of a public art piece on the Town Square commemorating Watertown’s history.


Many can still recall the family name from the Bentzin’s Red Bell Market which, from the early 1900s to 1963, was located on what is now Sharp Corner Park.  Owner A. E. “Mike” Bentzin “knew everyone,” Barton recalls his father telling him.  “Besides running the store, he was the local Blatz beer distributor.  Back then, beer didn’t come in cans or bottles, it was on tap.  Your Grandpa went from place to place delivering beer.  That’s how he got to know everyone in town.”  A. E. “Mike” Bentzin was elected mayor of Watertown in 1967, holding the position until 1969 and a member of the Watertown School District Board of Education from 1952 to 1960, serving as president from 1959-1960.  


The dollar amount provides the needed matching funds to support a grant request from the State, which has been presented to the Wisconsin Joint Finance Committee.


The Bentzin Family is currently considering Town Square naming options and ways to create a lasting legacy for Watertown’s history and the city itself.  Charles Bentzin’s 2020 obituary states, “Charles’ hometown was always kept near and dear to him.”  Through this contribution, the RDA and the City hope to fulfill Charles’ passion for Watertown and inspire that passion in the next generation.



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The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) selected Watertown’s Town Square and Riverwalk to receive a Knowles Nelson Stewardship grant in the amount of $907,636



___ 2022 __________________



Link to ground breaking video clip 


Watertown community leaders and major donors gathered at 1 West Main St. in Watertown Saturday to break ground on the city’s new $4.5 million Town Square.  Among the honored guests were Barton and Laura Bentzin who, through the Bentzin Family Foundation, donated $1 million to secure naming rights for the Town Square.  When work is completed, the area will be known as the Bentzin Family Town Square.


Most city residents remember the family name from the Bentzin’s Red Bell Market which, from the early 1900s to 1963, was located on what is now Sharp Corner Park.  The owner was A. E. “Mike” Bentzin.  Along with running the store, he was the local Blatz beer distributor.


A. E. “Mike” Bentzin was elected mayor of Watertown in 1967, holding the position until 1969 and was a member of the Watertown School District Board of Education from 1952 to 1960, serving as president from 1959-1960.


Also introduced at the ceremony was first-grade student Henry Gates, winner of the Town Square writing/art contest. Representing Watertown’s next generation who told the crowd he was, “excited to go play at the splash pad with his family and friends.”


To date, the Bentzin Family Town Square has been the catalyst for T. Wall Enterprises LLC to invest $19 million in building a 90-unit mixed-use complex adjacent to the square



The Future Fund will provide funds to offer a year-round slate of events.  The Fund will also provide financial resources for maintenance and operations.


The Joseph and Sharon Darcey Foundation is donating $150,000 to launch the Future Fund – an endowment fund to support programming and operations of the newly named Bentzin Family Town Square.  Watertown Regional Medical Center is matching the gift by providing $50,000 annually for the next three years.



      Named in honor of Bertram Beltz

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A significant donation to The Bentzin Family Town Square


Dr. John Beltz, a veterinarian, donated $250,000 in honor of his father Bertram to name the plaza by the river: the Bertram Beltz Community Plaza.


In 1947, after serving as a bomber pilot in World War II, Bertram Beltz moved to Watertown to manage Ray’s Shoe Store on Main Street, now Brown Shoe Fit Co.


A hard worker and entrepreneur, Bertram purchased and grew the business, eventually owning and managing 13 stores throughout Wisconsin, Iowa, and Michigan.


Beltz “served many different organizations and worked on numerous civic projects. Even though he came from very modest beginnings, he saw opportunity in Watertown and was able to enjoy success and give back to his community.”


07 14       CONSTRUCTION MOVING ALONG NICELY  /  Maas Bros Construction, general contractor

     <  Link to online video



Plans to officially celebrate the much-anticipated opening of the Bentzin Family Town Square have been rescheduled for Spring 2023.


Last week the Watertown Redevelopment Authority (RDA), the committee overseeing the development and construction of the Square, and City learned that the 200-plus feet of custom, picket-style guard railing to edge the Town Square along the Rock River, Main Street bridge and overlook and over 80 feet of high pipe stair rails with lights, are the latest casualty of supply chain challenges.


Even though, key electrical components haven’t arrived, “we could have pulled off a soft opening, ribbon cutting on October 29 using power from batteries and generators,” said Nate Salas, RDA Vice Chair. “We share in people’s eagerness of wanting this venue opened for ‘business’, however, safety always comes first.” 


With the railings scheduled to arrive mid-November and installation taking about two weeks, the current plan is to host a small ceremonial ribbon cutting so people feel welcomed to use the Square and then hold a large grand opening celebration in the Spring.


“Construction is on schedule,” reported Tony Meyers, Maas Bros. Construction Manager. “The good news is the concrete work is about finished, seating blocks are almost all in place, and many of the fixtures are on-site and ready to be installed…next comes topsoil, grass, and plantings which should be in by end of October. As soon as we receive the railings and other back ordered items, we’ll be installing them.”


“Good things do take time to build and get right,” Salas concluded. “Join me in looking forward to a Grand Celebration to open the Bentzin Family Town Square in Spring 2023…and then a summer filled with activities and events for people of all ages to enjoy.”


___ 2023 __________________


I’m very thankful for the vision shown by the former mayor John David and so many other leaders in our community including past and current members of the common council and the Watertown Redevelopment Authority,” said Watertown Strategic Initiatives and Economic Development Director Mason Becker.  “This day marks a significant milestone in the history of Watertown.  A milestone that symbolizes togetherness and the unbreakable spirit of community.  The Bentzin Family Town Square stands as a testament to the power of collective effort, collaboration and unwavering commitment of individuals who believe in the potential of this city.”      WDTimes article 




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History of Watertown, Wisconsin