Businesses at intersections of major transportation routes, as in Franklin, were very common and used often by passing motorists. The area of 76th St. and Loomis Rd. was no exception. What residents of Franklin know today as the corner of 76th St. and Old Loomis Rd. was once a vibrant corner full of businesses that included a tavern, a milk hauler, a garage, a general store, a gravel pit and working farms.
In 1955 Loomis Road (Hwy. 36) was re-routed and when that happened it left Franklin with only a small section of the original Loomis Road. It is now called “Old Loomis Rd.” and resembles a frontage road that stretches from Franklin’s northern border near Greendale to the south where it forms a dead end at the Stonehedge Subdivision along the west side of Loomis Rd. By 1968 Hwy. 36 would be widened and many businesses along that route would be torn down.
THE WHITE DOVE TAVERN AND DANCE HALL
One of the businesses that no longer exists was the White Dove, a tavern and dance hall that was located on the southwest corner of 76th St. and what is now Old Loomis Road. In past years a blacksmith shop, a saloon/overnight stop and a post office had been located on that corner, part of the old Indian trail that later became Loomis Rd.
The White Dove was built in 1928 by Ed and Marie Stremke on land purchased from John Tretow, a farmer who owned land on both sides of Loomis Rd. The tavern got its name from a Pony Express rider, an American Indian by the name of “White Dove”.
White Dove would stop at the tavern with deliveries and then continue his route all the way to Waterford. Because of the long route, Marie Stremke would bake bread and leave a loaf on the window ledge for him to take along so he would not get hungry.
The dance hall that the Stremkes owned was a popular south side nightspot, featuring live bands and dances on Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons. Owner Ed Stremke would serve free peanuts and he would let his customers throw the shells on the floor as they ate the peanuts.
After the Stremkes, the White Dove had several more owners. Later another business was added, that of a beer depot and small store ,which sold hot ham and rolls on Sunday mornings to people on their way home from church. By 1968, because of the widening of Loomis Rd. (Hwy 36), the building was torn down and the corner left vacant.
FARMS, GRAVEL PITS, LANDFILLS, AND SKI HILLS
Across the street from the White Dove was the John Tretow farm and to the west was the Schultz farm. Alvin Tretow, a son of John Tretow, had a roadside produce business on the land and for years he would sell fruits and vegetables to motorists who traveled along Loomis Road. Parts of both the Tretow and the Schultz farm would become gravel pits and for years gravel was removed by the truckloads from that area. Eventually the gravel production ended and Milwaukee County purchased the property for use as a landfill to dispose of collected garbage. Years later the site reached capacity and the garbage trucks could no longer dump their loads on the land. Because of the high altitude of the land, it was a natural for development as a ski hill and so the Franklin property found yet another purpose. Today the Crystal Ridge Ski Hill recreation area is open in the winter for skiing and in summer as a golf driving range.
POTH’S GENERAL STORE
South of Loomis Road on 76th St. and just north of Rawson Ave. was another business that was torn down when the Hwy. 36 re-routing occurred. It was the Peter Poth General Store and it was open for business from 1916 to 1955. The store was run by Peter Poth and his wife until 1938. Upon Peter’s death, his son Andrew and an aunt kept the store open. A happy memory for many children who lived in the area was when they came in the store to have hot cocoa on cold mornings while waiting for the school bus. Youngsters were also allowed to borrow jigsaw puzzles to take home and return once they had put the puzzles together.
Food supplies at the store were not packaged or displayed as they are in grocery stores today. Vinegar was sold to those who brought their own jugs in to fill. Wooden bins in the counters with glass fronts, a black hand cranked coffee grinder, a pickle barrel and a supply of penny candy would greet customers as they entered the store. Poth General Store sold primarily nonperishable items, such as canned and dried goods, along with kerosene.
Twenty-nine years before 1955 the owner of the store had been warned that Hwy. 36 would be widened, so it was no surprise to the owner that the business had to be closed and the building torn down.
LOOMIS CENTER GARAGE
Tucked in the trees and to the east of 76th St. along Old Loomis Rd. is the Loomis Center Garage, founded in 1927 by Ervin Tretow. It was named the Loomis Center Garage because it was situated near 76th St. (then called Center Road) and Loomis Rd. It was built east of milkhauler Joe Dineen’s property and on land purchased from the Kneser farm. The Kneser families had farm land on both sides of 76th St., some of which was later sold to the government for the development of Greendale.
The business opened selling Wadham’s gasoline, Miller tires and Willard batteries and was known as a TBA garage — tires, batteries and accessories! When the garage no longer sold Wadham’s gasoline, it became a Phillips 66 dealer and motorists on their way to Wind Lake for fishing would stop to buy gasoline and have cold sodas from the soda machine.
Ervin Tretow operated the garage until 1955 and then his son Vernin Tretow took over the operation until he retired in the year 2000. Since then Vernin’s grandson Tom Tretow has been running the business, marking 84 years that the family has owned and operated the Loomis Center Garage.
Even though most of these businesses no longer survive, they were in their time a vital part of the local economy. Those that do remain in that area , like the Loomis Center Garage and the Crystal Ridge Ski Hill, continue to provide services to people in Franklin and the surrounding communities.
– Judeen Scherrer