Part 3: Later owners of 1665 Main St. house
The buyers of 839/1665 Main Street from Nellie Kelly and her older children, the John Martini family, did not have to worry about money shortages, apparently. After John Martini’s death on April 12, 1921, he left an estate valued at more than $100,000, according to the May 21, 1921, Daily Journal. That sum is easily equal to $1.2 million in 2016 money, according to the website measuringworth.com.
On the other hand, Martini’s was another version of the American Dream, but in his case, as in Price Claflin’s, the dream came true. In its front-page obituary for Martini, the April 13, 1921, Daily Journal summarized his life. He was born in Germany – despite his Italian surname; perhaps he had an Italian father and a German mother – in about 1860, and came to America and to Stevens Point when he was 21 years old.
“For a period of five years he was employed as general handy man at the Jacobs House (hotel), during which time he gained a mastery of the English language … (Then) he opened a saloon on Strongs avenue, which he conducted during the next eleven years. In 1879 (no – 1896) Mr. Martini erected the Alhambra building at 450 (now 1140) Main street and had since been located therein, conducting an establishment which was recognized as a model of its kind. He was one of the principal stockholders in the Whiting Oil Company, whose interests in Oklahoma were sold in 1917 for $230,000. Mr. Martini lately became financially interested in the Stevens Point Box and Lumber company and filled the position of vice president …”
The Alhambra saloon building was constructed to great fanfare in 1896.
The Gazette of July 8 called it. “‘The Alhambra’ will be the name of John Martini’s handsome new retail liquor store, 460 (sic) Main St. … It is recognized as the finest saloon north of Milwaukee, and we doubt very much if there is a neater place, considering size, in that metropolis. The new building is a two-story structure, 110 feet long, and of a pleasing architecture. The interior finish and furnishings are what demand attention. They were furnished by the Phoenix Manufacturing Co. of Eau Claire …
“The fixtures are of San Domingo mahogany, carved in attractive designs and of superior workmanship. The front door leads into a first-class cigar stand, with handsome show cases, office room, etc., and beyond the screen, which is plate glass, mahogany and carved Corinthian columns, is the sample room, the rear mirror of which is 22 feet long by 7 feet high. Above is a canopy ceiling, made of highly decorated metal. The walls and ceilings throughout are of steel, decorated in gold and (aluminum) bronze.
“In the rear are the private reception rooms and closets, all finished and furnished in modern style, while in the center is a general reception room, which alone is furnished with ten tables. This part is illuminated by an immense square sky light in the day. Ornamental chandeliers and electric lights in the cornices will provide illumination at night, there being no less than fifty lights. The lobby and sample room have tiled floors, and the wainscoting, enclosure to reception rooms and foot casings around fixtures are all of Tennessee marble. The bar rail is also of marble, supported by oxidized silver brackets. The arm rails are all of oxidized silver, with handsome brackets, and the mirrors throughout are of the best. The new business complete represents an outlay of about $15,000.”
Again, that sum would equal about $400,000 in 2016 money, according to measuringworth.com.
Three years later, Martini spent more money on his business when he added a bowling alley in the basement. So reported the Daily Journal of Aug. 7, 1899: “John Martini opened his new bowling alleys at the Alhambra Saturday evening (Aug. 5). The alleys are pleasantly situated in the basement, which has only recently been finished off and furnished.”
The Alhambra operated until June of 1922, when it closed permanently, according to the June 10 Daily Journal. The article doesn’t give or speculate about the cause of the closing, but two facts probably had something to do with it.
One was the death of John Martini in April 1921, and the other was the advent of Prohibition, which banned the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages nationwide in 1919. After Martini’s death, the June 10 Daily Journal said, the Alhambra continued to operate for 14 months under the management of Joseph Frank, John Martini’s assistant. Many saloons and taverns closed because of Prohibition – also known as the Volstead Act or the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution – but some survived by becoming (or pretending to be) soft-drink parlors. (The ground floor of the Alhambra building, the newspaper also reported, was not to stand empty, but was to be converted into a men’s clothing store.)
But the saloon served Martini well. His $100,000 estate when he died was a far cry from the poor young immigrant who came to Stevens Point speaking no English.
The next owner of the house at 1665/839 Main St. was Dr. Wayne F. Cowan. Unlike the previous owners, Dr. Cowan was a Portage County native. According to his obituary in the July 6, 1954, Daily Journal, he “was born on a farm near Almond on Jan. 15, 1879, a son of the late Mr. and Mrs. John S. Cowan. He received his elementary and high school education at Almond, then enrolled in the Stevens Point Normal school, from which he graduated in 1900 …
“After teaching one year in a Portage county rural school, he went to Washington, D.C., where he was employed by the bureau of Indian affairs. He then enrolled in George Washington university medical school, from which he was graduated in the spring of 1905. He thus would have observed, next year (1955), his 50th year in the practice of medicine.
“The doctor entered Garfield Memorial hospital in Washington, serving as an extern and an intern. He was appointed to the staff of that hospital in 1907 and became chief resident physician, holding that position until June 1, 1910. While in Washington he came in contact with many prominent people, among them General Gorgas, who offered him a post at the Panama Canal, then being built. Dr. Cowan declined the offer, however, coming to Stevens Point instead. He began his practice here on Sept. 15, 1910. He established his offices at 457-1/2 Main St. and maintained them at that location ever since. Dr. H.P. Benn, a partner of Dr. Cowan, has been associated with him since October, 1934.
“Dr. Cowan was widely known as a ‘family doctor.’ During his long professional career it is estimated that he delivered more than 4,000 babies.
“Following a leg fracture he suffered in a car accident in 1950, after which he spent three months in the hospital, he resumed his practice upon his recovery.
“He was appointed city health officer succeeding the late Dr. F.A. Marrs. He served as doctor at the county infirmary since Jan. 1, 1953.
“Dr. Cowan volunteered for duty in the U.S. army in 1916, serving in Mexico in the border campaign of that year. The United States entered World War I the next year, and he served as regimental surgeon for the 16th cavalry at Camp McAllen, Brownsville, Tex., rising to the rank of major. He was honorably discharged in October, 1919, and returned to Stevens Point where he resumed his practice.
“From early 1920 until his death, Dr. Cowan was the veterans administration physician in Stevens Point …
“Dr. Cowan was a member of the staff at St. Michael’s hospital since 1913 and served as president of the staff from 1926 to 1940 …
“He was made a fellow of the American College of Surgeons in 1934. He was widely known in the medical profession, in and outside of Wisconsin, by his frequent attendance over the years at medical meetings and clinics. His professional affiliations included membership in the Portage County Medical Society and Ninth Councillor District Medical society, of which he was a past president, the State Medical Society of Wisconsin, the American Medical association and Phi Chi, medical fraternity …
“His marriage to Miss Cornelia Bartlett Luce took place on June 20, 1918, at Houston, Tex …
“Survivors are his wife and one son, John, who is in the field of public relations in Chicago. An uncle and an aunt, Dr. Charles Frost and Dr. Carrie Frost, were pioneer Portage County doctors.”
Neither Bishop William Brady nor the Fond du Lac Episcopal Diocese ever owned the house at 1665/839 Main St. Instead, Brady only rented it for about three and one-half years: from Dr. and Mrs. Wayne Cowan from 1953 to 1954, and from Mrs. Cowan from 1954 to 1956, after Dr. Cowan’s death.
In October 1956, Mrs. Cowan sold the house to Harvey D. Luebben of Appleton, according to the Daily Journal of Oct. 9. That sale is confirmed by a Warranty Deed, Vol. 211, page 493, dated October 3, which gives the sale price as $13,200.
Luebben had been “associated with the Tusler Motor Co. at Appleton,” Mrs. Cowan told the newspaper. And according to the 1956 city directory, he had been a student, presumably at the Central State Teachers College, in that year.
In August 1960, Harvey Luebben and his wife, Elsie, sold the house to Roman Lukasavicz and his wife, Mildred, for $10,900, according to Warranty Deeds Number 223, page 494 1/2.
We don’t know much about Lukasavicz. We do know that he was born in Wisconsin on June 10, 1912, and that he died in San Mateo, Calif., Jan. 23, 1997, according to Ancestry.com. On April 25, 1951, he married Mildred Koncker in San Francisco; it was her second marriage, but apparently his first, also according to Ancestry.com. But an inquiry to the South San Francisco Public Library failed to find an obituary for him in area newspapers.
Roman Lukasavicz appeared in the Stevens Point newspapers on at least two occasions as a young man. In the first case, he was mentioned along with two other men for breaking the law, in an article in the Daily Journal of Dec. 3, 1928: “Three fines for intoxication and disorderly conduct were paid in municipal court Saturday and this (Monday) morning. The names and the total of the fine and costs, follows. Roman Lukasavicz, $8.70; Albert Pawelski, $8.70; Floyd Winker, $10.20.”
The second article, from the June 17, 1933, Daily Journal, tells of local men going to what was apparently a CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) camp, though that name is not used. “MEN AT SHERIDAN LEAVE ON MONDAY FOR FIFIELD CAMP. Fort Sheridan, Ill., June 16 – The Stevens Point and Portage county men who have been undergoing conditioning here leave Monday morning for Fifield, Wis., and will enter active forestry work at a federal forest camp near Sailor lake. The advance detail left today to transport supplies and get tents and kitchens put up and also clean up the grounds.
“There are six cooks in the company, including four from Portage County, Roman Lukasavicz, Leo Maukrzak, Harold Rutta and Edwin Cieslik. They work every second day, with three cooks on one shift. They get up at 4 o’clock in the morning and work until 7 o’clock at night. They have K.P.’s to clean the utensils. More than 200 men are being fed and the men are well satisfied with the ‘grub.’
“A group of men took a 32-hour leave and went to Chicago to attend the World’s fair.
“All the men are now in good physical condition and ready to tackle their forestry work. The company is composed of men from Portage, Eau Claire and La Crosse counties.
“The new address of the men is Company 651, Sailor Lake, Fifield, Wis.”
At some point after this, Roman Lukasavicz went to California, and lived there for at least several years. What he did there is a mystery at the moment, but eventually he returned to Stevens Point and purchased the house at 1665 Main St.
Lukasavicz remodeled the house into seven apartments, according to the city directories. They show it as vacant in 1956, as occupied by Harvey Luebben in 1958, and owned and occupied by – and only by – Roman Lukasavicz in 1960. But in 1962 the house was occupied not only by Lukasavicz, the owner, but also by renters in six apartments. And it was to have seven separate living quarters for the next several years, even after he sold the house.
According to Warranty Deed Vol. 350, page 353, dated Aug. 28, 1975, Roman and Mildred Lukasavicz sold the Main Street house to Darwin and Delores Whitman, husband and wife, for $61,000. Seven years later, by virtue of a quit-claim deed (Volume 434, page 1051, dated Oct. 19, 1982), Delores deeded her interest in the property over to Darwin, as part of a divorce settlement.
For his part, Darwin Whitman died May 5, 2016, at his home in Two Rivers, according to his obituary in the May 11 Journal. The article also states that he “was born in Stevens Point on Nov. 28, 1936, the son of the late Leonard and Zella (Paust) Whitman. He served in the United States Air Force, and was employed until his retirement with the Consolidated Paper Company. He also owned and operated the Blue Goose Pub & Grill in Two Rivers for many years. There he served up his own particular brand of humor and honesty along with a good strong drink …” His nickname, the obituary says, was “Goose.”
The article says nothing about Whitman’s owning the house at 1665 Main St. in Stevens Point, nor about his neglecting it until it was almost destroyed. Perhaps that was a subject that both he and his family preferred to forget.