102 E. Main St.

 

102 E Main
Known as the B.G. Foat Bldg., built in 1897, Photo by R.E. Gariepy, Sr.

History

BG Foat

Heritage Site Plaque.

Various tenants have occupied this commercial space since the closing of Foat’s Bait Shop in 2014. The Chamber of Commerce has moved to the Village Hall at 123 N. River St.

At the northeast end of the Fox River bridge in downtown Waterford, stands a cream-city brick building with a gray name stone that reads “B.G. Foat” – a curiosity for passers-by. The name depicted is for the village barber, Burrit (aka. Bert) G. Foat, who built this shop in 1897. It is believed to be the second oldest continuously-owned family building in the village – Mealy Funeral Home being the oldest.

Daniel Foat courtesy of Whitney G - Find a grave-com
Wisconsin Digital Collection.

Family lineage shows that Bert Foat was a great grandson of Levi Barnes, one of the founders of Waterford. Barnes was a direct descendant of Lord Barnes who came over on the Mayflower. A direct lineage of the Foat family is summed up as: Levi Barnes/Hiram Barnes/Sally Ann Barnes (Daniel Foat)/Irving Foat/Bert Foat/Irving Foat/current Foat family ownership. Daniel Foat, a farmer, plasterer and bricklayer, was the son of Richard Foat whose family emigrated from England in 1836 and settled in Racine County in 18484–  very early pioneers to the area.

BG Foat 1900 resized
Bert Foat – 1900, Wisconsin Digital Collection.

Bert, born in 1869,  trained as a barber. Various articles in the Waterford Post, state that he was very good at his profession and selfishly trained a number of local residents in his tonsorial parlor, including his son, Irving. In 1891, Bert opened his first shop in the building now occupied by Dubis Law Offices, known historically as State Bank of Waterford. Foat also offered a number of other items for sale as shown in the Waterford Post Ad from Dec. 21, 1895.

BG Foat Ad-12-21-1895
Waterford Post Ad, December 21, 1895.

As his business flourished, so did his love of flowers and music.1 In September, 1895, Foat bought this site from Palmer and Harden, then known as the “undeveloped 1/3 lot 9, block 3”2.  At that time, the east end of the bridge was lower than it is today and the lot was subject to frequent flooding.

Waterford GR10

Foat’s building was to be built between the end of the wooden bridge , shown in the above picture, and the first building to the right.

A “large, fire-proof two-story building of cream brick veneer”1 was opened in 1897 which would be the new barbershop for Foat. Bert’s son, Irving, took over the barbering duties while Bert developed the business. He now had space to open a general store and pursue other interests. Men’s furnishings were a natural addition while he had men captive for barbering.

Foat Bldg-wpl00123r
B.G. Foat Building, c.1897, Wisconsin Digital Collection.

A line of sporting goods was added, which lasted well into the 21st  century, with the passing of Jim Foat.

Inside Foat Store 1950s-wpl00205r
Sporting Goods Department – 1950’s, Wisconsin Digital Collection.
Foat-Patrick Ad 10-31-1896 (2)

Waterford Post Ad dated October 31, 1896.

A substantial livery business of Foat and Patrick was already established on Second Street with orders filled at an office on the first floor of the B.G. Foat building. The business was so brisk that it kept two men and the proprietors regularly busy day and night. They “provided “hacks” or closed carriages used for funerals, weddings, drummers (door-to-door salesmen) and traveling men practicing their trade; strangers and visitors had to be picked up at the station seven miles distant; and the young fellows had to take their best girls out for a Sunday afternoon ride or to an evening dance”1 It lasted 14 years until the automobile business took over. The second floor was originally used as a dance hall, then the Modern Woodmen meeting hall, after which it was remodeled into offices and living rooms occupied by various doctors and dentists over time.

NONB-WTRF036
A Dentist Tenant’s Sign Hangs in Front of the Foat Storefront. Picture courtesy of the Burlington Historical Society.

BG Foat -wpl00391l
B.G Foat Store, Early 1900s,Wisconsin Digital Collection.

This building was one of a few in the east side business district that was not destroyed in the Great Fire of 1898. The Waterford Post reported that the Foats lost $500 in stock. Since it was only a year old and made of fire-resistant materials, it is said to have survived. After the fire, the street level was changed to get the bridge end out of the flood zone. This necessitated raising the building 6 feet 4 inches to be “on the level’ with the other businesses on the block.1

Music Boxes were all the rage of customers in the early 1900’s. Foat had a large RCA Victor Talking machine as a display item with the horn outside of the building. A special department was set up for the sale of pianos and various music boxes including the disc-and cylinder-type machines. Foat was also a pianist of more than ordinary ability and frequently played for the public. He was also a regular featured vocalist at local affairs – a man of many talents in this small community.

Foat and Kortendick bldgs 1908 wpl00241l
B.G. Foat Store on Left Showing the Music Horn, Wisconsin Digital Collection.
BG Foat Green House pre-1923 (2)
B.G. Foat Green House, Main and Milwaukee Streets, Wisconsin Digital Collection.
BG Foat Green House 1926 Sanborn map section
Greenhouse Map Location.

Flowers, another one of Bert’s passions, were sold off the back porch. They were grown in the family greenhouse just a few blocks away on Milwaukee Street, north of the corner of East Main Street and Milwaukee Road as shown on the map insert- currently the site of Roth Heating Co. This is co-incidentally the location of Levi Barnes and his son, Hiram’s original log home.

foat-home-500-e-main-bert-onrt-sized
Foat family home c. 1915. Bert at right end, Wisconsin Digital Collection.

Click HERE to read further interesting information about B.G. Foat’s businesses.

An authentic 14 foot – Indian birch bark canoe still hangs from the ceiling of the Foat building which used to be an attraction in the sporting goods department. It is still displayed in the building today.

B.G. Foat's Birch Bark Canoe
B.G. Foat’s Authentic Indian Birch Bark Canoe, Photo by R.E. Gariepy, Sr.

The sliding ladder is still mounted on the wall which was used to access merchandise high up on the wall shelves. The rail can be seen in the old photo below.

BG Foat Rolling Stairs
B.G. Foat’s Sliding Stairs, Photo by R.E. Gariepy, Sr.
Foat store 1950s-wpl00200r
1950’s – Inside Foat’s Store, Wisconsin Digital Collection.

A remodeled brick facade was added in 2013. An apartment is upstairs.

Additional items of interest:

BG Foat History by Jean Foat p1
BG Foat History by Jean Foat p2
BG Foat History by Jean Foat p3
History of Bert G. Foat, by Jean Foat Collection.7

Foat Float ca 1920-wpl00195r
Getting Ready for a Parade – 1920’s, Wisconsin Digital Collection.

Bert Foat - wpl00196r
Bert with fur hides in front of his store, Wisconsin Digital Collection.

Furs wanted ad
Foat ad for furs.Jean Foat Collection.

Bert Foat w-bike
Bert Foat c. 1890, Wisconsin Digital Collection.

Berts wife Grace Muckey
Bert’s wife, Grace Muckey, Wisconsin Digital Collection.

Daniel and Irving Foat -wpl00207l
Daniel and Irving Foat – 1909, Wisconsin Digital Collection.

Irving Foat 1915-wpl00197l
Irving Foat – 1915, Wisconsin Digital Collection, wpl001971l.

Bert Foat family in new car c. 1915
Bert Foat and family in new automobile, c. 1915. Jean Foat Collection.

Lead Researcher: Robert E. Gariepy, Sr.

NOTE: Should the reader have further documentation to enhance the content of this web page, please contact the Lead Researcher by email at: director@ExploreWaterford.com. We are particularly interested in pictures or historic artifacts that may be shared. Credit will be given.

Sources:

  1. Waterford: Stories of Waterford and Its Busy Life, Waterford Post, 1923.
  2. Racine County Register of Deeds, Vol. 97, p. 580 and Vol. 98, p. 170.
  3. Pictures from Digital Archives of the Waterford Library.
  4. The History of Racine and Kenosha Counties, Wisconsin, 1879, p. 677.
  5. Burlington Historical Society archives.
  6.  Current photos by R.E. Gariepy, Sr.
  7. Foat, Jean, History of Bert Foat, private collection.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s