If you want to know anything about the East Side, especially Schenk’s Corners, ask Ann Waidelich.
She’ll probably have the answer. And if not, she’ll know where to find it.
Waidelich, 75, is one of the unofficial historians of the East Side, a label she wears proudly.
A Madison resident since 1964, she is at home in her adopted city, steeped in its history.
Born in Baltimore, the retired librarian grew up in a Trenton, New Jersey, suburb and spent her high school years in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, a Chicago suburb.
After college at Miami University in Ohio — where she met Michael Waidelich, the man who would become her husband — Ann earned a master’s degree in library science at Denver University. When Michael came to the UW-Madison for a doctorate in economics, Ann got a job as a reference librarian for the Madison Public Library.
“I was a librarian by day and a hippie at night,” she said.
Later, she ran the Municipal Reference Service, a branch of the library that housed reports and research written by city and county officials. When the reference service was closed in 1999, Waidelich retired.
Her fascination with Madison history blossomed after the Waidelichs bought a two-story, yellow, stucco house at 2150 Lakeland Ave. in 1973. It was the home of Arthur and Elsie (Schenk) Huegel, whose families were key in developing Schenk’s Corners.
Waidelich tells the Schenk’s Corner’s story: Fred Schenk, Elsie’s father, opened a tavern and general store at Atwood Avenue and Winnebago Street in 1898. Elsie’s brother, Willie Schenk, and her husband, Arthur Huegel, carried on the general store when Fred Schenk died in 1913.
In 1923, a new building at 2005 Winnebago St. housed the business, and it stayed open, later converting to a uniform store, the Schenk-Huegel Co., until 2011. The building is now the Chocolaterian Cafe.
With their research and knowledge of the area, Waidelich, Sarah White and Patricia Martin started the East Side History Club about 12 years ago and published a book, “An East Side Album: A Community Remembers,” in 2008. The book drew such an enthusiastic response that an updated, second edition is due out this summer.
Waidelich is a past president of Historic Madison, treasurer of Four Lakes Postcard Club, curator and board member of Historic Blooming Grove Historical Society, and a volunteer at the Wisconsin Historical Society.
The Waidelichs have a son and three grandchildren, and they still live in the Schenk-Huegel house.
What would people be surprised to know about Schenk’s Corners?
Klinke Cleaners started out by raising chickens. It was Klinke Hatchery, in the parking lot between Trinity Lutheran Church and Security State Bank — now Monona State Bank. They sold the baby chicks to farmers. Later, they moved out to Monona Drive and switched to dry cleaning after World War II.
Havey Brothers Garage — formerly Severson’s Phillips 66 Service Station — was at 2089 Atwood Ave. When you worked on your own car, you could buy car parts there. It is now Monty’s Blue Plate Diner.
A to Z RentAll started on Atwood Avenue, and American TV was on Atwood for a while. WORT Radio started on Winnebago Street.
What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in the neighborhood?
For a while, Atwood Avenue was very rundown, with nothing but bars, and the (former) Cinema Theater was showing X-rated movies. Old-time families started moving out. When the theater was transformed into the Barrymore Theatre and Monty’s Blue Plate Diner opened, that was the start of the turnaround. It certainly has become a desirable neighborhood now. Young families are moving in, and yards and gardens are beautifully tended. There’s a lot of young energy.
The Historic Blooming Grove Historical Society runs the Nathaniel Dean House, 4718 Monona Drive. What makes the Dean House special?
The Deans lived there from 1856 to the early 1870s. Later it became a clubhouse for the Monona Golf Course. But it was not maintained, and when the golf course built a new clubhouse in the 1970s, the Dean House was going to be torn down. The Historic Blooming Grove Historical Society was organized to save the Dean House. The City of Madison now owns it and we lease it for $1 a year. It has been restored as a fully furnished Victorian farmhouse with furniture, dishes, clothing, and doll and quilt collections. On the second Sunday, from May through October, there are tours — free, with a donation requested — and student groups often visit.
Do you ever get stumped by people’s questions about the East Side?
Oh, yes, but I hold them in my head and eventually, things fit together.
— Interview by Judy Newman