Harness Shop (Brennan building)

The building which houses the Sykora Harness Shoe Shop at Pinecrest Historical Village was once a meat market in Valders, Wisconsin.  The building was moved to the Manitowoc County Historical Society’s property for a cost of $1,600.

Built around 1900, it served the Village of Valders until a new market was built. Later, the building was moved and used as an office building for the Valders Limestone Company, now Valders Stone and Marble, Inc.

In 1973 the building, also known as the Brennan Building was donated and moved to Pinecrest Historical Village.

Horses were important for early transportation, farm operation, mail and other delivery services. In order for a horse to be fitted for carrying a rider or pulling a wagon or plow, a harness had to be custom made or adjusted making the Harness Shop an integral part of early communities. The first part put on a horse is the horse collar, a padded collar placed on the neck to relieve the strain put on the horse while pulling something heavy. Various bridles and bits would then be used depending upon the type of work required of the horse. As long as there were horses, the harness maker had a job!

Wenzel Sykora was born August 1, 1859 to Anton and Anna Brabitz Sykora, emigrants from Bohemia (now the Czech Republic), on a farm approximately one mile west of Polifka’s Corners in northern Manitowoc County. With very little schooling, he left home at the age of 15 to apprentice the harness making trade, walking to Kewaunee, Wisconsin to start work at Kumbalek’s Harness Shop. After some time in Kewaunee, Wenzel left to go complete his training at the Witt Harness Shop in Manitowoc and worked there until he was able to open his own business in Clarks Mills.

He later moved to Tisch Mills and purchased a harness shop owned by the Phlatt family. Adding to the building to create larger living quarters and shop area, he settled there permanently in 1886.  Wenzel married Julie Dovorak on June 13, 1895 and they had two children, Lillian and Edwin.

Edwin Sykora learned the shoemaker trade in the army during World War I and set up a shoe shop in his father’s harness shop when he returned from the service.  The harness business declined with the coming of the automobile, but Wenzel Sykora continued to make and repair harnesses until 1932, when illness struck leading to his death on May 13 at the age of 72. Edwin then incorporated the harness repair business with his shoe business until his death on August 16, 1956.

The original Sykora Harness ad Shoe Shop is still located in Tisch Mills. The contents of the Harness and Shoe Shop were donated by Joyce Sykora, the daughter of Edwin Sykora.