Manitowoc's Windiate House was "social center"
One of the early landmarks of the city of Manitowoc was the Windiate House at York and North Sixth Streets. Manitowoc historian, F. X. Murphy called the building “the center of social life” in Manitowoc.
Thomas Windiate, a native of England, came to Manitowoc in 1855 and purchased the National Hotel, located at the corner of Sixth and York streets. The National Hotel began in 1837 by Benjamin Jones, whom many consider the founder of the city of Manitowoc. The year the hotel opened was a financially difficult time in Manitowoc County which caused the building not to be open for many years. During the Civil War, the hotel was moved a block south to Commercial and North Sixth streets and it was at that time that Windiate House was built on York Street.
According the a biography written in Dr. Falge’s “The History of Manitowoc County”, “Mr. Windiate was ever a popular host and it is said that he made friends of every man who placed his name on the register, and whenever a guest could make it possible he returned again to the hospitable shelter of the Windiate House. However, the hotel business was but one feature of the many activities which claimed the time, attention and energies of Mr. Windiate. … For a considerable period he engaged in the shipbuilding business and constructed many of the leading boats launched in the decade between 1870 and 1880. He was the builder of the Trumpf, which was the first to make the trip from Lake Michigan to Europe and he also built the Cornelia B. Windiate, which went down in a storm with all on board and no trace of the vessel was ever found.”
The Windiate House became a popular place for many prominent businessmen. Officials of the Goodrich Line made it their headquarters and Thomas Windiate also owned his own stagecoach line. The hotel featured a dining room, bar, and a pool room. The dining room was a popular site for high scale parties throughout the 1860s and 1870s. In 1899, rates were $2 per day for “first class accommodations for the traveling public”.
Mr. Windiate was also very involved in the community. He is credited with building the second Ward School, the north side harbor pier, and the triangle or “flat iron” building at North 11th Street and Menasha Avenue – the former Eastman Manufacturing Company. It was reported that Windiate’s reason for the triangle building was to “catch farmers coming into town on the old Plank Road (now Menasha Avenue) and the old Town Line Road (now North 11th Street).
During the Great Depression in 1932, it was recommended to City Council by the Committee of the Poor that the city use the Windiate House as a place for single, unemployed men. City Council unanimously decided to establish a “barracks in the Windiate House” and it was to be operated on the plan of a military camp with certain men on guard duty, and other selected to be cooks. Meal hours were established and “lights out” was set for 10 pm. The food was purchased by the Salvation Army.
The Windiate House was sold in 1947 by the Rev. Thomas Windiate, son of the original owner, to the Bertler Son’s Co. for $15,000. In later years, the Maresch Printing Company occupied the first floor, with apartments on the two upper floors. The hotel was razed in April, 1974.