Located at 209 West High Street, this building was built by Andreas (Andrew) Krauss. Andrew opened a General Store in this building on November 1, 1878.
He came to Freeburg in 1852 at the age of 19, and had operated a store someplace else in Freeburg, but that location is unknown.
Andrew operated his new store on the west side of the building and the Post Office was located on the East side of the building. He lived on the second floor with his family and the third floor would be used as a meeting place for various organizations in town.
Business was good for Andrew in Freeburg and soon he wrote home (Germany) for other members of the family to come to America. His nephew, Philip Krauss arrived in Freeburg in 1865 at the age of 16, and began work in his Uncle's General Store.
Andrew retired in 1890 and turned the store over to Philip, who operated this business until 1915, when he too retired and sold the entire stock to Robert Browning & Arthur Reinheimer. They named the business The Freeburg Mercantile Company.
In January 1908, A. Rosinsky of Mascoutah, Illinois, moved his clothing business into the east side of the building after the Post Office moved to a new location in town. This business was called The St. Louis Shoe & Clothing Company. Later the name was changed to The Leader Clothing Store, and sometime later the business moved to the William Schiek building at the corner of Richland and High Street.
The space on the east side of the Krauss building was soon occupied by Gus Rauth, who on July 2, 1909, opened a saloon in the vacant space. On the west side of the building, Mr. Reinheimer had purchased the business interest of Mr. Browning and together with his sister, Mrs. Freda Reuter, operated the store. In March, 1917, a new sanitary counter was installed to ensure the keeping of meat. One of the biggest problems in the early years of grocery stores was keeping the flies and insects out of the meat cases, especially since AC was not yet invented.
In March, 1919, August G. Koesterer purchased the Krauss building from the heirs of Andrew Krauss. August was one of Freeburg's most successful retailers. After an extensive remodeling, he moved his stock of goods from his existing store into his new building and called his business The A.G. Koesterer & Company. One main changes he made to this structure was to remove the wall that divided the main floor into two sections. Sadly, in the fall of 1921, August Koesterer became seriously ill and died on November 26th from Meningitis at the age of 34. His brother Albert J. Koesterer, who had worked in the store, took over the business changing the name to A.J. Koesterer & Company.
By this time, the style of shopping had greatly changed. Instead of giving the clerk a list for your items, shelves and aisles were arranged so the customer could actually get their own product. The introduction of canned goods began to replace dry goods.
In December, 1929, A.J. announced he would be closing due to lack in sales. J.E. Atkins, manager of the Stovall Sales Company of St. Louis arrived in Freeburg to conduct a three day liquidation sale in which all stock and goods were sold.
In August, 1930, the Freeburg Commercial Club (later known as the Chamber of Commerce), purchased the building for the sum of $3,600 in an effort to attract a new business in town. In July, 1931, the George Newton Garment Factory of St. Louis moved into the building, sending George Kumbera to act as manager. He would later buy controlling interest in this company. This company first started out as a Rayon Factory but soon switched to a Dress Factory.
In June, 1935, a large addition was made to the building, adding more cutting tables, sewing machines and other machinery. At the height of this company's operation in 1938, there were more than 200 people, mostly Freeburg ladies, employed by the Freeburg plant. In May, 1940, Mr. Kumbera, manager of the Freeburg factory, sold his interest to his partner, Richard B. Croneheim of St. Louis. Mr. Croneheim soon made an announcement that the factory would be closing due to lack of sales.
Immediately the Forest City Dress Company purchased the building and business and all of its equipment, including the 130 sewing machines. A few changes were made to the structure and work continued. By 1944, a garment workers union had been formed with Ms. Angeline Zipfel serving as the first president. She was employed at the plant. Sadly, in 1956, and without much notice, the factory simply pulled out of the building. Large trucks were seen moving all of the machinery out of the building.
The Freeburg Chamber of Commerce quickly regained control of the building and in 1957, Ted Rehmer of Fayetteville, Illinois, would operate a tavern on the main floor of the building. Over the years, the Chamber would make several attempts to sell this building or to get another factory to show interest.
In September, 1964, Jacob Brinkman of Waterloo, Illinois, purchased the building for $12,000 with the intent of opening a hardware store. E. M Wiegman Company had been using much of the space for storage.
Once again, the building was extensively remodeled and a Western Auto Store moved into this structure. Jerry Miller, of Waterloo, Illinois, was the manager. Mr. Brinkman was an associate of the Western Auto Company. In 1966, the Western Auto was changed to a True Value Hardware Store still managed by Jerry Miller. This store would close in 1977.
In May, 1978, this building was purchased by Dave Favre, Ray Swyear and Howard Prater as a business venture. Nothing came out of this purchase. In June, 1979, John & Alice Rudy purchased the building and again after an extensive remodel, opened the Freeburg Bi-rite Grocery Store. Other businesses to occupy the building were: Watters Trading Post, opened in October, 1986, closed in April 1988. An arcade was operated here for a short time in a room behind the trading post.
Color & Create opened in April 1989 and is currently located in this building. Other business to operate here was Venezia Pizzeria, which opened December, 1988 and closed in June, 1999, and Jack & Jill's Cut. Freeburg Chiropractic opened in 2003 and is currently located in the east side of the building.
Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.