By Joe Bachman
Suffice it to say, the Mead-Witter Block looks a little different today.
Taken in 1896, this photo is part of a larger collection of Tom Taylor Inc. Insurance ink blotters. Notable among the stores that patrons so kindly posed in front of is the Johnson & Hill Co. building.
According to The History of Wisconsin Rapids, written in 1923, out of seven department stores at the time, the Johnson & Hill Co. department store was one of the most “well equipped” of its kind in the area. This includes groceries and alcohol.
The original store was built in 1861 by L. Gross on the northwest corner of 2nd Ave. North, where the current east end of the Mead-Witter Block is.
In 1912, Johnson & Hill moved to 3rd Ave. and W. Grand Ave. where the ‘new’ building stands to this day. Inside this block you could find Preway Stoves, Oshkosh Bigosh Overalls, Holeproof Hoisery, and more.
Of course, over the years businesses would move about leaving the area to other parts of town. Right now, the building is currently occupied by the local Wisconsin Job Center and the Central Wisconsin Counseling Associates.
Perhaps one day, the Johnson & Hill Co. building will be again be full of economic promise to continue its storied history.