In addition to a revamping of its entire staff and the way in which it makes newspapers, the Watertown Daily Times will be embarking on a relocation and downsizing of its physical plant in the coming days.
The last day of production at the longtime, 115 W. Main St. home of the facility in the heart of downtown Watertown will be today. Then, it's off to the new location at 218 S. First St., another historic Watertown building that sits on the east bank of the Rock River.
The Watertown Daily Times dates to its birth on Nov. 23, 1895, when John W. Cruger and E. J. Schoolcraft formed a partnership for the purpose of publishing a daily newspaper. The newspaper began life at the southeast corner of First and Main streets, most recently home to Trader Tom's. The first edition was four pages and made its way into the public's hands on a Saturday afternoon. That single copy started what are now more than 37,000 consecutive editions without a single missed date. In 1904, crowded conditions forced the newspaper to move to 212 W. Main St., now Mullen's Dairy.
By 1906, The Times again ran out of space and moved to the basement of the Masonic Lodge at 2 E. Main St., most recently home to Two Rivers Bikes.
Fire destroyed the Masonic Lodge and the Times again moved, this time to a temporary location on South Third Street. In late 1916, the Times moved to its well-known 115 W. Main St. location. In 1985, a large, two-story addition at 117 W. Main St. was occupied by news, circulation and business departments. In 1994, the Herro building at 121 W. Main St., formerly the Feed Bag Restaurant, was purchased and remodeled for inserting and distribution operations.
In 1998, the Daily Times acquired Wepco Printing, a job shop printer on North Fourth Street that originally had been the publisher of Der Weltburger, a German language weekly newspaper published in Watertown from 1867 to 1932.
Readers who may have taken tours of the Daily Times, perhaps during their school days or with community organizations, might be surprised at the large, vacant spaces they would now find on similar visits to the 115 W. Main St. building. Large press printing operations ceased in Watertown in 2011 and printing was moved to Janesville. The carrier room is also now silent, with the U.S. Postal Service handling newspaper distribution through the mail. With printing operations ended in Watertown, the circulation/distribution center at 121 W. Main St. was sold in 2012 and is soon to be a part of a redevelopment project in the city.
The sale of the buildings at 113-115 W. Main St. to the city occurred in 2017 and the facilities are slated for razing to make way for the downtown redevelopment project.
The Daily Times' new facility on South First Street was most recently home to River City Psychological Services, but it was built by the owners of Archie Monuments and was its headquarters until 1977, when the firm moved just south of Watertown.
Wayne Sormrud of Archie Monuments told the Daily Times the reddish stone on the front of the South First Street building is from St. Cloud, Minnesota, and the pillars that are situated on the facade of the structure are Bedford Stone from Indiana. Sormrud said Archie chose the old location because there was a railroad line that ran between the building and the Rock River, making movement of its raw materials and product easier.