This 1930s era prefabricated steel building from Green Lake has a cryptic history. The building was undoubtedly manufactured by the Trachte Brothers Company (now Trachte Building Systems) of Madison, Wisconsin and constructed on its old site sometime during the 1930s. The Trachte Brothers Company began to market this type of steel building in 1923 as a durable and relatively cheaper alternative to fire-prone wooden buildings. The steel design was ideal for the up and coming automotive repair industry and the company designed special steel garages, exactly like this one, to fit the bill.
Despite our knowledge of this building we knew very little about the garage’s owner, the man we know as “Slim.” For the longest time we have had trouble uncovering his history and the history of his business. Not until recently have we uncovered personal information that could shed some light on the man named “Slim.” Douglas Christiansen, who currently owns the land that Slim’s Garage used to sit on, has memories of “Slim” and his garage. Growing up in the 1950s, Christiansen remembers how the garage mechanic would often prop a chair outside of the building and stare out on Green Lake.
Mr. Christiansen told museum staff to contact Ms. Marcie Brightman, a long time resident of Green Lake for additional information and she helped considerably in the search.
Ms. Brightman said that “Slim” was actually a man named Walter Witt (1935-1997) who owned and operated the garage with his wife Devonne. The building was probably owned by someone else prior to the Witt’s proprietorship and we do not know what it was used for in its earlier days. However, Ms. Brightman remembers that Walter would operate the garage, fixing cars and pumping gas, while his wife who was an avid fisherman would clean and gut fresh fish from the lake. Longtime residents of Green Lake, the Witt’s owned the garage from the 1950s into at least the 1980s, which is proven by the Wisconsin Department of Revenue Sellers Permit displayed next to this sign.
When Walter Witt died the automotive garage became “Slim’s Rentals” but by the year 2004 the building was derelict. Thankfully museum member Roger Boeke spotted this historic building and he, along with member Butch Rafferty went about acquiring it. They persuaded the former owner of the property to let them have the building and they gathered a crew to disassemble and bring the building to the museum here in Poplar Grove. It was given a facelift and a new lease on lift and continues to evoke its early days as a reliable automotive repair garage.