SHEBOYGAN – Before washing machines became a standard item in many homes, many relied on companies such as Excelsior Laundry and Dry Cleaners to keep their clothes clean and pressed.
According to a Sheboygan Press article from Beth Dippel of the Sheboygan County Historical Research Center, the company was founded in 1897 by Mr. and Mrs. Theodore Conrardy. The couple would run the company until their deaths in the 1930s.
A partnership was formed by Adela, Victor and George Conrardy, children of the founders, to continue the operation of the washing and dry cleaning business. The company operated out of a location at 1113 Georgia Ave.
The company said in 1942 it had a 15-ton flat work ironer that was one of only two or three of its kind in the state. It was claimed the work the machine did was efficient and was operated by four women employees. The company was known as the oldest dry cleaner in the city at the time, having done that kind of cleaning for nearly 30 years.
In 1941, the company completely remodeled and enlarged its facilities to handle the growth of the business. Those good times didn’t last, unfortunately, because by 1997, the owners owed the City of Sheboygan $92,125 in back taxes and penalties.
According to a 1997 Press article, those back taxes required some fancy footwork by both Sheboygan County and the city. If the property were sold directly to Bethlehem Church, it would have had to pay the back taxes and penalties at the time.
What happened is the city asked the county to take title for the building. The county then gave the building and land back to the city. Sheboygan then sold the building to Bethlehem Church for $1 so the church could expand its school.
The church took on the responsibility for demolition and the environmental remediation of the building it needed from its dry cleaning years. Because the city would then be in the line of ownership, the church had to provide a $350,000 indemnification bond, which would provide the city with twice the amount needed in case the church failed to clean the site. The church at the time planned to build a gymnasium and family center.
Today, Bethlehem Lutheran School continues to educate students and has completed several remodeling projects at the location over the years.
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