The History of 101 King
The corner of King and Pinckney was first occupied by German immigrants, Richard Baus and his son in law, August Bartsch, who started a cigar manufacturer and store called Baus & Bartsch around 1850. The man at the extreme left in the second row from the front is Richard Baus.
The site moved to be the Maw Dry Goods Co, shown here in a colorized view of King Street, looking east, with a streetcar, circa 1910. Lake Monona is in the background.
King Street is where the commercial life of Madison began founded in 1837 by those who came here to build the new state capitol building. By the mid-1840’s, the street had evolved into the the principal thoroughfare of the village with commercial buildings lining both sides of the street.
- City of Madison Landmarks Commission
In early 1930 J.C. Hobbins, owner of the King Street Arcade (Built in 1927and shown below in 1934 and ) proposed to his brother, William Hobbins, President of Capital City Bank, that he build a new headquarters for the bank on the existing site of the Maw-Olson Dry Goods Co. (William Hobbins is shown below in 1934 and 2014).
The original intent for the Capital City Bank was for a 6-stories, which would extend over the King Street Arcade. It was later revised to 2 stories with a golden dome and gothic clock tower. (We uncovered during construction a painted sign on the wall of the King Street Arcade which announces "The Future Home of the Capital City Bank..." A bit of foreshadowing here: the article says that the Capital City Bank is "home owned. Its policy has been consistently conservative, and it is considered one of the most reliable state Banks in Wisconsin".
The building permit was granted in September 17th, 1930, 37 days before Black Tuesday, for $90,000 with a gilded "golden dome structure". An article on November 2, 1930 talks about the "modern" layout located in the Capital City Bank building. It was announced that the building, with the address of 111 King St. would house the downtown headquarters for the WIBA, The radio station operated by The Capital Times. The ground floor would be the offices of the Capital City Bank, and the second floor would house the studios of the WIBA. On Friday, November 21, 1930 in the new Capital City Bank opened.
Radio was indeed king at the time. Over 2,000 people attended the opening of the new studios of station WIBA. A reporter exclaims "what a triumphant homecoming it was!" The opening fanfare included listeners favorite programs in with the "veritable Congress of artists, entertainers and musicians."
Technology was emerging, (The obituary of an early engineer talks of the transmitter only being 1 kW; however, the building touted the most advanced equipment around. One article says that thousands of dollars have been spent to make the studios in the equipment they contain the best possible so that WIBA listeners could "enjoy perfect studio quality on the broadcast programs." "RCA Victor Studio broadcasting equipment has been installed throughout, so that uniform quality and perfect transmission of every program is insured. This equipment included the latest type of condenser microphone so that even the "lowest subtle whisper is picked up." "An elaborate central board in both the studio in control rooms enable the operator to manipulate each program with perfect ease and feasibility."
Above, Everett H. Marshall, the WIBA engineer, stands next to a radio transmitter at the WIBA transmitter station in 111 King Street (in the King Arcade Building. The master control of the WIBA was in the building as well. Notice the guys are in suits -- a sign of the importance of their jobs.
The honeymoon would not last. Literally one year later, on November 12, 1931, Capital City Bank with deposits of $1,350,000, closed its doors with no cash available for account holders. The bank was over $1 million in debt, with over $400,000 of state money deposited in the bank, scandalously only 14 days prior to the banks closing. The investigation found that William Hobbins Guilty of fraud. He was pardoned by Governor Schmedeman on Christmas Day, 1934.
Bill Hobbins and his family bounced back from the Depression driven failure of Capital City Bank. After being pardoned, he and his brother Ed worked at the American Exchange Bank, which was started by John Suhr Hobbins, William and Ed’s brother (and a one-time candidate for mayor of Madison). Word has it that in the late 40's and through the early 1970s, Bill and Ed Hobbins was/were the American Exchange's bank and banker. The Hobbins family continues to make inroads in philanthropy and public service.
101 King Street shown below over time: