A transcontinental auto route once ran through Bay View – The Yellowstone Trail: The Bay View Compass

The Yellowstone Trail stretched between Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts and Puget Sound in Washington State. Illustration from Driving the Yellowstone Trail 1912-2012 100th Anniversary Edition

By Anna Passante

The infrastructure bill has been passed, and crumbling roads and bridges will soon be repaired. Funds are also available to build charging stations for electric cars.

The story repeats itself. A little over a century ago, the automobile was an ultramodern machine. At the start of the automobile age, few automobiles shared the road with the four-legged means of transport.

Gas stations began to appear more and more as auto sales increased. Today, with the increase in sales of electric cars, there is a need for places to recharge their batteries, which has given rise to the advent of charging stations. In Bay View, they can be found at Outpost Natural Foods Co-op and Colectivo.

The Yellowstone Trail traveled between Southeast and Northwestern Wisconsin. Illusration of Driving the Yellowstone Trail 1912-2012 100th Anniversary Edition

In the early 1900s, repairing roads and bridges was not as important as there were fewer roads and bridges to repair. Most of the roads were unpaved dirt roads.

If you wanted to take a road trip with your newly purchased 1912 Ford or Studebaker Model T, forget it. You couldn’t drive far because the roads in one city didn’t necessarily extend to other cities.

In 1912, improving roads was not a priority for federal and state governments. Railways were more important. As a result, local auto and business owners in Ipswich, SD formed the Yellowstone Trail Association (YTA) in 1912. Their goal was to create a seamless road network from coast to coast. . “A good drive from Plymouth Rock to Puget Sound” was their motto. To promote tourism, the route was named the Yellowstone Trail because it included Yellowstone National Park, a popular destination. Wisconsin joined the route in 1915. The entire coast-to-coast route was completed in 1919. The trail generally followed a railroad track.

A circa 1912 photo of the Fargo family in Lake Geneva, WI, wearing coats for a getaway in their car. Courtesy of Wisconsin Historical Society WHS 125756

Unsuccessful in their attempt to secure funds from federal or state coffers, YTA members worked with county government officials, encouraging them to link their roads to neighboring county roads. This led to competition between the cities to have the route of the trail pass through their city, as the trail would bring more business.

The trail markings were important. Boulders, telegraph poles and metal signs served as landmarks, as did the famous yellow circular sign with a black arrow pointing the way. In 2001, former Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Writer Dennis McCann reported that the “R” painted on the exterior wall of Pat & Twink’s Bar in Owen, WI, directs drivers to turn right to follow the trail to Yellowstone Park. A 1929 Milwaukee Journal The article reported: “Stone markers must be placed along the paved portion of the Yellowstone Trail between Minneapolis and Chicago through Milwaukee.” (In 1918, Wisconsin was the first state to number its highways.)

It was essential that drivers had access to gas stations along the route, and over time more and more gas stations appeared along the trail. Before gas stations, motorists refueled at the local smithy or in bicycle or general mechanics stores. The first gas stations were small, simple, functional buildings that attracted little attention.

A Yellowstone Trail sign on Howard Avenue in St Francis. Photo Anna Passante

The role of the Yellowstone Trail Association has diminished as the United States has adapted to the needs of motorists. According to an article published on the Yellowstone Trail website, “In the early 1930s the depression and aggressive efforts by state and federal governments to take responsibility for road construction and road markings wiped out (Yellowstone Trail Association) and, over the years, Being Forgotten. ”

In 2003, South Milwaukee historian Nels Monson encouraged communities on the south shore of Wisconsin to mark the old Yellowstone Trail with signs. That year, South Milwaukee officials marked the path of the trail through their town by putting up yellow markers and it was the first community in the country to do so. “By marking the Trail, we are trying to make it easier for heritage travelers,” Monson said in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article.

Cudahy followed suit in 2005, installing the signs on Packard Avenue. Thanks to the efforts of longtime St. Francis resident Terry Duffey, signs were put up along the trail in St. Francis in 2017. Perhaps someday signs will mark the section of the trail that crossed Bay. View.

Yellowstone Trail auto travelers have reported refueling at these 1920s Bay View gas stations

A 1953 image of the Castle Gas Station, 2432 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., which was built in 1924 to resemble a castle. Shaved in 2012 to make way for the Dwell Apartments. Collection of historical photos courtesy of the Milwaukee Public Library
The owners of the Lonefeather Trading Post, 2432 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., bought, sold and traded Native American items. The building was razed in 2012 for the Dwell Apartments, 2440 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. Compass archive photo

2432 S. Kinnickinnic Avenue

Built in 1924, the castle’s original stucco-clad gas station resembled a castle with its battlements and merlons at the line of the flat roof, giving it a sawtooth effect. The Bill gas station occupied the building in the 1960s. Lonefeather’s trading post was there at the very end, but by that time the building was stripped of its castle-like architectural elements. The Lonefeather Trading Post bought, sold and traded Native American items. The building was razed in 2012 for the Dwell Apartments, 2440 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.

2797 S. Kinnickinnic
A one-story wood-frame blacksmith’s shop once occupied this location, built in 1900 for John Koenig. In 1926, the forge was razed and Emil Krenz built a one-story brick gas station where the automobile sales company Al Hundt Motor Co., 2797 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. Studebakers were sold there from 1945 to about 1961. In 1948 Hundt added an auto showroom to the front of the building. In the 1970s, the building changed from selling automobiles to a tile and carpet business owned by Jim Russo. In 1985, it was the site of Grandma Emma’s restaurant owned by the Russo family. It closed in 1997 and is today occupied by Classic Slice Pizza and Landmark Credit Union.

On the far right, Al’s brother Lester Hundt; second from left Al Hundt. Photo in the late 1940s. Courtesy of Suzy Hundt Pegoraro
In 1926, the forge at 2797 S. Kinnickinnic Avenue was razed and Emil Krenz built a one-story brick gas station. Al Hundt established the Al Hundt Motor Co. in the building and sold Studebakers from 1945 to circa 1961. In 1948 Hundt added a showroom to the east facade of the building seen in this photo . The Classic Slice pizza is here now. The storefront was darkened when a showroom was added. This showroom, seen in the photo below, is now the Bay View branch of Landmark Credit Union.
Photo courtesy of Mike Hundt.
In 1985, the building at 2797 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. was the site of Grandma Emma’s restaurant owned by the Russo family. It closed in 1997 and is today occupied by Classic Slice Pizza and Landmark Credit Union. Courtesy of the Historical Society of Wisconsin 107589
Today, Classic Slice Pizza and a branch of Landmark Credit Union occupy the building at 2797 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. Photo Rory Drezon

2892 S. Kinnickinnic Avenue
In 1929, the O’Neil Oil Co. built a gas station, which served Yellowstone Trail motorists as the trail’s popularity waned. Louis Zupancic occupied the station in 1931. In 1941, the Shell Oil Company replaced the 1929 building with the current one. In 1952, the Knepper brothers, Dick and Herb, leased the gas station and bought it in 1959. Dick’s grandsons, Aaron and Alijah Knepper, now own and operate the business.

A 1990 photo of the Knepper Brothers Gas Station and Gas Station, 2892 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. Courtesy of the Wisconsin Historical Society 107625

Early Yellowstone Trail Path through Southeastern Wisconsin before 1919

• Travel north across the Illinois / Wisconsin border

• Via Kenosha, Racine, in Milwaukee County via Highway 32 (aka Chicago Avenue)

• Continue north through Oak Creek and South Milwaukee to Cudahy

• Looking east on College Avenue to South Lake Drive

• North on South Lake Drive through Cudahy and St. Francis to Bay View on Oklahoma Avenue (today the name of South Superior Street becomes South Lake Drive at the northern border of the town of St. Francis – in front of the Sisters of St. Francis on the Assisi Convent campus)

• North on Superior to Conway Street (Conway Street was a through street unlike today.)

• West on Conway to Kinnickinnic Avenue

• North on Kinnickinnic to Becher Street. At this point, Kinnickinnic Avenue becomes the first street.

• North on First Street to downtown Milwaukee and northwest to Menomonee Falls and beyond.


The route of the trail changed somewhat in 1919

At Lincoln Avenue, the Yellowstone Trail headed west to Sixth Street, then north on Sixth to downtown Milwaukee.


Another change of itinerary in 1925

• Rather than turning right on College Avenue in Cudahy, the Yellowstone Trail continued north on Packard Avenue

• Facing west on Howard Avenue

• Howard Avenue was not a through street until the 1990s, so the trail made a detour south to Lipton Avenue on Norwich Avenue

• Travel west on Norwich to Kinnickinnic Avenue

• Right on Kinnickinnic Avenue and northbound on Kinnickinnic Avenue

• From there, follow the 1919 trail, which turns left onto Lincoln Avenue

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