SMITH BROS IN PORT WASHINGTONSMITH BROS. 3/84
Editor's note: Lloyd Smith tells that this document was given to all newly hired waitresses at the Smith Bros. Fish Shanty restaurant in Port Washington, Wisconsin. They were expected to read it and, if asked, answer questions from the patrons about the restaurant, the Smith family, and it's history. Lloyd Smith notes that not all the names and dates are accurate in this document - so do not take all that follows as the gospel word.
William Smith and his son, twenty year old Gilbert, left the Lake Ontario region and set up a small fishery near an Indian village just a few miles from Ceder Grove in 1848.
William died in 1843 leaving the fishery to Gilbert. In 1850 Glibert bought two lots on Lake Michigan which he platted as the village of New Amsterdam.
Gilbert married a widow, Minerva Oliver. They had nine children. Three of the six sons became commercial fisherman; Herbert, Delos and Roy.
As Gilbert's family grew and married they moved away from the homestead. Herbert and Delos started operations on the Lorge farm east of Port Washington Country club on what now is Forest Beach.
Delos married Delia Wassink in 1889. Lester was born here. They moved to Sucker Brook, where Evelyn was born, then to Port Washington where Oliver and Hope were born.
In 1915 Herbert retired and, the partnership was then composed of Delos H. Smith and his sons, Lester and Oliver.
With help from Delia the commercial fishery prospered. Delia made sails, mended lite preservers and also experimented with fish recipes.
One of her projects was the home canning of domestic caviar. With the help of the family, she became the first packer of this product. This family tradition is still produced today in our modern packing facility here at the restaurant.
Delos moved his fishery to Port Washington in 1899 because its deep harbor allowed the use of steamed driven tugs. This brought prosperity to the business which grew to a total of eight fishing boats in five ports on the lakes.
Evelyn was a World War 1 nurse in France. Later she worked with tubercular children in fresh air camps. Evelyn became interested in another project - She took the liver of the burbot, a fresh water cousin of the cod, and produced from it an oil that was sweeter and more palatable than cod liver oil. Giving it to her sick charges, she noticed amazing improvernents in a short time. The University of Wisconsin tested the new oil and found it eight to ten times more potent than standard cod liver oil. In the 1930's the supply of burbot dwindled suddenly and the business ended.
On August 6, 1924, after a week of rains, a cloud burst brought Salk (sic, I think this should be Sauk) Creek down on the fisherman's shanties, washing them into the harbor.
Within days of the flood, fhe old harness shop located on the corner of Franklin and Grand was rented and converted into a fish market. Soon Evelyn installed a trench fryer and began cooking some of the fish to sell.
One weekend there was a Skat Tournament in town and a man came in to get food for the players. He suggested the fried fish be made into sandwiches to be easier to eat. Evelyn bought rolls at the bakery, spread them with tarter sauce and filled them with fried perch. These were the first commercially sold fish sandwiches. The order for forty fish sandwiches had to be refilled again and again. The Family was in the restaurant business.
The sandwich orders Jammed the counters of the fish market, and in 1934 the family bought the fruit market next door and set up a counter and three tables. Cole slaw, lemon pie, coffee and beer were added to the menu. In 1935 they added the building next door and a kitchen in the back.
They continued to remodel and expand adding new dining rooms and enlarging the kitchen to accomodate the their many patrons. From 1934 to 1946 the restaurant grew from 24 to 256 seats.
Expansion also came in wholesale pickled herring packing and retail markets in Milwaukee. Delos died in 1946. Their wholesale fish business in the Milwaukee area was being developed at this time.
By then the growth of the business projects was absorbing the family, providing each with a specific activity. Lester, president of the company died in 1938, and 01 iver the manager of the fisheries took over while Evelyn was the restaurant manager. Hope was now married to Dr. Earl Huwatschek.
Lester's widow Florence was active in the restaurant until her death in 1949. The next generation Virgina, Bert, Alan, Lincoln and Dan entered the business after World War II.
Outside of Port Washington the family extended its-operations to a restaurant in Torrence, California and on La Cienega Ave in Los Angeles and Dairy Queen stores in Port Washington and West Bend.
At the same time commercial fishing decliined largely due to the sea lamprey and slowly Smith Bros. fishing operations dwindled to one boat stationed here in Port Washington. Whereas at one time thay caught most of the fish used in the restaurant and markets, today only chubs are caught which are smoked.
On November 17th, 1953 the restaurant burned down, and with it many of the antiques collected over the years. Rebuilding the restaurant was started almost immediately. On September 11, 1954 the new restaurant was again open to the public. Included in the new restaurant is the ability to "Plank" fish fillets. This cooking method developed and patented by Evelyn is still used today, and is a local specialty.
Lloyd, son of Lester, had by 1955 graduated from the Michigan State University, and joined Evelyn and Virginia in the management of the new restaurant.
With the new facility the Port restaurant grew in popularity. Its large banquet facilities catered to weddings and business meetings. The large kitchen areas allowed expansion into outside catering and contract food service. Civic organizations meet weekly at the restaurant, which has become the social center of town.
Virginia joined the Torrence Restaurant as manager in 1963. Alan moved west to manage the company in 1966.
Ned Huwatschek, son of Earl and Hope joined the wholesale division as sales manager in 1969.
Oliver died in 1973; Evelyn retired. Today Alan manages the La Cienega restaurant, Lincoln is the president of the company. Bert is manager of the Wholesale division and Ned is sales manager. Dan is the general manager of the retail stores and caviar dept. Since 1962 succeeding Virginia, Lloyd, has managed the Port restaurant. Lloyd is also the general manager of the Best Western Harbor Side Motor Inn, another Smith Bros. enterprise.
The restaurant has recently completed an addition. The Harbor Room takes full advantage of the beautiful Port Washington Marina and the lake.
Now the fourth generation is beginning to enter the business. Jeff son of Bert, and Dana, son of Lincoln, are presently working at the wholesale division.
Now, after fifty years in the restaurant business, 85 years in Port Washington, and over 135 years in business, there is a renewed commitment of excellence, and a promise of continued grouth that has become the tradition for the Smith family.
The photografs hanging in the Portroom, moving from the top and clockwise are: Capt. Delos Smith, Lester Smith, Evelyn Smith, and Oliver Smith.