A long time ago, in the mid-1800s, the Corn Exchange was developed in downtown Janesville at the corner of Jackson and Milwaukee streets. The Corn Exchange was an open triangle with businesses on each side. It began when a group of businessmen developed a grain brokerage business. They erected a shanty under which the grain dealers operated.
Grain dealers took shelter beneath the roof of a 12-by-12-foot area. By the late 1800s, it was an impressive structure as it had a one-story frame measuring about 12-by-24 feet. It stood alone in a triangle on West Milwaukee Street. In the early 1900s, business at the triangle was great as farmers brought in butter, eggs and pigs to exchange for items they needed.
Businesses in the triangle included saloons, hardware store, cigar shops, blacksmiths, barber shop, meat market, shoe factory, horseshoer, tailor, bicycle store and livery stable. There was a harness shop, undertaker and Forester’s Hall, which was a popular dance hall.
Before shopping, farmers took their horses and wagons and left them at the West Side Hitch Barn. Farmers would trade their butter and eggs for hay and fodder at the livery stables and also traded them for groceries.
The Corn Exchange had a delivery system which included 15 wagons and horses. They would deliver for the stores. Milwaukee Street was brick paved and other streets were usually muddy or dusty.
Perhaps the Corn Exchange can be described as an early attempt to establish a Janesville downtown farmers market. Sometimes it seems nothing is new in the world.
LEON K. FREEBURG