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Albert C. Ringling (1852-1916) was one of seven brothers, sons of August Frederick Ringeling, an immigrant to the United States. Of the brothers, August G. (1854-907) and Henry (1869-1918) never had much to do with the circus business, but the others, Charles (1863-1926), Otto (1858-1911), Alfred T. (1861-1919), and John, as well as Albert were to make their name, simplified to Ringling, synonymous with the American circus. The elder Ringeling, a harness maker, moved with his family to Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, some time in the 1860s. In 1873 Albert left home, moving to Brodhead to work in the Carriage and Wagon Factory and Blacksmith Shop of Antone Durner and Sebastian Laube. In his free time, Albert practiced circus acts and organized the local children into a little performing troupe. The first actual Ringling performance, where all five show-minded brothers took part, was presented in Manzomanie, Wisconsin, on November 27, 1882 Two brothers danced, two played instruments, and one sang. Albert became a juggler, John a clown. With their first profit of $300 they bought evening suits and top hats.
On May 19, 1884, the Rlngling Brothers were able to open their first real, if minimal, circus-traveling by wagon, and exhibiting the horse, a trained one, and a dancing "bear. The start of their progress was slow. They had taken on veteran showman "Yankee" Robinson as partner, but Robinson died before the end of their first season. Four years went by before they obtained their first elephant. But their fortunes improved continually, and in 1890 their acts had to have railway cars for transportation. By 1900, Ringling Brothers had one of the largest shows on the road, and began absorbing other circuses, starting with that of John Robinson. They also acquired a half-interest in the Forepaugh-Sells show, and two years later they had it all. By the time they were able to buy out James A. Bailey's show, after Bailey's death in 1907, they had under their control the largest circus in America-the Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus, with its winter quarters in Baraboo.More...
Located at the southeast corner of Woodward and Horton, the Basso Building is a rectangular, seven-story structure of classic symmetry and proportions, with extensive Beaux-Arts ornamentation. The two principle facades, along Woodward and Horton, are sheathed in white glazed terra cotta blocks, while the building's shields, medallions, moldings, lettering, and other decorative elements appear in green, gold, blue, and red terra cotta. This is a steel-framed building resting on a reinforced concrete foundation.
Both of the two main facades are divided vertically into four bays that are set apart by thick shafts. On the Woodward Avenue side, which measures eighty feet in length, each bay contains four windows that are separated by narrow mullions. The second story mullions are more narrow than the rest. The Horton Avenue facade, which is sixty feet long, is identical to the Woodward Avenue facade, except that is has only three windows per bay. The ground floor has multiple doors and large display windows, now boarded up. The six remaining floors have ordinary, double-paned sash windows.More...
Before construction of the District Building, the square had a variety of uses. A Baltimore stage line occupied one comer of the tract prior to the establishment of Nailor's stables in 1820's. In the 1850's a three story brick shop used a bindery fronted on E Street. Immediately before the construction of the District Building, the site housed a Capital Traction Company powerhouse. The powerhouse was completely destroyed by fire in 1897.
The Public Building Act which became law in 1902 authorized $550,000 for purchase of the powerhouse site. The sane law also authorized construction of a building at a cost not to exceed $1,500,000. This amount was later increased to $2,000,000. Construction costs were increased by the need to drive approximately 2,400 piles into the marshy ground to support the building since it was located on the bed of the Tiber River.More...