James B. Wise (1858-1916)


James B Wise was born on December 25, 1858 in Branford, Connecticut. He was the son of Mr. and Mrs Joseph Wise. He moved to Watertown with his parents in 1869. His father was a machinist and started a factory in Watertown, manufacturing brass hardware and plumbing fixtures.

Wise began in career as a newsboy. He attended Watertown High School, but left to attend business college. His first business was the ownership of the right to sell newspapers and fruit on passenger trains at the Watertown depot of the Rome, Watertown, and Ogdensburg railroad.

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Wise Factory, Mill St. and Main Ave.
In 1877, he became a partner in his father's factory, and when his father died in 1886, Wise purchased full ownership from his father's heirs. In 1895, he built a factory at the corner of Mill Street and Main Avenue, expanding the business of manufacturing brass products.

He was four times elected Mayor of Watertown. During his term as mayor, he spearheaded the campaign to construct a new City Hall, which was built on Court Street in 1896. Wise's zeal for the City Hall project embroiled him in controversy, when poor planning and hurried construction led to the desecration of the Burying Ground Cemetery , which was located behind the City Hall construction site.

He was an active supporter of the Watertown Red and Black football team, and paid the expenses to send the team to Madison Square Garden in 1903 when it competed for the world championship of football.

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J.B. Wise Block, Public Square
In 1913, Wise purchased the Streeter Block, located on Public Square. Wise extensively remodeled the structure, and opened one of Watertown's first movie theaters, The Victoria. The building from that time was known as the J.B. Wise Block, a name it held until it was demolished in 1958.

Wise went to Atlantic City, NJ in late Spring, 1916, hoping to improve his ill health. It was there that he died on June 7, 1916 at the age of 57.

The area behind the north side of Public Square that was once occupied by the Hotel Woodruff and rail station is today known as the J.B. Wise Parking Lot, and the now-unmarked J.B. Wise Place runs along the southwestern edge of the lot.

See Also

Notable Personalities of Jefferson County