Paul Butz was born in the city of Basel, Switzerland, in 1823 and as a young man took up the occupation as a landscaper and botanist. In 1848 he decided to cast his fortunes in the United States and made his way to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was soon married to a German immigrant named Margaret Weigand and they relocated north and settled in New Castle. They soon started a family and eventually had a dozen children.
Paul Butz purchased six acres of land along North Croton Avenue and after much hard work he opened a small nursery and greenhouse complex in 1851 known as the Croton Gardens and Nurseries. The operation grew considerably over the years and about a dozen large greenhouses and other buildings were erected. Two of his sons, William T. Butz (1853-1938) and Frank P. Butz (1860-1943), joined him in 1874 and the business was rebranded as Paul Butz & Sons. Over the years various other family members were employed there as well. Frank Butz became a nationally recognized expert on the subject of growing orchids. Sometime in the 1880’s a small store was opened on Pittsburg Street (later East Washington Street) near the Union Depot and from that location orders were shipped by train throughout the region.
Locally, much of the business was apparently done from the back of wagons. The New Castle News of Wednesday, April 21, 1886, reported, “One of the Butz & Son’s flower wagons will visit each town and village in this and adjoining counties weekly during the season with a large selection of choice plants, etc., at bottom prices, direct from their extensive greenhouses in Croton. Wait for their wagon.” Just a month earlier on Thursday, March 11, 1886, the same newspaper mentioned the new Butz catalogue with, “It contains much valuable information about plants and flowers, and gives a description of a large number of varieties of all kinds of flowers, including all the latest novelties. Messrs. Butz & Son’s greenhouses have a national reputation, and they ship flowers from Maine to California.”
When an elderly Paul Butz passed away in 1895 the business was renamed as Butz Brothers. In about 1896 a retail store was opened in the Clendenin Block, at the corner of North Mercer Street and East Washington Streets, and eventually the greenhouses in Croton were closed. In time Butz Brothers, later known as Butz Flowers, became strictly a retail operation centered in downtown New Castle.
Butz family members were well-respected members of the community. Oldest son William Butz was a prominent parishioner of the Trinity Episcopal Church, served the superintendent of the Sunday school, and was leading member of the building committee that funded the new church building that opened in March 1903. William’s son Paul F. Butz (1883-1968), who joined the firm as a young teenager in 1895, served patriotic duty overseas with the YMCA during the Great War (World War I).
Butz Street in Croton is named in honor of the family. The New Castle News of Friday, April 30, 1915, reported, “Petition was presented to council this morning asking that Butz street be ordained from Croton avenue to Dewey avenue, but that it be opened only part way to Dewey avenue until eight years hence. The property owners, who are the Butz heirs, will grade, sewer, and sidewalk the street at their expense… There are a number of buildings on the path of the street as it will be laid out. The eight years’ delay in extending the street to Dewey avenue is asked so that these buildings can be removed without loss.” New lots for houses were soon laid out in what became known as the Butz Addition.
Within a decade it seems the old greenhouses in Croton were torn down. The New Castle News of Monday, April 7, 1924, reported that the City Council passed a resolution “…notifying the Butz heirs of city council’s intention to open Butz street and requesting Butz heirs to remove greenhouses within 60 days at their expense.”
The business continued to thrive and survived the tough times of the Great Depression. William Butz passed away in October 1938 at the age of eighty-five. His son Paul F. Butz took over as part owner at this time and when Frank Butz passed away in January 1943 at the age of eighty-two he soon became the sole owner. Paul Butz became an outstanding member of the community and was heavily involved with various local committees connected to the American Red Cross, the YMCA, and the Old Timer’s Picnic. In later years he was often referred to as “Mr. New Castle.” In 1948, after graduating from Penn State University, his son John “Jack” Butz (1925-2003) joined his the company.
On Monday, February 27, 1950, an early morning fire completely destroyed the three-story Clendenin Block, built about 1885, and displaced Butz Flowers and various other businesses housed there. After occupying this site for fifty-four years the Butz firm was forced to relocate. Paul Butz, with the help of the owners of Cunningham & Weingarter Florists, wasted no time in setting up shop in a small annex attached to the Johnson Building at the north end of the East Washington Street Bridge. In 1958 a longtime dedicated employee named Arthur Hartfelder (1916-1991), an expert in floral arrangements, became an ownership partner with Paul Butz. Hartfelder had started working in the greenhouses back in 1932 when he was just a teenager.
Paul Butz remained active in the daily operations of his business and community affairs until he passed away in November 1968 at the age of eighty-five. The New Castle News of Wednesday, November 27, 1968, praised him as the “dean of florists in the area and New Castle’s most outstanding “Old Timer.” He was laid to rest in Oak Park Cemetery.
His son Jack Butz, a well-known humanitarian and community leader in his own right, became part owner with Arthur Hartfelder. Butz serve as the School Director of the New Castle Area School District during the early 1960’s and became a leading fundraiser for numerous organizations to include the United Way, Lions Club, American Red Cross, and the New Castle Community Y. Jack Butz believed in New Castle and did all he could he help spur growth in the downtown area.
Jack Butz acquired a corner building at #120 East Washington Street for just over $113,000 in February 1969. Although it was the home of Castle Stationary, who had a lease until 1972, the building was being sold by its owners. In October 1972, after the Johnson Building was slated for demolition, the floral business was moved to the new location.
Arthur Hartfelder retired from the business in about 1988 and passed away at the age of seventy-six in October 1991. In the summer of 1992 two employees, including local pastor Mark Kaufmann, acquired stock in Butz Flowers in anticipation of taking over ownership one day.
The New Castle News of Wednesday, April 11, 2001, announced, “The city of New Castle will observe Jack Butz Day on May 2. A reception honoring Butz will take place 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Scottish Rite Cathedral. Butz, a lifelong city resident, is well-known through hos association with Butz Flowers, a 150-year-old New Castle business. Mayor Tim Fulkerson said the day will feature the first-ever presentation of the Jack Butz Humanitarian Award. The award will be presented to Butz, who will be recognized for his years of service to the city. A scholarship will also be awarded.”
Future recipients of the award included J. Fred Rentz, Dr. Wilbur E. Flannery, and Michelle and Dale Perelman. Proceeds from the annual banquet are used to fund the Jack Butz Humanitarian Scholarships, awarded every year to a handful of high school seniors from across the county.
Jack Butz died in New Castle in late May 2003 at the age of seventy-seven. The New Castle News of Monday, June 2, 2003, reported, “For more than half a century, Jack Butz’s business was in downtown New Castle, but his heart was always in the entire community… He is also being called a humanitarian extraordinaire whose giving spirit was unparalleled… His longevity and treatment of customers, employees and residents were two of the many reasons Butz was selected in 2000 by New Castle News readers as the area’s most influential citizen of the 20th century in the category of business… “There will never be another Jack Butz,” (Mayor Tim) Fulkerson said. “He gave and gave and gave and did it all very humbly.” There were so many people Butz assisted and didn’t want others to find out that he helped, and he never gave up on downtown New Castle, the mayor said.”
Jack Butz’ death ended 152 years of family ownership of small company. Butz Flowers & Gifts, currently owned by Dr. Mark Kauffman, is reportedly the second oldest floral business in the United States and remains a symbol of the long gone days of downtown prosperity.
William’s son Paul, a civic-minded leader often referred to as “Mr. New Castle,” later ascended to take over ownership from 1938-1968. The store moved into a small annex (shown above) attached to the Johnson Building at the north end of the East Washington Street Bridge in early 1950. (c1960) Full Size
In 1972, after the Johnson Building was slated for demolition, the business was moved to #120 East Washington Street (shown above). Paul’s son, the well-known humanitarian John “Jack” Butz, ran the company until he passed away in 2003 ending 152 years of family ownership. Butz Flowers & Gifts, currently owned by local pastor Dr. Mark Kauffman, is reportedly the second oldest floral business in the United States and remains a symbol of the days of downtown prosperity. (c1975) Full Size
The current location of Butz Flowers on East Washington Street – at intersection with South Apple Way. (Jul 2013)
Seemingly hidden at the former location of the Pearson Block/Johnson Building sits a little-known monument to Butz Flowers. (Aug 2013)
A closeup of the plaque on the monument near the north end of the East Washington Street Bridge. (Aug 2013)