Bentzin Family Makes $1M Donation to Town Square

The Watertown Redevelopment Authority (RDA) has received a $1 million gift from the Bentzin Family for construction of the City of Watertown’s new Town Square. Continuing a legacy of generosity and civic-engagement, the Bentzin Family’s contribution puts the fundraising committee at the edge of its goal.

“I’ve always connected with the idea that you don’t truly know where you are going until you know where you have been,” said Barton Bentzin, representing the family on this donation. Barton is the son of Watertown native Charles G. Bentzin. “Dad was a firm believer in wanting Watertown to keep its identity,” he continued. “Watertown has a unique and rich history full of innovative thinkers. I join my dad and my family in believing that the history of the community needs to be remembered and celebrated as a reflection of what the future holds.”

As part of the Bentzin Family contribution, an additional donation will sponsor the installation of a public art piece on the Town Square commemorating Watertown’s history.

Many can still recall the family name from the Bentzin’s Red Bell Market which, from the early 1900s to 1963, was located on what is now Sharp Corner Park. Owner A. E. “Mike” Bentzin “knew everyone,” Barton recalls his father telling him, “Besides running the store, he was the local Blatz beer distributor. Back then, beer didn’t come in cans or bottles, it was on tap. Your Grandpa went from place to place delivering beer. That’s how he got to know everyone in town.” A. E. “Mike” Bentzin was elected mayor of Watertown in 1967, holding the position until 1969 and a member of the Watertown School District Board of Education from 1952 to 1960, serving as president from 1959-1960.

Watertown’s current Mayor Emily McFarland joined Rob Marchant, the chair of the Watertown Redevelopment Authority (RDA), to thank the Bentzin Family. “On behalf of the City of Watertown and the RDA, we are humbled and honored to accept this generous gift,” said Mayor McFarland. “The Bentzin Family is demonstrating its respect for Watertown’s history and its future - a vibrant future in which the Town Square plays an essential role in attracting new activity and development to the heart of the city.”

“The RDA looks forward to working with the Bentzin’s to honor Watertown’s history and provide a world class place for residents and visitors to gather, celebrate, and make history and memories of their own,” added Marchant.

The dollar amount provides the needed matching funds to support a grant request from the State, which has been presented to the Wisconsin Joint Finance Committee.

“With the Bentzin family gift, we are able to incorporate some impactful design and infrastructure features on the Square,” said Alex Allon, RDA Executive Director. “One addition will be electrical outlets for use by food trucks at the upper plaza and along Water Street. This addition will eliminate the need for vendors to use gas powered generators which are both noisy and emit a lot of CO2. The addition is another testament to the forward-looking design of the Square.”

The Bentzin Family is currently considering Town Square naming options and ways to create a lasting legacy for Watertown’s history and the City itself. Charles Bentzin’s 2020 obituary states, “Charles’ hometown was always kept near and dear to him.” Through this contribution, the RDA and the City hope to fulfill Charles’ passion for Watertown and inspire that passion in the next generation.


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