Should Aldermen Be Paid? – 1882

Interesting thoughts on pay for aldermen, from the Daily Republican-Sentinel of December 19, 1882. I wonder how this discussion would go today.

Dennis Pajot

The Council went into committee of the whole, with Ald. Dixon in the chair, to consider the question of salaries for aldermen, to take effect January 1.

Ald. Dodge moved to refer the whole matter to a special committee of five, who would present it to the Legislature to have the compensation fixed as thought best, not to exceed $500. Ald. Barth moved to make the remuneration $1000 per annum, $500 not being enough for good men. Ald. Stemper said he drew up the bill to secure salaries with the best intentions in the world. The members of the Council get no thanks for anything, but were always ridiculed and blamed. Ald. Stirn favored the passage of the bill to take effect in the year 2000. Ald. Hinsey said the offices were accepted with the knowledge that there was no recompense, and it was belittling the position to go to voting salaries. It did not agree with the aid to reduce taxes. Ald. Wood thought the aldermen were abused for everything, and should be paid, yet he could hardly vote for it. Ald. Barth referred to the modesty of the Council in not wishing to vote themselves pay, and moved no present member receive emolument, but in future $1,000 per annum be paid. Ald. Chase said to take such a step would lower the standing of the Council, as it would be filled, if there was a salary attached, by men with no other wish than to get the money. Ald. Stemper said he did not know when he was elected how much work there was attached, or he would not have accepted. The gentleman spoke at some length very warmly in support of his bill, jingling the change in his pockets meanwhile, as though it was the fat “roll” of a year’s wages at his figure. Ald. Stirn said if the aldermen were paid, the school commissioners should be, and wanted to know if that was done, where for God’s sake would the city go to? Ald Swan said Ald. Chase had hit the nail on the head. If aldermen became salaried officers caucuses would be packed, and elections would be made to carry out schemes. Ald. Fritz put it that his time was worth money, and he wanted pay for his services. Ald. Knoernschild said he had worked all he cared to for glory, and he wanted money. He would recommend, however, that the first year of service there be no compensation, but for the next two of the term of office there be paid $1000. The committee adjourned to report progress.

Ald. Dodge

Milwaukee’s Lake Front Airport

Next time you travel over the Hoan Bridge, look around and imagine what might have been if some ideas had been carried through about 80 years ago. This editorial is from the Milwaukee Journal of August 27, 1930. Remember, Maitland field was about where the summerfest grounds are now, and of course, the Illinois Steel Co. site was south of this.

“A.R. Taliaferro, chief of the airport division of the United States department of commerce, tells Milwaukeeans something about Maitland field. It is too small, he says, for general airport use; it probably is not the proper field ultimately to be a main airport and certainly not the proper field to be a joint water-rail-air terminal. Mr. Taliaferro makes no final declaration. His considered opinion will be submitted later. But these seem to be his impressions.

They are in line with what some others have said, with what many Milwaukeeans have thought. Probably the right place for a lake front airport is on the Illinois Street Co. site and on new land that can be made there.

This site also is wanted by the harbor commission. That commission cannot show immediate need for the big tract of land. In fact, it is doubtful whether the purchase of the area would be justified merely for harbor purposes. What the harbor will become—how much shipping will make use of it—remains to be seen.

However, if both ships and airplanes can use this site, and if rail terminals upon it also can be arranged, then the purchase decidedly is worth considering.

Milwaukee should have a lake front terminal airport. It should use Maitland field temporarily; perhaps it will always be of use as a lakefront landing place. But we should not allow any group of enthusiasts to induce the expenditure of much money on that field or gradually to edge in permanent improvements that never will be adequate for real terminal purposes in any event.

Maitland field presents more than the problem of size. The question is whether Milwaukee wants to develop another transportation terminal dangerously near that part of its lake short already dedicated to recreational use, especially by those who cannot afford cottages on inland lakes; or whether the water-rail-air terminal should be developed on another part of the shore, better formed, or larger landing area, more suitable and nearly as convenient to the downtown district.

Maitland field should be used in the meantime, of course; but it should not be developed on any large scale when something better is in prospect—at least not unless the purchase of the Illinois Steel Co. site is found to be impracticable”.

MPL Photo of Maitland Field

MPL Photo of Maitland Field

Dennis Pajot

A Brief History of the Republican House

On the night of Saturday, March 29, 1930, there was a large fire at Milwaukee’s downtown Republican House. No one was reported killed, but many were overcome by smoke and carried from the building. The fire chief reported a cigarette in the laundry shoot was to blame for the blaze.

The Republican House stood on the northwest corner of Third and Kilbourn, now a parking lot for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. It was taken down in 1961.

The next morning’s Milwaukee Sentinel ran this interesting article on the history of the hotel. Some of the details differ slightly from other accounts I have read, but still it is of interest, I think.

The Republican House is rich in historic lore.

When built in 1836 by Deacon Samuel Brown for Andrew Clybourn, it was thought altogether too large for the business of the day. William P. Merrill, one o the pioneers of Milwaukee, had the contract for putting on the cornices, which still adorn the building and form a distinguishing feature. They were quite a curiosity in those days.

Linked with the building are many pioneers. Benjamin Church and Morgan L. Burdick are others who had a hand in its building.

The hotel was the scene of a big celebration when the ground for the ill-fated Milwaukee and Rock River Canal was broken by Kilbourn and others. It was there that William A. Webber put up the first billiard table in Milwaukee.

In those days the hotel was situated on Cherry street, between Second and Third streets. When the west side became more populous it was moved to the corner of Cedar and Third streets.

The original name of the hotel was the Washington House, which name was retained until about the time of the birth of the Republican party, when it was given its present name, its proprietor being an ardent republican.

For many years it was conducted by Alvin Kletzsch and his brothers. Later its control passed to Ray Smith, Inc.

The hotel has had many distinctions. It was the first hotel in Wisconsin to install electricity. It also led in adopting the cafeteria style of serving meals on a large scale. It was the second hotel in the United States to have its own cold storage and refrigerating plant. It was the first hotel to build a convention hall in its own building.

It was Dec. 31, 1875, when the Kletzsch family took charge of the famous hotel. Charles F. Kletzsch, father of the boys, leased it at that time and conducted it without any notable change until 1880, when he purchased the property and erected the first unit of a number of additions. At that time Milwaukee had a population of about 69,000.

The old Republican house at that time was away from the center of business, but Kletzsch foresaw the development of Third street in the vicinity of his property, and in 1883 a second unit was added. A year later the corner building was razed and the two wings were connected by the Cedar street addition, forming one complete unit.

In 1888 the Charles F. Kletzsch company was incorporated, the elder Mr. Kletzsch retiring and turning over the business to Alvin P. Kletzsch and Herman O. Kletzsch , his sons. In 1892 they added the fireproof addition and in 1900 another unit was added, and this was known as the Third street addition.

A year ago the hotel again passed back into the hands of Alvin and Herman Kletzsch. Charles Karrow was installed as manager.

William George Bruce, close friend of the Kletzsch family owners of the Republican hotel, had retired for the night when called to be informed of the fire in the hotel.

“It was one of the most famous hotels of the state,” he said. “It was for many years one of the most popular hotels in the city, especially with people from the central and northern sections of the state. It was the scene of many of the old social gatherings, those of the German-American element predominating.”

“The old hotel was started by Charles F. Kletzsch, who took it over when it was little more than an old boarding house. That was when it was a frame structure. Under his management it rapidly became noted for this wonderful hospitality and excellent table. It was soon torn down to make room for the first unit, built of brick and stone. The new Republican house continued to prosper and three times the building was enlarged by the addition of other units.

“When Mr. Kletsch [sic] passed away, two of his sons took over the management. Under the direction of Alvin and Herman O. Kletzsch, who continued the policies and methods of their father, the hotel continued to prosper. The boys added the Park hotel in Madison to their holdings and it, too, had a wonderful success.

“Being not far from the old Exposition building, where all of the state political conventions and caucuses were held, the hotel, under the skillful direction of Alvin and Herman, was considered exactly what its name said, the republican hotel of the state. In its guest rooms and meeting rooms many a candidacy has been doomed to bud and die unseen and unknown. Many a prominent figure in state politics had his first acceptance in those secret meetings of the old republicans in the old Republican hotel.

“Some years ago the Kletzsch brothers sold their hotel, but not the real estate, to Ray Smith of the New Pfister hotel. He, too, made a success of the place and later disposed of it to Harry Newmann, one of the owners of the Kirby house when that was torn down. Some two months ago, Mr. Newmann wanted to retire from the Milwaukee hotel business and the Kletzsch boys again came into possession of it.

“Herman O. Kletsch [sic] is still interested in the German-American activities and is one of the leaders of the Steuben society of Milwaukee. Another brother, Dr. Gustav Kletsch, is proprietor of the Nutricis [?] farms, and Arthur Kletzsch is vice president of the Morris Fox company, investment securities dealers.”

Dennis Pajot

Early Morning Riders of the “Owl” Cars

In depression era Milwaukee, the streetcar was the only way to get to work for most of the people who held jobs. These cars were busy even early in the morning with women heading to cleaning work. This story from the Milwaukee Journal of 1933 tells about a few of these women and the hardship they endured.

Milwaukee Journal, July 23, 1933

Early Morning Riders of the “Owl” Cars

Every weekday at 5 a.m., when the last of the Delaware av. owl cars from Bay View reaches the Milwaukee city hall, an elderly woman, well along in the sixties, cautiously steps off and makes her way to the transfer zone in front of the Pabst theater. She waits for a Wells st. car and proceeds westward. She has been doing this for 13 years. Blizzards may be blowing or the cold be biting, rain storms may be raging or the heat be blistering, this woman is nearly always on time. Only when that owl car fails her and is late, does her schedule vary.

Who Is she? Just one of the city’s early workers, one of hundreds of women, who at that hour are on their way to work. Between 4:30 and 6 a.m. many such women are on the downtown streets. In the winter they are out long before the night’s darkness ends. In the summer they arrive with the sun. They come from all points of the city and when they reach the downtown district they scatter in all directions. They give just a glimpse of how some of the other half live – a picture those who sleep normal hours never see.

This Bay View woman modestly told her story. She lives on Idaho st. She arises at 4 o’clock. After a hurried breakfast, she sets forth to catch the last Delaware owl car which leaves the Oklahoma av. terminal at 4:35 a.m. When she boards the Wells st. car she goes to one of the west side hospitals, where she works in the laundry. When work was more plentiful, she worked on a monthly scale, but now she works on an hourly basis. She puts in six hours a day at 30 cents an hour. That figures $1.80 a day or $10.80 a week.

Isn’t It trying to get up at 4 o’clock every morning?

She thinks for a moment and then with a somewhat sad smile answers that when one has been doing it for 18 years one gets used to it.

Her voice sounded hollow. Just then a Wells st. car came rattling down the hill from Broadway. She excused herself, saying she must not miss her car and was on her way again.

The last of the inbound owl cars that arrive downtown at about 5 o’clock and the first of the regular day cars that come half an hour later, carrying almost as many women passengers as men. They all belong to the army of early workers. Many of the women are well advanced in years, others are in middle life, a few are in their twenties. Most of the older women look like mothers of families. Some are married and others are widows. All carry the signs of hard work. Some are still wearing heavy winter clothes. Their hats are old and out of fashion. There are no high heels on their shoes – those are things for the younger women. Many of the faces are wrinkled and careworn.

Probably the greater part of the women scrub and clean offices and office buildings. Some sweep and dust the stores and movie theaters. Some work in restaurants and hotels. Others in bakeries and other food shops. All are the advance guard which is getting ready for the day’s business. By the time the stores, shops, offices and other places are ready to throw open their doors, these early workers will have everything tidy and neat for the people who come to work later on.

Women whose work is to clean the offices, shops and buildings do not all toil during the same hours. There are those who start early in the morning and are among the passengers coming on the late owl cars. There are others who board the early cars homeward bound. Some may have started at midnight and have just finished their night’s work. Some come from the hotels and clubs. There are maids and domestics whose employers gave them a night off and who spent the time visiting their parents. In order to get back to their places they also get an early start. Some of the better dressed and younger women seen on the streets early in the morning are telephone operators. Telephone people work all sorts of hours.

At N. Water and E. State sts. every morning a woman of 60 or more leaves one of the south side cars. Her unsteady stride and her swollen ankles tell that she is not in good health. She knows the street car crews because she has long been a passenger on the early cars. Fellow passengers say she works in one of the breweries and each morning before 6 o’clock she can be seen walking north on N. Water st.

Before 5 o’clock on N. Third st. a woman was polishing the windows of the ticket booth of one of the smaller movie houses. She was in her bare feet and was bespattered with the dirt and grime she had been battling all night. She starts to work every night when the last of the theater crowd departs. Long before the first show starts in the morning, she has cleaned up the show house. Many other women work all night at the theaters. At about the time the office help of the theater arrives, they are ready to go home to sleep.

A young negress was walking on W. Wisconsin av. at 5 o’clock the other morning. No, she was not going to work; she was just getting through after having cleaned and scrubbed in a beauty parlor all night. Her duties began at 10 o’clock at night. Her wages are $12 a week. There are many colored women among the army of early workers.

A woman of about 50 was entering one of the many home bakeries at 4 o’clock in the morning. She can be seen doing this every morning at that hour.

“I have just given the owner notice that I am quitting my work Aug. 1,” she said “You know I am married and have three grown children. My husband lost his job nearly two years ago. The children could not help us because they had troubles also. My husband could not find another place. We had no money, so when I had a chance to come here and do the baking I took the job. I love to bake and while the hours are early and long I have enjoyed the work. They pay me well—$18 a week. With that income we got along fine. If it had not been for this job of mine, we would now be on the county. That would have been awful.

“About three weeks ago the foreman my husband worked for came to our home ‘William.’ said he. ‘I bring you some good news. We are starting up again and are calling back some of the old gang. Be on hand next Monday. I was sleeping at the time, but my husband called me and told me to go right down to the bakery and quit. Then we had an argument and that is why I am still here. I told him I would stay a few weeks more until we could pay a few small bills that had piled up. I told him it wasn’t fair to quit on short notice, so I am still working. But on Aug. 1 I am through. I am going to have a good long sleep that day William is working again and with two wages coming in every week we will soon have the bills paid. But really I am sorry to leave this place. It has been a life saver to us — it kept us off the county. And I’ll miss that fine bread and kuchen that I had ready every morning at 9 o’clock. You must love to bake to get good results and I have had loads of fun during the time I worked. But I am going back to run my home now.”

There are probably more women like this baker. During the economic turmoil many women have supported their families when the husbands were unable to find work. Among the early workers there are others who have kept their families off the county.

One of the large insurance companies employs 40 women to clean and scrub the offices and the building. These women begin at 4 o’clock every afternoon and work until 9 o’clock in the evening. On Monday mornings at 5 o’clock a part of this crew comes on the owl cars. They dust for two hours and go over the work they did the Saturday evening before. The dust that accumulated on Sunday soon disappears. By the time the 1,300 employes come in at 9 o’clock the place is as clean as a whistle.

Another large building downtown has a large staff of cleaners who work from 11 o’clock at night until 4 o’clock in the morning. One woman who works in one of the oldest office buildings in the city said that there are so many vacant offices about town that many cleaning women have lost their jobs. She said the average wages are from $10 to $14 a week, depending on the hours and amount of work that has to be done.

A woman of about 30, neatly dressed in inexpensive clothes, was sauntering on one of the downtown streets the other morning at about 5:15 o’clock. She carried a small box in her hand.

No, she said, she was not working in any of the buildings downtown. She was formerly employed as a maid and at housework, but lost her job and could not find another place. She was now selling razor blades and opened the box to exhibit her wares. The blades sold at 25 cents a package. They cost her 15 cents, so she had 10 cents a package profit. She sold most of her blades in West Allis. She and another woman canvassed the houses and at noon worked among factory employes while the latter were having lunch. She was able to earn $2 or more a day.

Why was she out so early?

She said she had always been an early riser when she had employment and now that she did not have to get up so early she could not remain in bed after 4.30 o’clock in the morning. She had gotten out early and was walking to West Allis, where she expected to sell more razor blades.

The Norris Garage

On North 19th Street, just north of Wisconsin Avenue lies a building that is the home of Channel 12. It has a modern appearance but at the core of the building remains a garage and stable that was built over 100 years ago for the estate of Charles Norris which was located on Grand Avenue next to the Pabst Family mansion. The Norris family were known for their business which provided provisions for ships in 19th century Milwaukee. Charles married the daughter of Daniel Wells Jr.

The stable was built in 1909 by H.C. Koch & Son, the architect of Milwaukee’s City Hall. Obviously this was one of his smaller projects. A description of the stable from the Western Builder of October 1909 is as follows:

We publish a photograph of the fireproof horse barn and automobile garage recently completed for Mr. Chas. W. Norris, 1906 Grand avenue, Milwaukee. The building was designed by Architects H. C. Koch & Son and was built by S. J. Brockman, all of Milwaukee.

Concrete is used liberally in the construction. The floors and roof are of reinforced concrete, the reinforcement of the roof being furnished by the Trussed Concrete Steel Co., of Detroit. Steel roof trusses are also used as roof supports. The walls are brick and hollow tile plastered on the outside with white cement. Green tiles serve as roof covering. There is no wood in the building excepting the doors, windows and harness cases. The general dimensions are 81×46. There is electricity, a small hot water heater and plumbing.

The conveniences include space for six or seven autos and horse carriages, a large washroom, three box stalls and two smaller ones, a hayloft, and in the basement a place for chickens, dog kennels, etc. Among the sub-contractors were Biersch & Niedermeyer, tile roofers, and Dearsley Bros., plumbers.

The view from the south parking lot shows the building as it now appears. Although much changed and added onto the original structure still can be seen. Now the real question is whether there are still chickens kept in the basement?

Public Natatorium Restaurant

The Public Natatorium restaurant opened in the fall of 1979 and stayed opened until 1984 when it went into bankruptcy proceedings. It began with an idea by owners, John and Margaret Garlic to re-use an old Natatorium building for an interesting restaurant. They used the old swimming pool to house dolphins and sea lions for performances to lure diners looking for a unique experience. Unfortunately as the business foundered during the winter of 1984, the animals were left in limbo without food and in danger of freezing. A federal bankruptcy judge had to step in to make sure the last dolphin was taken care of during the final days.

The building was constructed in 1894 after a design by Eugene Liebert and finally was closed as a public swimming pool in 1977.

Milwaukee Robinson Crusoe

Mention of this character was made in a recent Odd Wisconsin article from the Wisconsin Historical Society website.

The story was one told by Dr. Jeremiah Selby in 1895 of his remembrance of a character that lived in early 1840s Milwaukee. Dr. Jeremiah Selby came to the developing village in 1842 and was one of the first school commissioners appointed in 1846 by Mayor Juneau’s council.

Milwaukee Sentinel
March 24, 1895

Milwaukee Robinson Crusoe.

“A queer character lived on the west side of the Milwaukee river upon a tongue of land lying between the old Green Bay road (now Third street) and the river. His name was Carl Grotke. Those who knew him well called him ‘Old Grotke,’ and those who did not called him ‘the Hermit.’ He was not so very old (probably between 55 and 60) but his dress and general appearance made him look old. He seldom ventured away from his habitation and then he was seen in old dilapidated garments, generally with patched trousers and coat and shirt of dark flannel. He wore no hat, and his feet were encased in a pair of old leather slippers. It would appear from his looks that he never used soap and water or comb, and his hair was tangled and matted with a profusion of gray.

The tongue of land on which he lived was located in what was then known as Kilbourntown, about 300 feet south of Chestnut street bridge, on the border of what is now known as Prairie street, where it terminates on the bank of the river. Grotke’s home was not a house at all. He called it a steamboat when he gave it a name to those who out of curiosity visited him, although these visits were rare, because his abode was surrounded and secluded by a tall growth of elders which seemed to flourish there.

He seemed to have a certain repugnance to strangers (not that he was ugly or morose, for he was a mild and inoffensive man, but he had lived so long alone in a sort of Crusoe life that he had lost in a measure the use of language or the facility of expression).

No one seemed to know where he came from, although he was evidently a native of one of the German principalities. He spoke the English language as well as any, but with the diffidence of one who seldom had occasion to utter his thoughts or wishes. He had no personal friends or relatives among his countrymen here, although no one would have refused him assistence had he seemed in want, and although poor he always seemed supplied with the scanty means of living.

He called his home a steamboat. It looked something like one on a very small scale, standing in a vacant space among the willows and elders. It appeared like a boat about twenty feet long by five feet wide. Its keel was land some years before, and was now soggy and worm eaten. It rested on three or four blocks land along the ground. The deck of the boat was intended to be some two and a half or three inches above the keel, but it was never finished. From the ground you ascended a crazy ladder some four feet long and landed on a staging that surrounded the boat.

Grotke had evidently been reared near water, and like his forefathers had learned in his boyhood to fashion a boat, but he had subsequently wrought at cobbling. When the poor had wanted his services at mending their shoes he would patch them up and take for his pay any food they could share as remuneration. At odd times he would pick up a piece of fencing or a stray board and tack it on to his boat. His deck was unfinished but he had constructed a cabin near the stern, down which he passed by means of a short ladder to the bottom or ribs of the boat. Here he lived with a small rusty stove and pipe passing through the roof of the cabin he cooked his food. The boat was all patchwork, allowing the wind to whistle through its cracks, hot in summer and cold in winter, but he was never heard to complain.

His pet was the boat , which he expected some day to launch on the water. Although he called it a steamboat, his idea was not to use steam power, but to propel his boat from Milwaukee to Buffalo by the use of the element which surrounded him. Grotke had sort of a misty notion that by the power and use of the principle of perpetual motion he could raise water, and by the overshot process he could direct this force on the paddles, which would propel his boat and also aid him, by the use of a pump, to increase his supply of water for the overshot process and thus increase the speed of his boat. His means being limited, he was constrained to ask outside aid to finish his boat, and having profound belief in the ability of those in power, he petitioned the president of the United States and also the queen of England. To these letters he obtained no answers, but their context displayed his belief in their power and his veneration for their station.

Thus Grotke lived and hoped till in 1848 the La Crosse railroad was organized with its eastern terminal in Milwaukee. Having use for the land along the river they condemned it and took it for their depot, and as Grotke’s boat was on their land they ordered him off. The boat was then moved a few feet south and left in the middle of Prairie street, where he rested for awhile. The clearing of the street having been ordered, Grotke left his boat to the control of the city authorities and disappeared. Soon after the boat melted away, and was used by the scavengers of the city for firewood.”

Budweiser in Milwaukee

This photo was taken at the convention of the American Bottlers of Carbonated Beverages (non-alcoholic of course!) in November of 1930 at the Auditorium. The Budweiser car/boat drew an admiring crowd on its tour through the United States. This was at the height of Prohibition so notice the grim attitudes of everyone in the scene!

Karl Raatzch Saloon Raided – April 24, 1926

On this day back in 1926, Prohibition was in in full swing. People who wanted their favorite beverage had to find some place to slake their thirst. Luckily Milwaukee had plenty of illegal underground bars that catered to their needs. Karl Raatzch, who founded the Milwaukee restaurant which still bears his name, ran an underground beer hall just south of Steinmeyer’s store on the corner of 3rd and Highland.

Milwaukee Journal, April 24, 1926

Karl Raatzsch Saloon Raided

Federal Agents Uncover Large Supply of Beer in Place

Karl A. Raatzsch, proprieter of a bar at 310 Third St., which was known to thousands of Milwaukeeans before prohibition and has retained its fame since, was arrested late Friday following a raid on the place by federal prohibition agents. In view of the fact that no fear was entertained that he would not appear when wanted, Harry L. Kellogg, United States commissioner, allowed him his liberty without bail.

Before prohibition the place was known as “the wein stube” because it was one of the few saloons in Milwaukee that catered to wine drinkers, and it was probably the only one that catered to wine drinkers who could afford only the inexpensive wines. A huge glass of wine was sold for a nickel, and it was a common saying that the cheapest way to be relieved temporarily of worry and care was to go to the wein stube and drink a glass or two of wine.

Revived by Raatzsch

The place dropped into obscurity in the early days of prohibition, but its fame began to revive when Raatzsch took hold of it a few years ago. It has come to be one of the most widely known places in the city, and it reputation rested solely on its meals and its beer. Beer was the only alcoholic beverage that the prohibition agents found.

Agents had made purchases of beer in the place previously, and late Friday another purchase was made. The raid followed.

Beer on Tap

Two half-barrels of beer were on tap, the beer flowing through the spigots as before prohibition. The tapped barrels were in the cellar, as was the rest of the contraband seized.

There were 14 other half-barrels all ready for tapping. Each held 15 1/2 gallons. Twenty 15-gallon crocks and two 25-gallon ones held beer in the process of fermentation. Two 15-gallon copper wash boilers stood on two gas plates, with beer “cooking” in them.

There were also two 50-gallon barrels of malt syrup, six barrels of near-beer and eight gallons of brewers’ yeast. this is the first time that brewers’ yeast, which makes much better beer than ordinary yeast has been found in a raid in Milwaukee.

Property In Public Use – September 17, 1880

This newspaper story from 1880 tells the background of several of the important public squares that were in use at the time. Haymarket Square at 5th and McKinley no longer exists after being part of a city redevelopment plan in the late 1960s. It’s site now houses several buildings which are vacant and a power company substation. Rink Square is now where the Wisconsin Center stands at 5th & Kilbourn. Market Square is where the City Hall stands.

Milwaukee Sentinel, September 17, 1880




In the days when Milwaukee was yet a village, and its present prominence undreamt of, it was frequently the case when a plot of land was added to the city, to reserve a portion for public use, the donor at the time making such conditions regarding their future use as he saw fit. Land was not worth $500 a foot on the banks of the Milwaukee River nor had the wildest dreams of the owners conceived it possible that real estate would ever reach that figure. This fact is mentioned to show that the gift of a block then was different pecuniary matter than a like donation today. Many of the original squares have been enlarged by purchase, while others have been used for a purpose other than that for which they were dedicated. This does not interfere with their eligibility for the use to which they are put. The world wags on apace, and, if the original conditions of the benefactions are forgotten, it is because in the flight of time, their usefulness in the sphere for which they were intended has passed away.

In 1835 there was filed in the City Engineer’s office the map of survey of a plot on the West Side of the river, in which was contained one-half block marked “public,” situated on Third street, between Court and Galena. It was specified that this block was given for the erection of a court house, but no other building should be erected thereon. Moreover the court house must be erected within two years from date, or the property was to revert to the original owners. If at any time thereafter, the county should erect a court house elsewhere, or neglected to hold the courts there for three consecutive seasons, it would then revert as aforesaid. If, on the other hand, the reserve was used for this purpose the proprietors of the estate agreed to set apart one lot elsewhere in the town, eligibly situated for a jail, as soon as the county signified a willingness to erect such a structure. The town decided not to erect a courthouse there, and the reservation was left unenclosed and public until 1870, when the authorities purchased the remainder of the block, having in view the erection of a public school building. the project was carried out and the Humboldt public school is the result.

At the same time three other reserves were made for the public, namely: A block on Fifth street, between Poplar(McKinley) and Vliet, known as Haymarket Square, a half-block on Fifth street, between Cedar(Kilbourn) and Tamarack(State), known as the Rink Square, and a half block on Sycamore(Michigan), between Third and Fourth. In the dedication, the donor specified that no obstruction in the way of buildings should be placed thereon except market buildings, on penalty of reversion to former owners. Hay Market Square is the principal live stock market of the city. The Rink reservation will be utilized, together with the remainder of the block, purchased for the purpose, as a site for the Exposition Building.

In 1836, the Court House Square (then half the present size) was dedicated to the common use, by Solomon Juneau, for the purpose of erecting a court house. No other building could be erected thereon, nor should the lot ever be obstructed in any way. Moreover, it was specified that the space should be enclosed by the corporation. The same year a courthouse was built. In 1866 a remainder of the block was purchased by the municipality and the present stone structure erected thereon, and the grounds beautified by a fountain and other embellishments.

Market Square on East Water street, was about the same time given for a public market. This reserve has never been improved much, and stands sadly in need of improvement. A fountain should be placed there, and other innovations brought about, tending to transform a dusty street into a pleasant lounging place. Some such measure introduced would add much to the attractiveness of the Market, and entail good on the neighborhood.

“It is a just remark,” said a gentleman, “that no large public park near the centre of the city is a lack to be regretted, and, although it cannot be well remedied, the regret may be in a measure mitigated by improving the small public squares and making them attractive.