Reader Questions

What is the history of the name Locust St? I found that E. Locust used to be called Folsom, but why is Locust St. named after an insect?


The original name of Folsom came strangely enough from Miss Frances Folsom, bride of President Cleveland. She caught the nation’s imagination in the 1880s as some sort of Amazon princess and was very well celebrated.

Folsom Place was the name of the street on the east side of the Milwaukee River while the street west of the river was always known as Locust Street. When the bridge was built in 1894, it was named the Folsom Bridge. The great street renaming of 1930 changed Folsom Place along with many other streets around the city. Milwaukee wanted to keep one name for one street so one of the names had to go and it was decided to keep Locust Street. Locust Street was named, not for the insect but for the tree which is still planted along streets all over the city.

“Masonic Building” at Jefferson & Wells Sts.

Here’s an architecturally significant Milwaukee building (center of the photo) without much in the way of a historic photos or archives¬† to fill out its history:

"Masonic Bldg.", N. Jefferson & E. Wells

This view looks south on Jefferson from E. Kilbourn with Cathedral Square on the left, the old Wis. Gas Co. bldg on the far left, Pfister Hotel in the far distance on the right. (photo-copy from MPL’s Jefferson St. file, annotations are mine.)

The two postcard versions (UWM and WHS digital collections) show the handsome building much better Рit has distinct similarities to the old Downer College buildings on the UW-Milwaukee campus.  The postcard links below also infer the similar red sandstone.  Was this built in the same era or designed by the same architect?

I thought this may have been what was called the “Ethical Building” which housed the Milwaukee Ethical Society at 558 Jefferson St. (1899 city directory) But newspaper 1895 adverts show a different (earlier?) building:

Does anyone know which Masonic organization can take credit for the building that stood on the south-east corner of Jefferson & Wells?

For extra credit: can anyone sing the old jingle … “On the corner of Jefferson and Wells, you can hear Cathedral bells, ….”

Police Court Stories

Strange stories from the police blotter one hundred years ago.

Milwaukee Journal, August 12, 1912

Police Court News

Michael Tornic, 4104 Grand-av, arrested as the result of statements made by Mary Reonlaka, 15, in juvenile court, was found not guilty in district court, Monday.

Walter Austin, 45, was standing on Kinnickinnic-av, Sunday night, when a man passed, carrying three jugs of whiskey. The bearer of the jugs accosted Austin and the two sat down upon the sidewalk. “I am going to West Allis,” said the man with the whiskey. “Will you go with me?” “I’ll go anywhere with a man who has three jugs of whiskey,” declared Austin. The three empty jugs were used as evidence against Austin, Monday, when he was fined $5 and costs.

Neither Calvin Whittington nor William E. Hunt, who engaged in a fist fight in front of the Plankinton, Saturday night, while Miss Ruth Gwendolyn Shaw, said to be a Chicago heiress, acted as referee, appeared in the district court, Monday, when their names were called. Judge Neelen fined each $1.

For raising a disturbance and using profane language on a street car on Eighth-av and Mitchell-st, Sunday night, Joseph Klutz, 25, was fined $25 and costs Monday.

“Your wife must be a wonder.” Judge Neelen told James Heina, Chicago-rd, arraigned Monday for being drunk. “She must certainly be economical.” Heina said that he had a wife and six children and that he earns $60 per month. His wife said he kept the family well on that sum. “Because of your wife I’ll let you go.” the court told Heina. “Do your part by keeping away from whisky.”

Misericordia Hospital

I wanted to cross post this recent post from the old forums to here.

I recently came upon an old postcard, 1911 of the first Misericordia hospital. I’ll try and upload the image.

I found some info on the nuns that started it. This was originally the Bishops residence until he moved to the Pabst mansion. But it looks very much like it is several houses interconnected judging by the varying styles. Does anyone know if these were individual homes. The site is 22nd and Juneau. The hospital moved here in 1908.

Thanks in advance.


The Closing of TA Chapman’s

There was a question during Saturday’s presentation on Missing Milwaukee about the dates involved of the closing of TA Chapman’s downtown store at the intersection of Milwaukee and Wisconsin Ave. An article in the Milwaukee Sentinel from Thursday, January 22, 1981, detailed the final sale of all merchandise in the store.

By 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, there wasn’t much left in Downtown Chapman’s and the doors closed for the last time.

Like many of the unsold fixtures, many of the clerks and managers will be distributed to Chapman’s stores in the Northridge, Brookfield Square and Bay Shore malls.

The owners of Chapman’s are negotiating with the Milwaukee county Historical Society to see if historians can’t find a safe spot for T.A.’s fireplace and portrait.

A Sentinel article from September 26, 1984 talked about the opening of the now complete 411 Building. The article was entitled, “New Building Comes to Life With Fireworks, Party” and was in the Local News section.

The Wikipedia page for the T.A. Chapman Co., links to an article about the company finally going bankrupt in 1987, a few years after the downtown store was closed.

This should help to clarify some of the dates that I talked about.

Old Visits the Chudnow Museum

Milwaukee has plenty of good museums but for people that want to enjoy the city’s history there is always a need for more. The Streets of Old Milwaukee at the Public Museum have been around for almost 50 years, believe it or not! The Milwaukee County Historical Society has cleaned house after their renovation so remains nearly empty of displays. The Jewish History Museum and Black History Museum both offer various glimpses into Milwaukee’s past but otherwise there is a need of more displayed history.

The Chudnow Museum of Yesteryear helps to fill in that gap by showing some glimpses of life in 1920s and 1930s Milwaukee. It is set up in the old Avrum Chudnow home at 839 N. 11th St. It doesn’t look like a museum from the front but step to the back door on the right side to gain entrance. Limited parking is available off a driveway on Highland, west of 11th Street otherwise metered parking is on the street. Beware the street parking restrictions or face a ticket!

The museum takes objects from the large collection of the Chudnow family and gives them context by displaying them in rooms that are built as if they are shops or offices. One room is the Grafman Grocery store, another the Augusta Hart shoe store, and it goes on and on through the two floors of the very large home. There is plenty on display here and it is worth an hour or so to slip into Milwaukee’s past. There are some surprises on the tour and a secret room on the second floor I won’t tell too much more about.

The first days it was open to the public were the past few days of July 20th and 21st but the official grand opening won’t happen until August 18th. Stop by and help to support the Chudnow Museum! Admission is a reasonable $5 for adults. Check the website for more information.

Father is Missing – July 21, 1912

100 years ago today, life could be harsh for poorer Milwaukeeans. The husband was the only one supporting the family and when he failed in his responsibilities, the rest of the family were in dire circumstances. This case

Milwaukee Sentinel July 21, 1912


Loaf of Stale Bread Is Food of Family of Six for Two Days With Mother Ill.


Police Now Searching for August Grabowski for Second Time on Abandonment Charge.

“The Milwaukee police department got me once, but they will never again. I was foolish enough to let them nab me, but I am too wise for them now,” said August Grabowski, 675 Sixth avenue, as he left his wife and five children destitute for the second time and started for his present hiding place.

The Grabowski case came again to the attention of Supt. Spindler of the county poor department on Friday and is one of the most pitiable that the department has ever found in Milwaukee. Poverty stricken and nearly starved, Mrs. Julia Grabowski, who is in poor health, was found trying to comfort her children in the little, damp basement rooms that they occupied.

Live on Stale Loaf.

For several days the mother and her five children, Mary, 9 years old; Frances, 7 years old; Anna, 5 years old; Amelia, 3 years old, and Stacy, 2 years old, had lived on one loaf of stale bread.

When the landlord went to the place to collect $5 due for rent he found the entire family in bed and only a single crust of bread in the house. Not knowing where to go for assistance, the woman had lived in her destitute condition and when the landlord came he had to force open the door. Mr. Spindler was called at once and he is now taking care of the family.

This is the second time that Grabowski has left his family. On April 15, last year, he took with him the savings of the family and left without a word to his wife. He went to Columbus, O., where he enlisted in the United States army. His company was sent to Fort Bliss, El Paso, Tex., where he was arrested by Detective Hammes for abandonment.

Draws Two Weeks’ Pay.

He was brought back to Milwaukee on Nov. 8, in full army regalia, and was sent to the house of correction for five months. When released he went to work and supported his family for three months.

Drawing two weeks’ pay, all that he had coming, on July 10 Grabowski went to his home and put on his best clothing. He then told his wife that he was going away and that the Milwaukee police would not be wise enough to find him. A warrant charging the man with abandonment was sworn out on Saturday.

Open Mic

From time to time I want to leave the microphone open at the front of the stage, as it were so anyone can make a comment or ask a question, tell a story or just talk about yourself. This is going to be the first attempt at the Open Mic. Who wants to be first?

The world is your stage!

Missing Milwaukee at MPL

Mark your calendars and make your reservations to come and hear me talk about the Missing Milwaukee book. If you missed the tour, this will be the next best thing!

This event will happen on Saturday, July 28 at 2pm in the Rare Books Room of the Central Library. Registration is required and can be done online or by calling during normal business hours at 414-286-3011. Space is limited so register now!

Books will be available for sale at the event for $15 cash or check and I will be more than willing to sign them. Hope to see you there.

The Loss of Haymarket Square

Last year I posted an article from 1880 talking about the many public squares that the city had in use. One which was lost due to urban renewal in the late 1960s was Haymarket Square at 5th & McKinley. The area is now mostly taken up by a large WE Energies substation and several vacant buildings. The dismantling of the Park East freeway on the other side of McKinley has left a large area waiting for development and improvement.

Questions have come up, especially at the recent Envisioning the Seen program sponsored by Historic Milwaukee, Inc., as what should be done to spur development of the Park East. I say we should bring back a public market square. This would be instantly used by residents at Hillside Terrace who have no grocery or market nearby and would help to promote mixed use development in the Park East. Markets elsewhere in the city are well used as a source for fresh, healthy and cheap vegetables.

Public parks and markets are places in the city which can turn vacant space into used space and provide something which can attract development. How many developers want to take a risk on a vacant area that has no life? An actively used public space will make adjacent lands that much more valuable and attractive.

Unfortunately after Richard Perrin made the decision in 1966 to squeeze the last of the activity out of the area with the urban renewal project, the seeds of development could never take root and today we are left with vacant buildings and deserted space.

Milwaukee Journal, October 26, 1966

Haymarket Square Draws No Opposition

The proposed Haymarket Sqaure urban renewal project was discussed at a one hour public hearing Tuesday. No objections were heard from the more than 70 persons present. Eleven persons said they favored the project.

The 60 acre, L-shaped area is bounded roughly by W. Walnut, N. 3rd, W. McKinley, N. 8th, W. Vliet and N. 6th. Nearly 21 acres will be cleared and 14.4 acres rehabilitated. Streets and alleys occupy the other acreage.

The city redevelopment authority hopes to remove all residential structures from the area making the land available for expansion of existing businesses and for new industry.

The authority is not expected to give its final approval to the plan until Nov. 10 because it must allow property owners 15 days from the hearing, or until Nov. 9, to file written objections. Final action then will be sought from the common council.

1968 Target Date

Richard W. E. Perrin, the authority’s secretary, said land acquisitions could begin by next January. By mid-1968, he said, it is possible that all land involved will have been acquired and cleared.

The entire $3,241,058 cost of the project will be borne by the city – making it the first such project in which no federal funds for renewal will be used. The city is expected to recoup about $1,600,000 from the resale of land to developers, placing the project’s net cost at $1,640,000.

According to a new survey, the city will have to relocate 60 families, 166 individuals, 55 businesses, and 7 institutions from the area. City planners had estimated earlier that the project would uproot 133 families and 75 individuals.

Beautification Urged

At the hearing Richard Bosely, owner of Graphic Studios, 1331 N. 3rd st., asked that the project be amended so that something could be done to beautify the east side of N. 3rd. Much of it consists of railroad lines and loading-unloading areas.

Calling the street the “front yard” of the project because it carries heavy traffic to and from the downtown area, Bosely suggested that a brick retaining wall with greenery on top be used to screen that side of the street.

John Budzien, representing Milwaukee Gowers, Inc., 519 W. McKinley av., urged the retention of the farmers’ market in the area. Its proposed removal, he said, would create an economic hardship for the firm.