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.

History of the Wheel – 1893

This article served to provide the early history of bicycles in Milwaukee back to the first “ordinary” or high-wheel bike to the later “safety” which is similar to what we ride today.

Milwaukee Sentinel, May 21, 1893


How the Bicycle Made Its Appearance in Milwaukee

Brought Here in 186 by Harry L. Smith

Smith Was Visiting the Centennial at Philadelphia, and, Getting the Bicycle Fever, Invested in One Which Came Back With Him. In Point of Continuous Riding, Andrew A. Hathaway is the Pioneer Wheelman of the City, He Having Been At It Since 1879.

It is only seventeen years since the first bicycle made its appearance in this city and was gazed at with undisguised amazement by the startled natives, who hurried to their windows and crowded upon the sidewalks to get a look at the strange thing that sped noiselessly by. Within those seventeen years the bicycle has passed through a period of revolution and the wheel of to-day bears little resemblance to the one which first came within the limits of the city. That original cycle was one of the old-fashioned ordinaries with one big wheel, almost mountainous in its height, having an insignificant looking little trailer at the rear, which, though diminutive, was of great importance to the welfare of the rider. The bicycle of to-day is the safety, with two common sense wheels of about the same size, which answer all recreative and racing purposes without endangering the lives and limbs of the riders.

The first wheel to reach Milwaukee was brought here in 1876 by Harry L. Smith, son of Winfield Smith, who is now living in Chicago, where he is employed with the Wisconsin Central railway. In that year young Smith made a trip East, taking in the Centennial in Philadelphia, and, while there, the bicycles captured his fancy. He invested in one and brought it home with him, it being at that time a high grade wheel of the best pattern, but which is now obsolete. This was about the time that the bicycle began to take root in this country, after having obtained considerable popularity in England. It was introduced first in the East, whence it was rapidly pushed to the West.

The Underwood Boys Get Wheels.

The sight of Harry Smith pedaling around town on his ordinary in stately grandeur isntigated other young men to buy bicycles and the next Milwaukeeans to invest in them were Frank and Herbert Underwood. The number of riders, however, did not grow rapidly, the bicycle then being considered and expensive luxury, and during the next three years all riders in this city could be numbered on the fingers.

About the year 1879 the first bicycle craze struck the city and the number of riders increased very rapidly. It was in this year that Andrew A. Hathaway began riding a wheel. He has ridden ever since, adopting the styles and changes as they were made, and he still uses his machine regularly. In this respect he is the pioneer rider of the city, none of the young men who were contemporaneous with him at the start having stuck regularly to their wheels. Some of them have been a good many years during the interim that their feet have not touched a pedal.

In the latter part of the year 1879 L.M. Richardson established the first bicycle agency in Milwaukee, having his headquarters on Broadway between Wisconsin street and Grand avenue. He was a hustler and by pushing his business induced a good many men to ride who probably would not otherwise have done so. Other riders appeared upon the scene about this time and a year later their number had grown to such an extent that the question of organization was agitated and resulted in the formation of the Milwaukee Bicycle Club. Its first officers were Andrew A. Hathaway, president, and Albert Jones, secretary and treasurer. Its organizers and original members were Angus Hibbard, Harry Haskins, A.W. Friese, D.G. Rogers, Jr. H.W. Rogers, C.H. Moses, Frank Stark, Arthur Young, Harry and Will Weller, William Mariner, Fred Pierce, Harry C. Reed, S.H. Marshall and several others. Within a short while after this the list of riders was swelled by the additions of Francis Bloodgood, Jr., H.O. Frank, Charles Wood, Jr., and the following named riders who have used the wheel ever since and still stick to it: Thomas R. Mercein, W.L. Simonds, Frank A. Hall, Henry P. Andrae, and Frank Morawetz. Many of those named continued to ride until the ordinary was pushed into the background to make room for the safety, which they refused to take kindly to, and they are now classed among the old timers who have stopped riding. Among those who have accepted the safety and who find pleasure and profit in taking daily spins upon it are Henry P. Andrae, A.W. Friese, Thomas R. Mercein, Andrew Hathaway, Frank Morawetz, and W.L. Simonds.

All Riders In The Club.

At the time of the organization of the Milwaukee Bicycle club its memebrship included all riders of the city, the number of which had reached sixty-five in the year 1881. The club made regular tours into the country every Saturday, the favorite destinations being Lakeside and other lake resorts in Waukesha county, where bicycle hops would be held in the evening. They paid little attention to races, but devoted much of the time to runs into the country, some of which were participated in by riders from other cities in this section. This was in the day of the high wheel and small tire, when touring was attended with a great deal more inconvenience and liability to accident than now, but the element of danger was itself an attraction to the riders. The club continued until 1883, when it disbanded, owing to the bad streets and roads. The season was an exceptionally bad one on the country roads, which were literally trails of mud and the streets in the city had been allowed to get into such bad condition that it was impossible to ride over them. In the following year some of the men who had been members of the old club got together and organized the Milwaukee Wheelmen which has flourished ever since and which now has over 300 members. The first road races of the Milwaukee Wheelmen were run over Wauwatosa course, which was retained for the annual event until the Waukesha course was selected.

Milwaukee in Miniature

A new exhibition opening up at the Milwaukee County Historical Society will display 16 scale model buildings created by Ferdinand Aumueller in the late 1960s. The project included 60 blocks of downtown with 200 buildings in all. Several block were last displayed in 1984 at the Historical Society but have normally been in storage because of the size required to display them. The models are intricately detailed to be as accurate as possible.

Ferdinand Aumueller worked as a secretary for the Cramer-Krasselt advertising agency until he retired in 1955. He occupied himself during retirement building scale models of buildings for home Christmas displays and in 1967 tackled the downtown project to depict the view as it looked during the early 1900’s. He worked on it for two years before finally completing it in 1969. After his death in October 1971, the models went on auction and were bought by Mrs. Thomas O’Byrne and later acquired by the Historical Society.

The exhibit opens Thursday June 14 at the Milwaukee County Historical Society.

Convent Hill

If you look now at the old Convent Hill, much has changed since has changed since the demolition of the Park East Freeway stub. There is still plenty of open land although plans are beginning to develop to use the vacant fields. This area got its name from the large Convent for School Sisters of Notre Dame which encompassed the entire block between Milwaukee, Jefferson, Ogden, and Knapp Streets.

Before the Park East was a dream, the area was dominated by the Convent and workers houses for the Pfister & Vogel Tannery and other nearby industries like Schlitz Brewery. It was a nondescript working class neighborhood and traces of it can still be found around Jefferson, Jackson, and Pleasant Streets.

Demolition for the Park East was extensive and wiped away a large swath of land as well as these working class neighborhoods between Lyon and Ogden. The Convent was closed and torn down in the early 1960s and moved out to Elm Grove. Everything seen in these pictures from 1930 is long gone but the neighborhood continues to evolve and actually improve.

Milwaukee Public Schools leading to some other questions

One of my long term projects is on the Milwaukee Public schools.   This is going much slower than I thought, only because there is so much interesting material that diverts me away from where I am supposed to be working.

I have been given a copy of an image that is of unknown location, year, and significance, but thought that someone could give me some information on it.

The picture is attached and shows children and their teacher wearing cold weather coats, hats, and blankets on their laps.  In the background, there are two men just right of center in the photo.

It appears to me that the classroom does not have a wall in the back, but the print quality is pretty poor.

I am going to guess that the picture was taken in the 1890s or so.

Does anyone know anything about this photo?  I cannot find a copy of it on the Internet and because of the two men in the background who look like they are of some import, I do not think that this is the normal photo showing children undergoing horrible conditions to inspire the public to act, such as the famous Breaker Boy photos of children working in the coal industry or pictures of street orphans in NYC.

When I attended John Marshall High in Milwaukee, I vaguely recall our senior history class text stating that schools in the 1890s in some of the eastern coast region had enrollments of up to 10,000 or 12,000 students!  I don’t know if I am remembering that anywhere near being accurate, as Marshall’s enrollment when I was there was over 3,900 and it seemed pretty big.

The photo makes me wonder if this was taken at one of those schools where the numbers of children were rapidly increasing and this was the temporary solution to that, while walls were going to be added or a room was being built elsewhere.

Could anyone enlighten me on the photo, including a source for a better copy? I would also love to hear whether those gigantic schools did exist.

Thank you.


Milwaukee’s Arab History

Marquette professor Enaya Othman, has worked for several years to help create an organization here called the Arab Muslim Women Research and Resource Institute. The organization and her work was reported in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel back in December 2009.

One of the projects she and dedicated individuals has been working on for this institute is a history of Arab immigrants to Milwaukee. An article on the project’s website gives a brief history of Syrian and Palestinian immigration.

Further reading on Milwaukee’s Syrian colony can be found in the following article from the Milwaukee Journal of June 19, 1945.

Missing Milwaukee Walking Tour

Here’s a great opportunity to take a walk into the past of Missing Milwaukee. This walking tour will be hosted by myself and will provide a glimpse back at several downtown buildings which are no longer with us. These buildings were featured in the HMI book published last year as well as many others.

The tour will start at 5:30 on May 11th and is $15 for HMI members and $20 if you are not a member. For $10 extra you can get a copy of the book.

More details and tour registration can be found here.

Monday Milwaukee Mystery

Today we are back with the Monday Mysteries after some time spent doing much needed website maintenance.

This mystery photo has some clues as to the location in the picture. I will leave it to you to decipher. The building on which the sculpture is located lies in the area of downtown west of the river. I’ll wait to see if anyone can guess it before giving out more clues.