Monday Milwaukee Mystery

The stag head shown below sits above the entrance to a popular East Town restaurant. Who will be the first to guess where this mystery face is located?

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

Monday Milwaukee Mystery

Today’s mystery are a pair of faces on a downtown church. The faces have been around for nearly 150 years so they have seen many Milwaukee changes. They have managed to survive a fire in the early days of the church which gutted the building. Who knows the church where these faces live?

Monday Milwaukee Mystery

Happy New Year, fans and friends! The first mystery of the year takes us back to a 19th century building in the east town neighborhood of downtown. At the top of this building is a ring of winged cherubs cavorting. Try to say that five times fast!

Who can guess which well-known building this week’s mystery is on?

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

Old Buildings Made New

In the 1930s and 1940s, the effort was underway to give Milwaukee a more modern appearance. This was usually done by tearing down old buildings and building new. It was usually cheaper to take an old building and make it look modern. Sometimes this was effective as was the case with Lou Fritzel building at 733 N. Milwaukee St and also the building shown below on N. Teutonia Ave. Although with the passing of time and less attractive renovations the building doesn’t appear too modern anymore.

Milwaukee Journal January 9, 1938

The remarkable improvement that can be made in soundly built old structures that are out of date in style is shown by the transformation of the Staadt Hardware Co building at 2816 N. Teutonia av. The pictures show the building before and after. Alexander H. Bauer, Milwaukee architect, designed the remodeling, using Lustron, a new enameled steel with a glass finish, to veneer the exterior. The new material is handled by Porcelain Building Products, Inc.

As it look now, via Google Maps.

Monday Milwaukee Mystery

I know that everyone has been breathlessly awaiting this all day so here it is! It is the post-Christmas Monday Mystery.

This could be easy. It is on a downtown building and portrays justice with her scales. On which building can this be found?

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.

Monday Milwaukee Mystery

Today’s Mystery photo is somewhat related to the story posted on Saturday and is on a building just to the west of downtown. This building has lots of interesting terra cotta, especially these two little figures. Where is this building located?

Student Bandit

This story from the Milwaukee Sentinel of December 3, 1930 tells about a down-on-his-luck Marquette senior that turned to armed robberies to fund his expenses.

Alice Becker and Esther Burby - Because these restaurant workers didn't fear his pistol as much as other victims had, James Maher, Marquette university student, is in jail after a holdup Tuesday night. He fled when Alice approached him and was captured outside by a patrolman. It was his fourth holdup attempt, the Hilltop senior told police. Economic depression, he explained to police drove him to banditry.

Milwaukee Sentinel, December 3, 1930


Advances on Gunman Robbing Restaurant, Causing Capture; Youth Admits Career of Crime.

A Marquette university senior’s career of banditry, staged to finance his last year at school and his graduation in June, ended abruptly Tuesday night when he was trapped through a girl’s bravery after an apparently successful holdup of the Civic Center restaurant, 1224 W. State st.

Screams of his two girl victims, sudden flight of the bandit with his loot, and his capture after a thrilling chase were highlights of the student’s fourth attempt to fatten his meager educational fund at the point of a revolver.

After it was over, James Maher, 23, Alpha Kappa Psi fraternity man and former Menominee, Mich., High School tennis star, sat in a central station cell, foresaw that prison walls would enclose him instead of a university auditorium at graduation time, and cheerfully admitted that “it doesn’t pay.”

Borrowing an overcoat from a fraternity brother at the chapter house, 199 Twenty-fifth st., the handsome young Maher strolled forth at 6 p. m. Tuesday for his fourth foray into criminal fields. He planned to hold up a Piggly Wiggly store on State st, he said, but as he arrived the clerks were closing and wouldn’t let him in.

Undaunted, he passed on a few doors and entered the Civic Center restaurant. Three previous holdups, all successful, had given him a professional slant on things; he eyed the eating house and found conditions favorable. Only Esther Burby, 19, of 760 N. Fifteenth st., cashier, and Alice Becker, 30, of 1405 Walnut st., waitress, were in the main room. Sam Poulos, chef, was in the kitchen.

Maher took a seat in a booth and ordered a 35-cent meal, which Miss Becker served. Finishing it leisurely, the student-bandit strode to the front, where he flipped out a revolver and pointed it at Miss Burby.

Orders Register Opened.

“Open the register,” he ordered, and she obeyed.

“Hand over the cash.” he next directed, and she gave him $37.

“Now pile up the silver for me,” said Maher, and it was here that his aplomb was lost when he saw Miss Becker advancing toward him.

“Stay there,” he shouted, and turned the weapon on her, but without a quiver she kept right on coming. Maher, who hadn’t encountered such a situation in his short career as a gunman, turned and ran.

He fled east on State st. to Twelfth, but the screams of the girls followed him and attracted Patrolman Arthur Bratz, who was walking west on State st.

Surrenders to Officer.

Meanwhile Poulos had taken up the chase and had almost overhauled his quarry when Maher leaped into a Ford car, rented at a nearby agency, which he had parked between State st. and Highland av.

Maher had been watching Poulos and didn’t notice Bratz until the officer jumped into the car and covered tho boy bandit with his pistol.

“The jig,” said Maher, calmly, “is up.” And he submitted quietly to arrest, though he knew what it meant to his school career.

At central station he was docile. Though police had no criminal record on Maher, he promptly supplied his own. His first plunge into crime, he said, was two months ago, shortly after beginning the year that was to crown his student activities.

Attending classes in the college of business administration by day, Maher “burned the midnight oil” studying his lessons—and planning banditry. He first chose the Ogden Waffle shop, 258 Ogden av. Here, he said, he found an officer dining, and calmly waited more than an hour until the policeman departed, then went in and staged the holdup.

Other holdups followed within the next few weeks at the Legion restaurant, 201 E. State st., and a sweet shop at Twenty-seventh and State sts., according to the story he told Lieut. Arthur Burns. He estimated his total loot at about $150.

‘Tough To Get Along.’

“I’ve been a pretty decent sort of follow,” young Maher told a Milwaukee Sentinel reporter. “But it has been tough to get along. My father, who was a Menomonee policeman, is dead. My widowed mother has scraped together my tuition fees, but I’ve had to make living expenses.

“I’ve worked in many restaurants in town, was playground supervisor one year at the Trowbridge school in Bay View, had a Boston Store job for a while, and later worked in a shoe store.

“But this year was different, maybe due to the depression. We Hilltoppers just couldn’t get jobs. I planned to demonstrate for a flour company by making pancakes — anything for an education — but that fell through. I might have ‘stuck’ my fraternity brothers, but I chose banditry instead.”

“Did you think about the consequences?” he was asked.

“Yes, a long time,” he answered thoughtfully. “I realized I’d probably be caught, but I thought it was a good gamble. Education against a chance of going to prison. I planned this thing deliberately, and I am willing to take the consequences. What will they probably be?”

Sighs for His Mother.

Told he could be given as much as fourteen years In Waupun for assault and robbery armed, he sighed a bit.

“Tough for mother,” he said. “But she, too was determined that I finish with honors. Athletics? Yeah. I won a tennis championship for Menomonee High, but I haven’t had time for that sort of thing in Milwaukee.”

Maher slicked back his carefully combed hair, then had a last whimsical thought.

“You know, it’s Hell week out on the Hilltop.” he said. “It certainly turned out that way for me.”