Preserving the History

Milwaukee is a city that has always maintained its ties to the past. Our cultural identity is tied in to our German, Polish, Italian, and many other ethnic roots. We attend the festivals to remind us of those roots and every day we see the reminders of our shared past on many streetcorners. Buildings that our parents and our grandparents and great-grandparents walked by and shopped at are still there in abundance. I have pictures that my grandfather took in the early 1920s in the Plankinton Arcade and the statue of John Plankinton that he snapped a picture of remains there for me to see as a link to that time when he walked in the same place. The apartments he lived in and the buildings he helped to build are also still there.

Unfortunately, many of the places he saw when he walked downtown are no longer there. Some were lost to fire, some to decay, some to new and improved development. Some were torn down for parking lots or just to save the owner from paying taxes on buildings they didn’t want to improve.

A few buildings that have been with us since the 1860s in East-Town are in danger of being lost forever to be replaced by a glass and steel hotel tower. The heritage that has been with us for 150 years is awaiting a decision on its fate. The Follansbee Building where Downtown Books resides is one of the important pieces of the fabric of the historic East-Town district.

Please make your voice heard in trying to make the developers of this property see how important it is for Milwaukee to keep these reminders of its past. Support the developers in making the proposed Marriott hotel integrate the past into its plans so that every one can be proud of this heritage. A public hearing on this development will be held in the committee rooms of City Hall during the Historic Preservation Committee meeting on Monday, December 13th at 4pm. Stop by and make your voice heard to say how important the past is to the future of Milwaukee.

More information on the development can be found in this Milwaukee Journal article. The history of the Follansbee Building can be read here.

A Few Good Websites

Here are a few newer websites about Milwaukee history that I have recently found.

The first is a great blog about the history of WQFM radio. I grew up listening to it in junior high school and high school and so this is a trip back to the past. The blog tells great stories and events from those days in the 70’s and 80’s.

Then there is Megan Daniels new website about historic preservation and architecture. You may remember her as the author of a newer Arcadia book on Early Milwaukee Architecture. Her blog is called Razed In Milwaukee.

While I’m at it I’ll point out the Wisconsinology blog I also found a few weeks back. It hasn’t been updated much recently but is full of interesting stories on things around the state.

Monday Milwaukee Mystery

Time for a change of theme. I know many people love to see the old photos of Milwaukee but we are nearly through with all of the challenging ones. In the interest of keeping a challenging mystery we are now introducing the Mystery Faces of Milwaukee. This new mystery will have fans try to guess the building that the mystery face is located on. This will test everyone’s memory of building details around the city. We are concentrating on big buildings around or near downtown.

Can anyone guess the building where this week’s face is located? The hint is that it is somewhere on Wisconsin Avenue.

Monday Milwaukee Mystery

Today’s belated Monday Mystery photo takes us away from downtown to the northwest side of the city. The Standard gas station on the northeast corner is Lynn’s Service. A tavern is on the northwest corner. Bus stops are on all corners. All buildings shown in this 1950s photo are still there.

Any ideas where this week’s mystery photo is located?

Milwaukee St. John Mariner Bldg -1937 AD

First office building in Milwaukee to have year round “air conditioning” with windows that could not be opened by tenants. When I worked there in the 1970s the old York “ice” machine was still in the basement, however a new chiller had been installed because the old one was not fully automatic.

Another interesting part of the cooling was the roof had a sprinkler system and “high” drain covers that would allow for flooding of the roof on hot days to “reflect the heat of the sun and to keep the roof cool with water.

This building is now the Hotel Metro and was designed by Eschweiler & Eschweiler – at one time all of the great Art Moderne features of the interior could be seen. I am certain that the renovation of the building eradicated most of it.

Library of Congress Baseball Cards

The Library of Congress has an interesting online collection of baseball cards from around 1910. This collection includes quite a few of the players on the Milwaukee team. The cards can be seen here.

Monday Milwaukee Mystery

Here is a mystery building that was located in the heart of downtown up until about 1912. This picture was taken around 1905 and looks west. It once housed a well-known early day bookseller. What was the building and where was it located?

Library Online Sanborn Maps

The Milwaukee Public Libraries has just added a new subscription to Sanborn historical fire insurance maps. These can be accessed with your library card from home. This is a great resource and includes maps from 1894, 1910, and 1951 which cover the entire city.

Monday Milwaukee Mystery

This view of 1940s Milwaukee is looking east and is on the edges of downtown. The Italianate building which is now demolished belonged to the English Woolen Mills and was a coat store. Most of the buildings in this area are now gone but some people may be able to ID the church in the background which is still there.

Monday Milwaukee Mystery

Today we are traveling back to the 1940s but staying downtown. Not many clues for this difficult puzzler but we are looking south. The rest of the clues are in the picture; streetcar tracks, the street angles, etc. Good luck guessing!