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!

Curry-Pierce Building Renovations, April 25, 1992

The beginning of the push towards redevelopment of the short 700 block of North Milwaukee street began in the early 1990s. Now, this block is very vibrant with a large amount of clubs and restaurants and continues to improve. It stands as a link in the chain of popular East Town businesses that continue along Mason Street and up Jefferson Street.

It is interesting to see how Daniel McCarthy of the City DCD could not foresee the elements that would eventually transform the area. The older property owners could not envision that the moving force for development would be entertainment spots that drew a younger, urban crowd to the area. This was in opposition to the marketing which tried to keep businesses which sold upscale linens or wanted department store shopping like Chapman’s.

Nevertheless, the Curry-Pierce building presents an iconic, old-world face that invites people to the Milwaukee Street area.

MILWAUKEE SENTINEL Saturday, April 25,1992

Renovations seen as way to help put East Town back on map

Sentinel staff writer

The 700 block of North Milwaukee Street has some of downtown’s oldest — and emptiest — buildings.

That reflects both the potential and problems of the surrounding neighborhood, developers and city officials say.

The buildings’ historic and architectural character can attract tenants. But restoring the buildings while maintaining their character can be costly.

The area got a boost this week when TMB Development Co. announced plans to spend $2.7 million renovating two historic buildings at the northeast corner of North Milwaukee Street and East Wisconsin Avenue into retail and office space.

The project, known as Curry-Pierce, is important because “it speaks a great deal to the confidence in the area,” said Daniel J. McCarthy, of the Department of City Development.

Curry-Pierce, which includes a building that dates back to 1866, shows that downtown’s older buildings can be restored for commercial use, said Thomas H. Miller, of the development department.

The project also will remove a highly visible eyesore that scared away prospective developers and tenants, said Thomas Gale, a real estate broker with The Harrigan Co. and vice president of the East Town Association, an organization of downtown businesses, institutions and residents.

Mark Gleischman, whose GS Properties owns older buildings at 715-723 N. Milwaukee St., said the TMB project is good news. But Gleischman said Curry-Pierce won’t necessarily bring other developments to the block.

“I don’t know that it signals the beginning of a trend of any kind,” he said.

East Town — an area bounded by Lake Michigan, the Milwaukee River, East Ogden Avenue and East Clybourn Street — was once home to a posh retail area in the 700 blocks of North Jefferson and North Milwaukee streets.

But the opening of the Grand Avenue retail center in 1982 drew shoppers to downtown’s west side.

Also, the T.A. Chapman Co. department store, a retail anchor for East Town, closed in 1981. An office tower at 411 E. Wisconsin Ave. now stands where the Chapman store was.

“When Chapman’s went out, that sort of doomed Milwaukee Street,” said George Watts, chairman of George Watts & Son china, silver and crystal shop at 761 N. Jefferson St.

Watts says his business has thrived because its customers are willing to come downtown. Watts said stores in East Town need to offer specialty products that will draw sophisticated customers from the suburbs and beyond.

One such store, however, moved from East Town to Mequon in 1991. Percy’s, an upscale linen and clothing store, moved from 719 N. Milwaukee St. after 10 years at that location and another 10 years on North Jefferson Street.

Thelma Percy, who operates the shop, said the Milwaukee Street block had nine empty storefronts. That made it harder to draw customers, she said.

She also said the area didn’t have enough parking, something echoed by Watts. Percy’s now operates at 11041 N. Port Washington Road.

McCarthy said East Town has a lot of parking spaces with short-term meters. The department needs to study ways to keep East Town office workers from using the spaces all day, he said.

Another possible solution is valet parking, McCarthy said. HP said a city-owned parking structure at North Milwaukee and East Michigan streets could be used.

An estimated 45,000 workers are in East Town’s offices and businesses daily, McCarthy said. He said the department, property owners and the East Town Association should find better ways of learning what goods and services those workers want.

That information then should be used to more aggressively attract retail businesses to East Town, McCarthy said. That could draw businesses like drug stores or dry cleaners, he said.

Even if those moves were successful, however, there would be other vacancies to fill.

Retail businesses, whether specialty shops like George Watts or services like dry cleaners, like to be on the street level of buildings. Upper levels are generally used for offices and residences.

Charles Trainer, a partner in TMB Development, says TMB’s Curry-Pierce project will attract other retail businesses to the block.

But Trainer said it will be harder for the block’s other buildings to fill their upper levels. Unlike Curry-Pierce, the other buildings are in the middle of the block and have less window space, making them less attractive, he said.

“It’s a tough one.” Trainer said.

Gleischman said the buildings owned by GS Properties have retail businesses on the street level but have had vacant upper levels for several years.

“The buildings are old and antiquated and difficult for people to use.” Gleischman said. “I don’t know what you can use that space for.”

McCarthy said the demand for downtown office space, which is low, will eventually rebound. He also said more apartments and condominiums are being built downtown.

In the meantime, Watts said East Town should market its other advantages: relatively low rents, a safe atmosphere and a cultural vibrancy.

“It’s boring out in the shopping centers.” Watts said. “It’s a cultural drabness that’s unreal.”

Monday Milwaukee Mystery

Here is an old photo of some mystery buildings that were located downtown. This is a view from the 1880s and shows an interesting gothic building. Where was this located?