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.