Ben Tyjeski Blog Post Update

For any readers that aren’t familiar with Ben Tyjeski, he is a local sculptor that works in clay and terra cotta. He also is the expert on architectural terra cotta in the city and has written extensively about it. He has given tours of the best terra cotta you can find in Milwaukee.

His blog can be found here and I suggest you bookmark it and sign up for his emails when he updates the blog.

His latest post is about terra cotta related to brewery buildings in Milwaukee and as always, is great to read and learn!

New Year’s Eve Parties 1948-49

A couple of the great parties to ring in the new year of 1949. From the Milwaukee Sentinel.

Happy New Year!

Happy Sledding!

Happy sledding, sailor boy!

Charles Whitnall’s Civic Environmentalism

One hundred years ago on August 2, 1920, the Socialist newspaper, “The Milwaukee Leader” wrote an article about a push by C.B. Whitnall, member of the Metropolitan Park Commission, to have municipal control of land along the rivers to improve health conditions and property values. He wanted the land north of the North Avenue dam protected by city-owned parks. His ideas eventually became a reality through his efforts and even today the parks that line the river basin provide an amazing recreational spot and have helped to improve the river so that it is much cleaner than it once was.

The following text was from a publication he put together in 1920 called “What Prosperity Costs Milwaukee.” It is interesting to see that he was ahead of his time with some of the current issues we still face about public responsibility and trying to save taxes by not spending for things that will save taxes in the future. It required a lot of forethought and will for him to do the right thing. This park land Whitnall helped create continues to improve the quality of life for nearly a hundred years.

We read in the history of the decline of empires or nations, and we marvel at the ignorance and apathy of the people that brought about the decline. Yet our citizens today do not blame themselves for like conditions in Milwaukee.

“If some one should prove to us that in the last 20 years Milwaukee, through her own shortsightedness, has suffered a loss in property and human life equal to the property value of Racine, we would at once realize that a serious state of affairs existed. Something like that has really occurred. We find that although the city keeps increasing in size and number, a deplorable loss constantly takes place. Growing under those circumstances, it is like trying to fill a barrel which leaks.

“By the time you get it full you have used barrels of water. Labor in Milwaukee is being taxed directly or indirectly for filling a leaking barrel, whereas an additional expenditure properly applied would stop the leakage. Yet many of our citizens and non-partisan newspapers say we cannot afford to mend the barrel until after we have filled it. The filling is a vital necessity. The repairing in the public opinion is not. This is the penny wise and pound foolish economy now being advocated by the “keep down the tax” economist.

Perhaps the greatest decline in property value during the time stated has been north of the Menomonee River, paralleling Grand Avenue. Every real estate dealer has continual inquiry from residents of this locality for trades, seeking homes along the lake shore. Why? Because Grand Avenue is ruined, while the lake shore property is sanitary and attractive. We have a special tax of $25,000 a year that the park department is obliged to use for improvement of the lake shore. This is equal to an annual interest paying on $625,000 that never can be reduced. Although desirable, it does not promote the sanitation of the afflicted locality from which they are fleeing, or prevent further development of devitalizing conditions in other sections of the city. These are some of the palatial homes on Grand Avenue lately put on the declining market for want of support-Alexander Mitchell, now the Deutscher Club, James Kneeland, three Plankinton homesteads, Captain Pabst’s residence, the Schandein residence, and several others that can be had for far less than the cost.

People who can afford buildings of such size and quality will no longer endure the objectionable conditions which have quietly and steadily grown upon the neighborhood through lack of foresight. A conservative estimate of the depreciation is five million dollars. This is a net loss to the city of $100,000 a year in taxes. This unusual loss to the city might have been prevented by proper care exercised in time. However, we should not blame former administrations for what they may not have been able to comprehend or anticipate. But with this deplorable state of affairs in plain view, how can we expect to be forgiven for not making every effort to prevent a like loss in other localities? Surely here is a condition in which history should not repeat itself.

The next step downward has already begun. Building operations under disguise of improvements are being made to crowd more people on a lot so as to maintain as far as possible the normal income. As the crowding increases the desirability lessens, and unless the city as a whole recognizes its responsibility, slum territories will be the inevitable followers of what was at one time the pride of the west side. Sanitary conditions are growing worse all the time. The waste of humanity, however, will continue to spread beyond such sources of pestilence. They cannot be confined within the boundary line of landlords’ possessions. The chain is no stronger than its weakest link, and our city’s health, physique and moral condition is vitiated as a whole by such cancerous spots.

Although we have suffered this loss of approximating $100,000 a year on the Grand Avenue depreciation, we are, nevertheless, obliged to do, at much greater expense, that which should have been done to prevent this loss. Had this territory been taken by the city and managed as is now proposed to manage the shores of upper Milwaukee River, the Kinnickinnic River and the upper Menomonee River, the city would have received in enhanced taxes an amount equal to its investment, and at the same time, it would have protected the individua1 investors from loss or hardship.

It is now incumbent upon us to prevent the slums of the Fourth Ward from spreading westward to meet the growth of Piggsville in the now reminiscent river at the Blue Mound viaduct. While those who are able to move to more desirable quarters are, as individuals, blame1ess for caring for themselves, the city must not shrink from its responsibility for the protection of the health and property of rich and poor alike. It is imperative that the nuisance of the lower Menomonee be cured, but all of this desirable work cannot be done at once. The cure costs at least four times as much as the prevention. Then will not the public interest be served best by an energetic effort to prevent a repetition of such wasteful circumstances?

Take a walk along the Menomonee Valley from Piggsville to Wauwatosa, and see how surely all that property along Vliet Street to Wauwatosa and west of Washington park will be vitiated in the same way. Likewise the natural residence area along the Blue Mound Road is destined to the same fate if not properly platted, and the natural contour of the land, with its drainage, preserved. What has taken place along the banks of the lower Menomonee has also been repeated on a smaller scale all over the city. What ward of the city has not suffered more or less by such a conflict of interests?”

Robert and His Famous Rules

Anyone that has held a meeting to official standards most likely has followed Robert’s Rules of Order. They even have a website! This has been in book form since 1873 when it was written by Maj. Henry Martyn Robert. Major Robert was a South Carolinian who came to Milwaukee after the Civil War when he was assigned to the Army Corps of Engineers to oversee harbor improvements. Leave it to the long, Milwaukee winters to inspire one to write, even if it isn’t poetry but an extensive rulebook.

Below is an article from the Milwaukee Journal of April 5, 1970 telling the story of Robert’s Rules:

Milwaukee’s Top Seller
The most famous book that ever came out of Milwaukee has just appeared in a new revision. The book is “Robert’s Rules of Order,” and the revision is described by its publisher— Scott, Foresman — as the first major one in 55 years.

It was not quite a century ago that Maj. Henry Martyn Robert of the title began to write out some thoughts on parliamentary procedure. After the Civil War, Robert had come to Milwaukee as an Army engineer concerned with the defense and the improvement of the harbors and light houses of Lake Michigan. He composed his little handbook, he subsequently related, in the winter of 1873-’74 when he “had a few weeks to spare” from his maritime duties.

The Lieutenant Was Embarrassed
The decision to write a simple and practical guide to parliamentary principles grew out of an embarrassment he had suffered during the war. Though he was a South Carolinian by birth, he fought on the Union side.

In 1863, half a dozen years out of West Point, young Lt. Robert was called upon to act as chairman of a meeting of citizens in New Bedford, Mass. The New Bedford whalers were much exercised by Confederate raids on their far ranging ships, and the townspeople gathered in a Baptist church to discuss the matter.

“I plunged in,” Robert wrote later, “trusting that the assembly would behave itself.” On the contrary, the sharp Yankees gave the callow gavel wielder a hard time. Mortified, he set out to learn as much as he could about parliamentary order and put it down briefly and clearly in a single book.

Like many an author before and since, he found publishers less enthusiastic about his project than he was. The big New York house of Appleton promptly rejected the manuscript. Finally he had 4,000 copies “ready printed” at his expense by the Milwaukee job shop of Burdick & Armitage. He talked the Chicago publishing house of C. S. Griggs into having them bound, also at his expense.

About 1,000 copies were given to legislators and others in and out of politics. They found them useful, recommended them to friends, and “Robert’s Rules of Order” was on its way. Its original title was “Pocket Manual of Rules of Order for Deliberative Assembles,” but the publisher printed the other name as a subtitle on the jacket, and that was the one that stuck. The author left Milwaukee in 1878.

2,600,000 Copies and No Paperbacks
Through the years, says the present publisher, the manual has sold well over 2,600,000 copies in seven earlier editions. The new edition has had a first printing of 100,000.

Though Robert died in 1923 (he was then a retired brigadier general), the Robert family has retained a connection with the book and its fortunes. The eighth, current edition was prepared by Mrs. Sarah Corbin Robert, the general’s daughter-in-law, and her son, Henry Martyn Robert III. They had the assistance of James W. Cleary, president of San Fernando State College in California, and William Evans, a Baltimore lawyer and parliamentarian. About three-quarters of the book has been rewritten, so that in its present form it is about twice as long as it was in its previous, 75th anniversary edition.

If a paperback edition had been sanctioned, the sale of the book by this time might be astronomical. But the Robert heirs have insisted that it have hard covers.

Said Henry Martyn Robert III the other day:
“If you use the book as you should, a paperback edition would be worn out in no time.”

More information can be found here.

Thanks for reading!

1941 Bradford Beach

This 1941 photo looks north on Lincoln Memorial Drive at Bradford Beach. The final section of the Drive which connected to Kenwood Boulevard officially opened on September 28, 1929. One interesting side note of the Drive extension to Kenwood is that it displaced a popular free tourist camp on the bluff overlooking the lake at the east end of Kenwood that had operated in the 1920’s. Car camping was a newfound past-time and several thousand people per year would stop and camp there.

Bradford Beach was given the name because it lay directly east of Bradford Avenue. Bradford Beach had been a popular swimming spot for many years prior and was usually accessed by walking down from the bluff or along the lake from further south. Prior to the opening of Lincoln Memorial Drive, Bradford Beach wasn’t too easy to get to by car. The only road was a narrow dirt and sand road so most people walked there from McKinley Beach. Until 1921, McKinley was the preferred spot. It was closer to where most people lived. Polluted water pushed more people further north to the cleaner beach at the foot of Bradford Avenue. On really hot days, both beaches were crowded.

The building shown housed a refreshment stand and changing rooms. It was built in 1927 and lasted until the one that we all know was built in 1949. The current Bath House is an amazing mid-century building that is described as:

Shaped like a ship, this pavilion seems ideally suited to its location on a popular swimming beach. The city built the bathhouse to provide restroom, changing, and bathing facilities. Architects Grunwald and Behrens decked out the two-story, brick and concrete structure with maritime motifs. The upper story opens onto a ship-like promenade deck. The enclosed lower story resembles a ship’s hull, perforated only by doors and glass-block ribbon windows. A curving prow forms the front of the pavilion, and a flagpole rises like a mast. A long, rail-enclosed sundeck trails off to the stern, its twisting staircase descending to the beach.

Postcard: Elk’s Club, Milwaukee

This postcard is not postmarked but predates 1907 (since it has an undivided back). The Elk’s Club was located on the east side of Jefferson between Mason and Wells. Today, that spot is occupied by the block-long Office on the Square building.

The building in this postcard was originally the home of the Phoenix Club. The Elks Club, which was established in 1886, bought and occupied it from 1906 until 1925 when they moved to a huge new building on Mason and Prospect. In 1928, this became the Moose Club building. The building suffered a major five-alarm fire in 1955, was remodeled and reopened, but was razed two years later after another three-alarm fire.

The building to the right is the Layton Art Gallery. It was a donation to the city by philanthropist Frederick Layton. It was built in 1888 and demolished in 1957. In 1957, the gallery merged with the Milwaukee Art Institute, forming the Milwaukee Art Center, and moved to the Milwaukee County War Memorial Center.

The building you can barely see to the left became the Milwaukee Art Institute, but when this photo was taken, it was still the Land, Log, and Lumber Company. It was built in 1893 as a one-story office and was bought in 1911 to house the Milwaukee Art Institute. An extra floor was added in 1921. This building, like the others on the block, was demolished in 1957, but pieces of the facade were salvaged and re-used as decorations in the interior of the Office on the Square building.



PLUS Code: 23RV+5R Milwaukee, Wisconsin

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Postcard: View of Broadway and M. Heimann and Co. Building

This undated postcard shows a block of buildings along Broadway that no longer exists. This view is facing south from Mason toward Wisconsin Avenue. The tall building with the tower is the Railway Exchange Building, built in 1901 and still standing today. Everything to the right of that, however, is gone. Presently, the Two-Fifty Building (250 East Wisconsin) and its parking garage occupy this block.

The first building on the end of the block, the five-story structure across Wisconsin from the Railway Exchange Building, is the Broadway Building, Northwestern Mutual Life’s first office from 1870 to 1885. It was built in 1870 with a mansard roof, but this was partially burned in a fire in 1901 and rebuilt to make a complete floor. In 1940, the building was cut down to two floors and was eventually demolished in 1965.

On the far right, the four-story building with the two curved awnings at street level is the Herold Building. It was built in 1861 as the Bentley European Hotel, bought by the Herold in 1875 and renovated for Herold publisher, William Coleman. The Herold was a German-language newspaper.

In 1885, the Milwaukee Press Club was formed following a meeting in the Herold Building, and it served as the Club’s first offices. The Milwaukee Press Club is the oldest continuously operating press club in North America, and possibly the world. The building was demolished in 1941.

The M. Heimann & Co. Building is featured on the lower half of this postcard. The company launched in 1857 on E. Water Street and moved here in 1872. The business was “exclusively millinery” (makers of hats) and in 1881 it was “one of the largest wholesale houses in the northwest,” employing “ten men in the store” and “125 persons in the house daily, including ladies engaged in manufacturing flowers.” In 1881, the business reported trade of $300,000 to $400,000 per annum, which would be roughly $8 to $10 million in 2020 dollars.

This building was destroyed in a terrible fire in 1918. The blaze was so serious “a repetition of the Third Ward conflagration seemed imminent.” The Sentinel reported that the fire “threatened for a time to destroy the entire block.” (The October 15, 1918 edition that reported on the fire was “issued under extreme difficulties” since the newspaper’s officers were in the Herold building, adjacent to the Heimann Building, and were damaged in the fire.) Two firefighters and two spectators were hurt during the blaze.



PLUS Code: 23QR+XR Milwaukee, Wisconsin

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Postcard: The Auditorium, Milwaukee, Wis.

This undated postcard is of the Milwaukee Auditorium (which is now known as the Miller High Life Theatre).

This site has been a public gathering spot for Milwaukeeans since the earliest years of the city. In 1835, Byron Kilbourn bequeathed the land to the city with the stipulation it be used as public grounds, house a public marketplace, and a specific part would never be built upon. In 1867, Market Hall, a small arcade was built on the site.

Market Hall was torn down in 1880, and the land was given in a 50-year lease to the Milwaukee Industrial Exposition Association in order to build an exposition hall for the city. The Kilbourn family brought an injunction against the city for using the land for non-public use, but the city obtained their permission for the structure. In 1881, a grand Exposition Hall was opened at this location. The hall had the first electric lights in a public building in Milwaukee and featured a large pipe organ, an art gallery, and was the first home of the Milwaukee Public Museum.  The building burned down while hosting a card tournament in June of 1905.

Plans began immediately to replace the Exposition Hall with an auditorium. Some of Kilbourn’s heirs continued to protest that the use of the property would not be purely public; eventually, the Supreme Court ruled that the Auditorium fulfilled the stipulations of Byron Kilbourn’s donation. Since then, his heirs have not disputed the use of the land. The Milwaukee Auditorium opened on September 21, 1909.

On October 14, 1912, former president and then-current presidential candidate Theodore Roosevelt delivered a speech at the Milwaukee Auditorium shortly after a failed assassination attempt that left him with a bullet in his chest. He was shot a block away from the Auditorium at the Gilpatrick Hotel but declined to go to the hospital before giving his speech. The bullet lodged in Roosevelt’s chest only after hitting both his steel eyeglass case and a 50-page copy of his speech.

Roosevelt began his speech by saying, “Friends, I shall ask you to be as quiet as possible. I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot.” He delivered his scheduled speech with blood seeping into his shirt and spoke for 90 minutes. An X-ray showed that the bullet had lodged in Roosevelt’s chest muscle but did not penetrate the pleura. Doctors concluded that it would be less dangerous to leave it in place than to attempt to remove it, and Roosevelt carried the bullet with him for the rest of his life. He died seven years later.

Roosevelt’s would-be assassin was John Schrank, an unemployed New York City saloonkeeper who had stalked his prey around the country for weeks.  He had dreamt that President McKinley sat up in his coffin, pointed at Theodore Roosevelt, called him a murderer, and demanded his death be avenged. (McKinley was assassinated in 1901 by an anarchist.) Schrank pled guilty, was determined to be insane, and spent 29 years in the Central State Hospital for the Criminally Insane in Waupun, Wisconsin before dying in 1943.

The Auditorium was the site of other controversial and newsworthy happenings. During the influenza epidemic of 1917 and 1918, the Auditorium instigated “influenza seating;” rows were spaced widely, and monitors sat at the ends to catch signs of sickness. When the sickness was at its height, the building became a hospital to care for the afflicted.

In the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan wanted to have a rally in the building “to teach law and order.” Mayor Daniel W. Hoan wrote back, “you come here and touch a hair on the head of one Catholic, one Jew, one chiropractor, or one anything else, and I’ll make this the hottest place this side of hell for the Ku Klux Klan.” In 1938, a German group was not allowed to meet in the structure because of tension caused by World War II (despite Milwaukee’s deep German heritage).

The theater has hosted many of the nation’s most famous artists. Opera stars Geraldine Farrar, Olga Samaroff and Enrico Caruso performed on stage. So did John Philip Sousa and Louis Armstrong. In 1948, the Polka King contest crowned legendary Frankie Yankovic and Four Cleveland Kids as the best polka band. In the 1960s and 1970s, the list of artists who performed here included Herman’s Hermits, Lou Reed, Santana, Frank Zappa, The Kinks, Rush, The Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, Alice Cooper, Kiss, and Phil Collins.

To the right, you see 5th Street. The Auditorium Annex housed the original front façade along Fifth Street. The street was closed when the Arena was built next door in 1950, and today the front entrance is on Kilbourn.


Identifiers: 95

AHI 73319

PLUS Code: 23RJ+RP Milwaukee, Wisconsin

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Postcard: Skyline from South Shore Park, Milwaukee, Wis.

This postcard is postmarked 1937. It shows a lovely view of the Milwaukee harbor and skyline from South Shore Park in the 1930s.

The land for the South Shore Park was originally part of the farm of Bay View pioneer Elijah Stone Estes. Estes moved from North Carolina because he abhorred the slavery that was prevalent in the state. He stopped in Chicago and then headed north to claim land south of Milwaukee. Estes’ 150-acre holding ran from the lakeshore to the east, the Chicago & Northwestern track to the west, today’s Nock Street on the north, and the St. Francis Seminary on the south.

The land for 47-acre South Shore Park was acquired between 1909 and 1929. The first 15.32 acres of the park were purchased in 1909 for $59,000 and the property was called Seventeenth Ward Lake Shore Park. The current pavilion in the park, which may barely be evident on the left side behind the trees, was constructed in 1934 to replace one built in 1912.

You can see the South Shore Yacht Club club at the base of the hill. The club’s first clubhouse was a rented house on Beulah Avenue (now South Shore Drive). The second clubhouse was an old schooner, the LILLY E, that served the club from 1916 to 1921. The ship fell into disrepair during WWI, and in 1921 was driven ashore during a storm. In 1922, yacht club members doused the wrecked ship with oil and watched her burn to embers. The club’s current front gate stands immediately above the final resting spot of her bow. The sailing club’s next home was a welded steel barge moored at the foot of Nock Street. In October 1929 a fierce storm caused the barge to break free of its mooring, forcing the barge ashore and completely destroying it. In the years following, the city of Milwaukee created land for the new clubhouse by extending the Lake Michigan shoreline at the foot of E. Nock Street, which is what you see in this postcard. The South Short Yacht Club’s first true clubhouse was built on the landfill in 1938.

The Milwaukee skyline is over three miles away and a bit indistinct in this postcard.



PLUS Code: X4VC+74 Milwaukee, Wisconsin

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