Mystery Buildings

Mystery Building, 2401 S. Kinnickinnic Avenue

April 2, 2012

By Anna Passante

2401 S. Kinnickinnic Avenue —photo Katherine Keller

Mystery Building 2401 S. Kinnickinnic

A lot of history is packed into this 500-square-foot building at 2401 S. Kinnickinnic. It was moved to this location in 1897 from the 2300 block of Kinnickinnic (the south end of the future site of Alterra Café & Bakery). The building was occupied by the Thomas A. Hanson’s real estate office from 1891 to 1917, the Gerling Bros. coal company office from 1917 to around 1950, and the Northwest Heating & Air Conditioning until 1976. In the late 1970s and 80s it housed a clock/watch repair shop, an appliance repair, and a variety store.

A shoe shop no more

August 1, 2011

By Anna Passante

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A sign on the door of 2551 S. Logan Ave. is a curiosity, drawing the attention of passersby: “Shop established 1930. Not responsible for shoes left over 30 days. Please do not ask for credit.”

The sign once advertised the Logan Avenue Shoe Clinic, operated by Heinz (Henry) Lingen in the rear section of this building. Fred Schumacher’s grocery store occupied the building’s front section from 1911 to 1922, at which time Schumacher’s son, Otto, closed the grocery and operated the Logan Park Realty and the Woodlawn Cemetery Office from this storefront.

By the late 1940s Lingen owned the building and moved his shoe shop from the rear to the front. Lingen continued to operate the shop until his death in 1964. John Manke, a great-grandson of Fred Schumacher, remembers as a child taking shoes there to be repaired.

Daniel Walz, the present owner of the building, recalls taking his ice skates there to be sharpened. His father, Richard Walz, bought the building around 1965. Daniel’s mother was responsible for finding the shoe shop sign and placing it in the window. Today Walz uses the building for storage.

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1905 Colonial Revival apartments soon to be more memory than mystery

May 29, 2011

By Anna Passante

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—photo Michael Timm

Soon this Colonial Revival style apartment building, located at 2438-2444 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., will be no more. It is slated to be razed and replaced with a 70-unit, five-story, mixed-use building.

The 5,060-square-foot, four-unit apartment building was built in 1905 at a cost of $7,000 and was designed by local architect Nicholas Dornbach. The apartment site was once part of the Joseph Williams farmstead. John C. Julien purchased the property from George Edmunds, Jr. in 1882.

Two years before the apartment’s construction, a one-story cottage located on the property was moved around the corner to 625 E. Conway St. where it remains today. According to a 1903 building permit, Dr. William Bachelor, who lived across the street, owned the cottage. In 1906 he sold it to Herman Haffemeister.

Julien and his wife Calista lived in a house just south of the property, presently addressed 2448 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. Julien was an assistant engineer for the city of Milwaukee Water Department at the North Point Pump Works. When John C. Julien died in 1907, his wife moved into one of the apartments addressed 2444 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. In 1924, the building was converted to its present-day eight apartments.

Julien’s son, John B., owned a plumbing company, J.B. Julien & Co. located at 2242 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., which is presently the site of Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches. In 1903 architect Dornbach designed a building at 2246 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. for John B. Julien just south of the plumbing store that consisted of a storefront and upper flat. In 1907 John F. Freuler rented this storefront for his movie theater, the Comique, which ran until 1909. Presently BYO Studio, an art gallery/cocktail bar, occupies the storefront.

Information from Carlen Hatala of city of Milwaukee Historic Preservation Commission, deeds, city directories, and building permits.


Sandstone-clad building once was Graham medical office/residence

May 1, 2011

By Anna Passante

Graham building AHI 27767 WHS

~photo courtesy Wisconsin Historical Society AHI 27767

This unique sandstone building was known over 100 years ago as the Graham Building. Located at 2329-31 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., this is one of the few surviving sandstone-clad buildings in Milwaukee. The other most notable survivors are the Button Block building at 500 N. Water St. and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church at 914 E. Knapp St.

“There is no building quite like this one in Milwaukee,” according to Carlen Hatala of the Milwaukee Historic Preservation Commission.

The Graham Building once housed a hospital and medical office owned by Dr. Charles Wesley Graham. The architectural firm of Jacobi & Birnbach designed it, and A.G. Taddy did the stonework, using sandstone most likely quarried near Lake Superior. This Colonial Revival style building has a flat roof, with a projecting two-story curved bay and leaded-glass transoms. The original building permits show that in 1900 the building contained an apartment and four small offices.

Dr. Graham practiced medicine specializing in the treatment of acute and chronic diseases of the ear, nose, throat, and chest, according to Hatala. Having a small hospital on the premises enabled Graham to accommodate and treat out-of-town patients or “those who have not the proper convenience to carry out the instructions of their physician at their city residences,” wrote Jerome Watrous in his book Memoirs of Milwaukee County. It had a “cozy, homelike atmosphere… at reasonable rates,” Watrous wrote.

Some of the offices were rented to other businesses, such as the dentist office of Samuel G. Keller from 1908 to the early 1930s. In 1909 a garage, with an upper flat, designed by A.M. Christiansen, was constructed next door, which may have accommodated patients. After his death in the late 1920s, Graham’s widow continued to live in the building until 1935.

The building now houses apartment units. Dr. Michelle Zitzke recently moved her business, Z Chiropractic, into one of these units. The garage, addressed 2335 S. KK, presently houses the Tonic Tavern on the first floor and an apartment on the second.

Information from Carlen Hatala, Bay View Neighborhood Historic Survey, and city online assessment page.

Mystery Lot is wooded

February 27, 2011

By Anna Passante

Mystery Lot

The wooded lot pictured here is surrounded on three sides by the alleys of S. Austin, E. Dewey, and E. Schiller streets, with the east bordering two buildings that front S. Howell Avenue. At one time this 1.25-acre space was directly in the path of the Kosciuszko-Humboldt Parkway that was being planned in 1910. This parkway, connecting Kosciuszko and Humboldt parks, was part of a master plan to develop a “green belt area” linking most of the city parks by landscaped boulevards. Due to financial constraints it never happened. Instead, the majority of this wooded lot remained as the backyard of two properties—2857 S. Howell Ave. (Gary’s Pet Jungle) and 2905 S. Howell Ave.

Information from A City Park for the South Side, 1889-1936; interview with two owners of 2857 and 2905 S. Howell Ave.; online city assessment records.

January 30, 2011

Mystery Building Feb 2011
Community center’s past

Even though the upturned-cornered roof on the building at 1320 E. Oklahoma Ave. gives it a pagoda-style look, the building was never a Buddhist temple. Rather it was the site of the Bay View branch of the YMCA from 1957 until the branch was disbanded in 1974. The Faith Baptist Church occupied the building from 1974 to 1977, and from 1977 into the 1980s it housed the Christian Day School. The Bay View Community Center moved into the building in 1989 and still occupies it.

Information is from the book Bay View Neighborhood Historic Resource Survey.

Kohl’s started in Bay View

October 31, 2010

By Anna Passante

Mystery Building Nov 2010

~photo Michael Timm

The vacant lot at the northwest corner of Lincoln Avenue and Woodward Street (630 E. Lincoln Ave.) was once the site of the Kohl grocery store operated by Max Kohl, the father of Wisconsin’s U.S. Senator Herb Kohl.

Max Kohl, born in 1901, had immigrated to Milwaukee from Poland in the mid-1920s, and in 1927 opened his grocery at Lincoln and Woodward. Kohl operated the grocery until 1935. The building was razed in the mid-1980s.

Source: Greg Bird’s April 2001 Bay View Historian article

Hidden distillery was inside

October 1, 2010

By Anna Passante


On the southwest corner of Superior and Potter stands a one-story, curved brick building, 1411 E. Potter Ave., connected to a two-story brick building.

During the 1930s and ’40s, a gas station occupied the present site of the curved building. The two-story brick building housed a first-floor grocery and second-floor apartment. In 1945 the curved building was constructed (three gas station buildings were incorporated into the new building) and was attached to the grocery building.

When current owner Robert Meyer bought the property from Louis Paradise in 1990, he discovered a secret room that once held a distillery and cooler for making bootleg liquor during Prohibition. Meyer presently uses the curved building for his woodworking hobby.

Mystery Building—Old Stollenwerk warehouse

March 1, 2010

By Anna Passante

Mystery Building rear March 2010

~photo Michael Timm

This Cream City brick warehouse building was constructed in 1922 on the rear lot of Joseph and Nicholas Stollenwerk’s hardware store (now Faust Music) located at 2202-06 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. In 1935 it housed the Peerless Pattern Corporation, a metal pattern manufacturer, but is now used again as a warehouse. The structure is adjacent to the Ward Street parking lot, but the turret on its southeastern quadrant is only visible from the alley to its east.

Information from building permits and assessment records.

Mystery Building—The Palmer House

January 31, 2010

By Anna Passante

Mystery Building Jan 2010

~photo Anna Passante

The Palmer House at 2425-27 S. St. Clair St. was built around 1867 by the Milwaukee Iron Company as a boarding house for its mill workers. This Second Empire-style building was named for an 1880s proprietor. Over the years the building housed a bakery, a restaurant, and a tavern, and it now houses three rental units.

Information from the Wisconsin State Historical Society website and city assessment records.

Mystery Building—Former Delaware Ave. barn

November 24, 2009

~photo Anna Passante

~photo Anna Passante

The building at 2545 S. Delaware Ave. was once a barn and was converted to a house in 1905. In 1928, Dr. Dominic Gardetto owned the house and added the front bay and front side wing for his physician office. In 1941, the building housed a beauty parlor, and in 1982, a fishing bait shop. The building is now a residential duplex.

Information from building permits and assessment records.

Mystery Building—Bay View Red Cat Academy

August 27, 2009

By Catherine Jozwik

On the southeast corner of Russell Avenue and Lenox Street sits a neoclassical building with an odd, an architecturally dissonant addition to its west and north faces. ~photo Michael Timm

~photo Michael Timm

On the southeast corner of Russell Avenue and Lenox Street sits a neoclassical building with an odd, an architecturally dissonant addition to its west and north faces.

After the city of Milwaukee had allotted $30,000 in bonds for the construction of libraries, the Llewellyn Public Library, 907 E. Russell Ave., was built in 1914. It was designed by architect Van Ryn and DeGelleke on a site donated by Silas J. and John T. Llewellyn. The building was remodeled and received a new addition in 1959. In 1993, the Llewellyn Library closed its doors, replaced by the Bay View Library at 2566 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.

Bay View High School started leasing the space from the city in 1995 for its Red Cat Academy. The academy used to hold classes for freshman and sophomore students in both the construction and Junior ROTC programs, but due to budget constraints, the academy was closed for the 2007-08 school year.

Currently, the Red Cat Academy houses a program teaching life and job skills to overage students, ages 18-21, after they graduate. Students can also earn credits for doing volunteer work.  »Read more

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