George Washington Bay View Post 180 May Be Demolished

August 1, 2018

George Washington Bay View Legion Post 180.      Courtesy GW BV Post 180

“A Bay View landmark since 1941, this building has served its country as home to the George Washington Bay View American Legion Post 180. Now it’s time to serve the community in a different way.” So reads a sentence in First Weber Realtors’ listing for the red brick building perched on the corner of Kinnickinnic and Fulton.

An offer to purchase the property, 2860 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., is pending, contingent on the prospective buyer successfully obtaining a raze permit from the city of Milwaukee, according to Emily Huf of Shoreline Contracting Services, Milwaukee.

Huf filed the application to raze the building on behalf of her client July 30.

Huf said the buyer’s identity will be revealed “as soon as the city issues the raze permit.” She anticipates the review process, which includes searching for existing historic preservation designation or other restrictions, will take about two weeks.

The property is listed for $699,000.

The 7,194-square-foot building consists of an open auditorium on the main floor and a bar and restaurant on the lower level, equipped with a full kitchen and walk-in cooler. The lot is .69 acres and includes a 54-space parking lot.

As the Compass reported in 2014, Post 180 began in June 1927 when Fred Osterndorf, who later became the post’s first commander, began recruiting local veterans to a Bay View chapter of the national American Legion. In 1928, the post was chartered as Bay View Post 180 and was headquartered in a (no longer existing) building, 2530 S. Shore Dr., that it leased from the Carnegie Illinois Steel Company of Chicago. Soon the post’s membership grew and its services expanded. By the next decade, it became clear the post needed to move to a larger building. The building it now occupies was erected  in 1941. The post purchased the land from the city of Milwaukee and constructed the building for $25,000.

In 1971, Bay View Post 180 merged with the St. Francis Post and was re-chartered as Bay View St. Francis Post 180. After another merger in 2002 with the George Washington Post, it was renamed yet again, and still today goes by the name George Washington Bay View Post 180. The function of the organization has remained the same throughout its nearly 90 year history—to mentor and sponsor youth programs, promote and advocate for veterans affairs, to rehabilitate veterans, and to provide a social and democratic forum for veterans.

At one time, Post 180 boasted 1,000-plus members but by 2014, it had dwindled to 177.

In 2014, Bob Schlemm, a 40-year Post 180 member said that his group was confronting the perception that the Legion was for senior veterans. “We’re struggling right now,” he said. “We’re struggling to find memberships, and it’s not that we’re short of veterans…We just went down to the Reserve Center two weekends ago and one of the things we were approached with was, ‘Well I’m not 60, 70 years old; why would I want to belong to an American Legion? My father belonged to it.’”

Constructed in 1941, the brick Georgian Revival building was designed by Nicholas Backes, who also designed the former American Legion Headquarters in Milwaukee, 812 E. State Street, in 1923.

A number of different restaurateurs operated as tenants in the building. The most recent was Little DeMarinis pizzeria, which closed in March.

A review of the Wisconsin Historical Society’s Architecture and History Inventory records would indicate that there are no existing historical designations for the building.

This report will be updated when the Compass receives comment from the Legion’s members.

In 1928 the first local post was chartered as Bay View Post 180 and was headquartered in a building at 2530 S. Shore Drive that it leased from the Carnegie Illinois Steel Company of Chicago. Courtesy George Washington Bay View American Legion Post 180

 

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