My photography primarily focuses on the built city and city life. It's urban. From hanging around the Historic Walker's Point Neighborhood in 1982 to my current studio in Riverwest with many stops in between, I live in and have developed a deep passion for city life. This includes everything from street art and civic nature to former industrial sites redeveloped for today's urban lifestyle. From the preservation of unique architecture to the thoughtful adaptive-reuse of old spaces in need, all of this has a place in my camera's lens.
EMIL Radke Grocery / 53206
This once absolutely marvel of architecture by John Roth, Jr. is located at the corner of 12th & Chambers. It was built in 1905 for the grocer Emil Radke at a cost of $6,000. There is also a Pabst tied house on the opposite corner, complete with the company logo, for those interested in that sort of thing.
Getting the biography of the building was the easy part; deciding whether or not to post the photos I took early this morning was the difficult part. Most of the buildings I photograph are fixable, they may have heavy deferred maintenance, but they are salvageable. This building is beyond that. Would there be a point in showing these photos? Wouldn't that only cause scorn and other negative feelings?
After I took these photos this morning I joined up with a group of people who were on a "Jane's Walk" which started on 9th & Vliet and ended on Cesar Chavez (16th St.) and Greenfield, over 5 miles walking from start to end. These walks are named in honor of the new urbanist Jane Jacobs who protected and defended Greenwich Village in NYC during the 1960's when there was a attitude of knock everything old down and call it in the name of progress, just like what happened here in parts of Milwaukee. There was little to no regard in how people actually lived in cities, not merely existed in them.
The walk I was on primarily focused on how public art could help bring people together who usually wouldn't cross over into other sides or neighborhoods of the city. Art, to me, is very important. Without it I would be lost. That being the case, of course more art would be a better thing for me. Then I thought back to the marvelous building I photographed prior to the walk. Would a really cool sculpture on the corner help someone who may have lived in this building recently? For that matter, who really cares who John Roth, Jr. may or may not have been. The grocery store part of the history does matter.
How to make our city more harmonious and livable for everyone is an enormously difficult question, one I'm not suited to answer or figure out. I'm a big believer in the ability to change, that goes for both people and neighborhoods. Since people make up the neighborhoods, change the former and the later will follow. So that circles back to art. Art has the intrinsic ability to change your mindset. A change in negative mindset is the first thing needed to build positive change. Once enough people start to collectively have positive thoughts then change is inevitable. You just need to take that first step and have faith. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase." Mahatma Gandhi says, "Faith is not something to grasp, it is state to grow into." Both of these men understood that change does not happen overnight, nor even in a single year, but over a long arc of time.
It's the most beautiful grocery store I've ever seen. Check out that third floor round window with how the window panes are divided in that curved manner. Unbelievable. Check out the three round top windows on the second floor and how the brick work circles the top of the windows, each brick cut individually (by hand, mind you) and perfectly mitered (or interlocked) where they meet each other. Check out the brick details on the corners. Most of the ornamentation which isn't brick is tin metal, stamped with ropes and other profiles usually reserved for wood mouldings...exquisite art. The best art. Neighborhood art. Urban art. Nature art. All art.
TEUTONIA AVENUE STATE BANK / 53206
Teutonia Avenue State Bank, built in 1926 at 2803 N. Teutonia Ave., was designed by the architectural firm Dick & Bauer. Gustave Dick and Alexander Bauer are best known for the work designing theaters, most recognizable today is The Oriental Theater on the east side of Milwaukee. While the Oriental cost $1.5 million to build, this bank only cost $60,000 and both buildings opened to the public within one year of each other. But, unlike the other old historic banks I've posted about recently, this building still is full of life and is the home to the cafe Coffee Makes You Black. Unfortunately there was a fire in 1971 which ruined most of the bank's interior, but the high ceilings and windows inside the cafe do point to it's original purpose. There still is a safe too.
One interesting nugget I learned is that "Teutonia" means "Land of the Germans" as this area was once heavily populated by people of German ancestry. I never knew where the name Teutonia came from.
Of great interest to me that I don't know is the history of the terracotta motif above the double doorway. It shows 2 large cats with wings on either side of an urn or vessel with leaves. Maybe it isn't symbolic of anything at all, rather just an exotic artistic expression of popular imagery for that time. A very well kept original and beautiful building located on a busy corner with lots of foot traffic coming and going, just as it was in 1926.
merchant & farmers state bank / 52309
Merchant & Farmers State Bank was built in 1910 at 3338 N. Green Bay Avenue. The architect was John Roth, Jr. and he designed quite a few properties in the area as well as immediately east of the Milwaukee River. He also lived in the area at 1st & Locust, which may have been a contributing reason to why a lot of his commissions were nearby...until the day he died. Reportedly, both John and his wife Eleanore died on the same November day in 1944 of the same cause, a heart attack.
The bank was founded by two local businessmen, both named Frank. Frank Fischer was the president of the bank and a harness maker whose lived a couple of addresses north, on the same side of the street. Frank Seemann, the vice-president, was a grocer of flour and seed and he lived a few more addresses north, across the street. Rounding out the staff was cashier Peter Leuch and assistant cashier Edward Kambe.
Green Bay Avenue slightly curves where the bank is located, and the building was designed to take advantage of that exposure. The main entrance portico is elaborately curved and follows the street. Above the portico sits two windows and a copper soffit which travels the entire length of the building. At the northern end of the building, a sharp corner cuts to the east and the copper soffit detail returns, then returns again for a finished look. Leaded glass windows, which are divided into an elaborate pattern, can be seen underneath the protective sheets of stamped metal with more cut stone corbels centered over each opening.
While many buildings take advantage of being located on corners, I don't see many designed in such a way that the building flows with the street and allows your eye to travel along with it. A terrific work by an architect who, perhaps, made the trek from his boyhood home in Cedarburg along the same Green Bay Road where it still stands today.
george's full service gas station / 53210
George's Full Service Gas Station at 4906 W. Lisbon just might be the last of it's kind. I can't think of any other gas station around that looks like this, with a sign like that. The building dates back to 1923 and proudly states to be independent since 1946. That was when George Fenninger got out of World War II and got a loan of $5,000 from his uncle to start the business. According to George Fenninger, Jr. in a video I found, gas at the time was under 20 cents a gallon. The video is from 2013 when the station was open but now the station and the 320 square foot office is closed.
I must have passed this station a thousand times in my life but never stopped. I guess the lesson reinforced to me is that if something looks neat, or unique, or otherwise catches your attention, you should try to find time to stop for a moment. That could be said of a church, gas station, an old tree or a person who is always sitting at that same bench. Nostalgia can suck and is not really avoidable, so better to enjoy what's in front of you now while you can.
edward millot, jr. building / 53208
The Edward Millot, Jr. Building at 4719-25 W. North Ave. was built in 1929 and designed by William Herbst. This Art Deco commercial building with apartments on the second and third floor is on the bustling 47th & North intersection where Lisbon Ave. crosses through...another one of those fun diagonal streets with lots of activity and traffic. Highway 175 begins and ends there now too (freeways didn't exist in 1929) which makes it extra fun.
Edward Millot, Jr. was the Secretary-Treasury of the W.F. Nackie Paper Company. Nackie Paper Company moved into their newly constructed building in 1921 on Jefferson St. in the Third Ward. With over 36,000 square feet and "thoroughly modern equipment" they specialized in Bristol and Orkid paper. Bristol paper was used as an everyday paper for common printing of documents and such, while Orkid seems to be more of a thicker product usually reserved for book covers. The Nackie building, which was at 340 N. Jefferson, no longer stands.
What caught my attention while walking elsewhere, besides traffic coming at from all directions, was the Millot name in a terra-cotta relief still above the side door. Well, what remains of it at least. Usually we see the name of the building across the top, but not in this case. Being terra-cotta, also, made it very cool and unusual in addition to the location on the building. The Art Deco movement was like that though, and trying to revolutionize much about how buildings were designed and thinking of concepts more exotic than the traditional orders, something more fun and energetic.
Although Herbst may not be the most recognized name in Milwaukee's rich architectural past, the company he founded back then has gone on to become perhaps the most recognizable name practicing today, Eppstein Uhen Architects. Nearly 90 years after this Art Deco project, now EUA continues working on fun and energetic projects. The new U.S. Cellular stage at Summerfest in 2018 will be their latest gig.
Mount moriah baptist church / 53212
These are from Mount Moriah Baptist Church at 2747 N. 4th St. about a block away from the Welford Sanders Lofts project (the redevelopment of the old Nunn Bush Shoe Company factory). The church, designed by Harry Hensel and built in 1910, is in rough shape. From talking with people walking past me and doing some research on line, it seems like the church leaders have sold anything of value from the church to raise funds and build their new one, which is right next door. One person told me the church is going to be demolished, yet all the stained glass windows are still inside.
A couple weeks ago I photographed the exterior of Mount Moriah Baptist Church which is near 4th & Hadley in the Harambee Neighborhood. The church has some foundation issues and is being torn down at some point, probably sooner than later. Built in 1910, the church served multiple generations of faithful before old age caught up with her, the church. I feel fortunate to be able to photograph the interior (perhaps the final time a camera will be inside) and bring along a writer who will, I guess, be writing an obituary of sorts when time comes to do so.