This 118-year-old school has been converted to senior apartments

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Just last year, the former 37th Street School was vacant and blighted with its future uncertain. The former public school, 1715 N. 37th St., had ceased operations in 2005 and had been sitting empty since, becoming a magnet for vandalism and theft.

37th Street School Apartments. Photo credit: Bobby Tanzilo.

The maintenance needs became so extensive — including buckling, water-damaged floors — that the building was on the brink of demolition.

But look inside today, and you’ll see no sign of that unfortunate chapter of the building’s history. Now, thanks to a $9 million investment, the school has been converted to 49 seniors apartments, with the vast majority of them listed as affordable.

Rents will range from $394 to $900, writes OnMilwaukee’s Bobby Tanzilo, with “bike storage, storage lockers for residents, an elevator, garbage and recycling room, and laundry facilities” among the amenities.

A look inside one of the 49 senior apartments. Photo credit: Bobby Tanzilo.
Hints of the school’s history, like these coat hooks above, remain. Photo credit: Bobby Tanzilo.

The project was “developed by Heartland Housing Alliance and Community First, with Greenfire doing the construction work and Landon Bone Baker serving as architects,” writes Tanzilo. “It is being funded, in part, with Low Income Housing Tax Credits and Historic Tax Credits, too. The latter requires a number of historical features to be retained.” 

Listen to this week’s episode to learn more about the development, plus more about on the original pieces of the building preserved and integrated into the new design. (Hint: it involves a lot of hardwood.)

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Checking in on renovations at Schlitz Park offices

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On this week’s Urban Spelunking podcast, we’re in downtown Milwaukee at the Schlitz Park office complex, inside the former Schlitz Brewery.

Photo credit: Bobby Tanzilo / OnMilwaukee

It has been in a nearly constant state of updating since the brewery left in the 1980s, most recently undergoing a $6 million renovation. The nearly completed project incorporates new and reclaimed artwork across the 32-acre campus, including a vibrant new mural that has already become a popular photo op.

Photo credit: Bobby Tanzilo / OnMilwaukee

Crestlight Capital and TPG Real Estate acquired the campus in 2019, months before the pandemic, when the campus had 100% capacity, according to OnMilwaukee’s Bobby Tanzilo.

The owners continued to renovate through the pandemic and now, as workers are returning to offices in greater numbers, they’ll be greeted with interesting bits of history from the brewery’s history integrated into the office design.

Photo credit: Bobby Tanzilo / OnMilwaukee

Listen to this week’s podcast below, and visit OnMilwaukee.com for Bobby’s complete story.

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History and craftsmanship abound inside this East Side mansion

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On this week’s podcast, OnMilwaukee’s Bobby Tanzilo and I are talking about an East Side mansion worthy of its $1.625 million price tag. At the time we recorded this episode, it is listed for sale at 2569 N Wahl Ave.

Photo credit: Shorewest Realtors, via OnMilwaukee

The mansion was built in 1899 for John Kern, a wealthy business owner. His family made its fortune in the milling business, and exported flour from its home base in Milwaukee.

The mansion features 5 bedrooms and 4.5 bathrooms, spread across 5,686 square feet. Craftsmanship abounds with handsome built-ins, crown moulding and coffered ceilings. The exterior is constructed with eye-catching, burnt orange sandstone and boats a window-encased turret. And, let’s not forget, a view of Lake Park and Lake Michigan.

Listen to this episode to follow along with Bobby’s research, including a few of the notable residents. Listen below, and visit OnMilwaukee.com to read the complete story.

Photo credit: Shorewest Realtors, via OnMilwaukee
Photo credit: Shorewest Realtors, via OnMilwaukee

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Former Tosa post office will remain recording studio, keep ‘Wire & Vice’ name after sale

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If you know, you know. In heart of the Wauwatosa Village, inside an old post office, sits a world class recording studio that has turned out hits like Rihanna’s “Cheers (Drink To That)” and “California King Bed.” A discrete exterior keeps it somewhat hidden to the casual observer, but step inside and you feel like you’re walking into creative and cosmopolitan oasis.

Wire & Vice studios, 1442 Underwood Ave., opened in 2001, originally as Burst HQ, under the creative direction of owner Daniel Holter. In that time Holter has created music with countless artists from Milwaukee and around the world, and has also published an ever-growing, boutique production music library via his other business, The License Lab.

A view of the main control room. Photo credit: Daniel Holter.

Now, the studio is changing hands, but it will remain a recording space.

“Holter, who moved to Seattle a year and a half ago and who broke into the business creating music libraries available by license for film, television and other uses, is selling Wire & Vice to Dave and Amy Cotteleer and their son Luke,” writes OnMilwaukee’s Bobby Tanzilo at OnMilwaukee.com.

“We had the good fortune to have our kids enrolled in the same school, and our sons grew up together as friends,” says Holter, quoted in OnMilwaukee. “Before Luke graduated from Columbia, my company The License Lab brought him on as an intern, and after graduation we ended up hiring him.”

Under the new ownership, the studio will keep its name and brand, and will continue to serve local and national artists, in the heart of Wauwatosa.

Holter will be back in Milwaukee this week Wednesday, Sept. 22, for a garage sale at the studio from noon to dusk. He’ll be selling a variety of gear and will accept electronic payments. You can find details here.

Listen to this week’s podcast below for an extended interview with Holter as he reflects back on his time in the space.

New owner Dave Cotteleer (L) with Daniel Holter. Photo credit: Daniel Holter.
A view of the post office from 1955. Photo: Wisconsin Historical Society

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Look inside this ‘forgotten’ Frank Lloyd Wright home in Shorewood

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In a live follow up to last week’s Urban Spelunking episode about Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous Bogk House and its Milwaukee lookalikes, Bobby and I head to Shorewood to visit another genuine Frank Lloyd Wright home that was recently “rediscovered.”

Not only does the home represent a tense chapter of Wright’s career, but also, in a juicy twist, it stands across the street from a home designed by his protege-turned rival.

The Elizabeth Murphy house, 2106 E. Newton Ave. in Shorewood. Photo credit: Nick Hayes.

Current owner Nick Hayes takes us inside the home on a personal tour, plus he shares how Wright’s design forced he and his wife to downsize considerably as they moved in. Hayes is also a writer and has documented his journey to buying and rehabbing the Wright home in his recent book “Frank Lloyd Wright’s Forgotten House.”

Completed in 1918, it was built as part of the American System Built program, a program Wright distanced himself from later in his career. The notoriously controlling Wright was uncomfortable with so many parties involved in the construction of each house in the program, from the builders to the eventual residents, says Hayes.

And as Wright moved on, so did history. Because he so rarely talked about his involvement in the project, the later System Built homes faded from prominence, nearly forgotten, says Hayes.

Photo credit: Nick Hayes

The prairie-style home features Wright’s signature straight, clean roof and window lines, casting interesting shadows that change shape as the sun moves through the sky. Inside, the living space is compact but intentional, with built-in bookshelves and cabinets, and surrounded with slim windows on all sides.

Listen to this special edition Urban Spelunking below as Hayes takes us on an in-depth tour of the home, plus Bobby and I share more about Wright’s conflict with his right hand man, Russell Barr Williamson.

Photo credit: Nick Hayes

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Imitation or influence? Frank Lloyd Wright’s ‘Bogk House’ and its Milwaukee lookalikes

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Frank Lloyd Wright is widely regarded as Wisconsin’s most famous architect and for good reason — his iconic style is seen all over the world and has heavily influenced a generation of architects after him.

You can see the impact he has made on other architects firsthand here in Milwaukee — many lookalike homes popped up over the years resembling Wright’s style — so much so that it’s got us wondering if it’s imitation or influence.

The Bogk House. Photo credit: Bobby Tanzilo / OnMilwaukee.com

This week on the Urban Spelunking podcast, OnMilwaukee’s Bobby Tanzilo and I are discussing Wright’s famous 1916 Bogk house, 2420 N. Terrace Ave., on the East Side and the so-called “Baby-Bogks” built after it. The original home was built for politician and businessman Frederick Bogk and represents a later period in Wright’s career when he was exploring darker and heavier themes in his designs.

The “Baby Bogks,” however, were “designed by Wright’s one-time right-hand man Russell Barr Williamson,” writes Tanzilo. “The Nathan Stein House, at 3965 Harcourt Pl., Shorewood, built in 1921, is just one of a number of Williamson homes in the Milwaukee area – including one he built for himself on Oakland Avenue.”

Williamson took the opposite approach to Wright; he made his designs more accessible and affordable. He even advertised the lower cost in local newspapers at the time.

A “Baby Bogk” house, known as the Stein House in Shorewood. Photo credit: Bobby Tanzilo / OnMilwaukee.com
Another lookalike on the East Side: Bours house at 2430 E. Newberry Blvd. Photo credit: Bobby Tanzilo / OnMilwaukee.com.

On this week’s podcast, we go deeper into the story and the homes. And we weigh in on whether or not the designs are imitations. Listen below, and visit OnMilwaukee for more photos and history.

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The predecessor of the Lake Express ferry still exists as a floating museum

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Milwaukee’s Lake Express Ferry may be the fastest ship to routinely cross Lake Michigan, but it is certainly not the first.

In fact, when you arrive in Muskegon, Mich., you pass the predecessor to the Lake Express — the Milwaukee Clipper — docked permanently in the shadow of the new ferry.

It may need a little work on the outside, but it has potential. Meanwhile, restoration work is underway on the inside of the Milwaukee Clipper. Photo credit: Bobby Tanzilo / OnMilwaukee.

“The six-story ship – a National Historic Landmark – currently operates as a museum and offers tours on a daily basis. It is maintained and operated by a nonprofit group and relies heavily on donations and volunteers,” writes OnMilwaukee’s Bobby Tanzilo.

The Clipper was built in 1904 and was previously named “The Juanita.” The freighter was built with a long and narrow profile to easily maneuver through the Soo Locks. In the 1940s, it was moved to Milwaukee and, after being used for WWII efforts, carried passengers — 900 at a time — and their cars between Milwaukee and Muskegon for decades.

The ballroom bar. Photo credit: Bobby Tanzilo / OnMilwaukee.

On this week’s podcast, Bobby takes us inside the ship and explains the many details that were restored in the floating museum, including the original soda fountain and dance floor, and the nonprofit’s efforts to continue the Art Deco rehabilitation.

We also talk about the how a random washing machine on board earned the nickname “the love machine” for sparking romance between crew members.

Listen below and follow this link to read Bobby’s complete story at OnMilwaukee.

The dance floor. Photo credit: Bobby Tanzilo / OnMilwaukee.

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Go behind the scenes at MKE Urban Stables, set to open this fall

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MKE Urban Stables. Photo credit: Bobby Tanzilo.

This week on Urban Spelunking we’re live on-site at MKE Urban Stables, and we’re taking you along on a sneak preview ahead of its official opening this fall.

The new construction indoor/outdoor stables were completed this year and sit on the edge of Bay View, just west of 1st Street on Lincoln Avenue. The 27,000 square foot complex offers a permanent home to the Milwaukee Police Department mounted patrol, which includes 12 working horses, and much more space for the horses to roam and receive care compared to their previous location in Walker’s Point.

Additionally on site, 12 more stalls are reserved for equine therapy programs serving youth, veterans and eventually, the general public. Adjacent to the stalls is an indoor arena for training and shows, with bleachers to accommodate a small audience. A community room will also be available for rentals and events.

Bobby and I with our new co-host Prissy the donkey. Prissy will work alongside the horses in therapy programs. Photo credit: Kat Froehlich

Bobby and I were invited to visit the expansive and surprisingly serene stables this week for the podcast recording, plus we also spoke to Board Chair Kent Lovern (who also serves as Milwaukee’s deputy attorney general) about the path to opening to the public this fall, the search for an executive director and the vision for building community and police relations while also offering therapy programs to the public.

MPD’s mounted patrol houses roam in their outdoor pen. Photo credit: Bobby Tanzilo.
An indoor arena will offer year-round programming. Photo credit: Bobby Tanzilo.

Listen below and be sure to visit OnMilwaukee for more info.

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Saying farewell – and hello – to Tosa’s McKinley School

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On this edition of Urban Spelunking, we’re bidding farewell to a 1930 Wauwatosa school building that was razed last week, and we preview the new school taking its place and bearing the same name.

McKinley School, 2435 N. 89th St., was built in the Art Deco style and served students for nearly 100 years, up until as recently as this June when the last students packed up.

As one McKinley school is being razed, another school takes its place. Photo credit: Bobby Tanzilo / OnMilwaukee

While the building was showing its age, it did boast handsome terra cotta details on the exterior and interesting tile work.

Some of those details were incorporated into the design of the new school, including original colorful tile mosaics.

“They were designed to make schoolchildren feel welcome at school, to enjoy the learning environment, and to feel at home.  They were meant to capture student’s imaginations, nurture their creativity, and foster their appreciation for art.  Nowadays, these tiles can still teach students craft, beauty, and how to imagine creative ways to use wall spaces,” said terra cotta artist and expert and art teach Ben Tyjeski, quoted in OnMilwaukee.com.

Tile mosaics preserved from the original school building. Photo credit: Bobby Tanzilo / OnMilwaukee
Framed bits of terra cotta facade mounted in the new school. Photo credit: Bobby Tanzilo / OnMilwaukee

The new school building is designed by Plunkett Raysich Architects and been taking shape around the original school. Construction is nearly complete, and the school will offer many modern amenities for students, including larger and more flexible classrooms and technology integrated throughout the school.

Listen to this week’s podcast to learn more about McKinley’s future, and more about how the school’s history was preserved for the community. And be sure to visit OnMilwaukee.com for more photos.

Support from our community makes stories like the one you just read possible! Your gift in any amount makes you a Radio Milwaukee member, and helps fund the next story for you to enjoy! Join Radio Milwaukee today.

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Love it or loathe it, Milwaukee’s short-lived ‘whaling wall’ definitely made a splash

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For just shy of a decade, a particularly infamous Milwaukee mural caught the city’s collective attention, and for some, its ire.

Artist Robert Wyland’s “Commuter Whale” mural was installed on the bare, rounded concrete facade of the former courthouse annex, an addition to the courthouse that jutted out over I-43 Northbound above traffic, in 1997.

The mural depicted a peaceful underwater scene of several seemingly life-size whales and dolphins swimming, lit from above with sunlight. It was demolished in 2006 when the entire annex was demolished to expand the freeway.

Photo credit: Wyland Foundation, via OnMilwaukee

It sounds inoffensive enough, but residents and politicians at the time were quick to ask: “What do whales have to do with Milwaukee?” And why put it over the interstate, instead of, say, the zoo or the lakefront?

All good questions, and therein lies the controversy; many in Milwaukee felt it was out of place for a freshwater city. On this week’s episode we talk about the public debate that ensued prior to the mural’s installation, and we go into the archives to learn where city leaders landed on the controversial “whaling wall.”

We also discuss the overarching environmental meaning of the artwork and how Milwaukee was connected. Plus, we share our own opinions on the mural on this week’s podcast below.

Listen to the episode, and visit OnMilwaukee for more photos and to dig even deeper into Bobby Tanzilo’s research.

Support from our community makes stories like the one you just read possible! Your gift in any amount makes you a Radio Milwaukee member, and helps fund the next story for you to enjoy! Join Radio Milwaukee today.

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