This Riverwest landmark is for sale. And, no, it does not smell like fish.

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On the corner of Locust and Humboldt, generations of Milwaukeeans have read the hand-painted sign: “Ma Baensch Ocean Caught Herring.” The building that sports those words is as close to a Riverwest landmark as you can get and owes its existence to a woman-founded business dating back to 1914.

Ma Baensch Food Co., 1025 E. Locust St. (Photo courtesy: Bobby Tanzilo / OnMilwaukee)

On this week’s “Urban Spelunking” podcast, OnMilwaukee’s Bobby Tanzilo and I discuss the iconic Milwaukee food item — pickled herring — and trace how it arrived in Milwaukee, as well as who opened the business (spoiler: It was “Ma” Baensch, herself).

We also discuss the sale of the building, next steps for the business and details from his recent tour of the site (another spoiler: the company, and the herring, are still going strong). Plus, we answer the most pressing question Bobby got from OnMilwaukee readers: Does the building still smell like fish?

The production area. (Photo courtesy: Bobby Tanzilo / OnMilwaukee)
A portrait of Lina “Ma” Baensch still hangs on the wall. (Photo courtesy: Bobby Tanzilo / OnMilwaukee)

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Leases beginning soon inside this Milwaukee school converted to apartments

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If you’ve ever wanted to live in a former school, you’ll soon have that chance again in Milwaukee.

This week on “Urban Spelunking,” we visit the Wheatley School apartments, a 1902 schoolhouse that has been converted to 82 apartments.

(Photo courtesy: Bobby Tanzilo/OnMilwaukee)

OnMilwaukee’s Bobby Tanzilo visited the site, 2442 N. 20th St., which includes renovations at the former school building and an entirely new building alongside the old school.

“The apartments here don’t mimic classroom footprints, but they all have copious natural light thanks to the tall schoolhouse windows,” Bobby Tanzilo wrote in his story at OnMilwaukee.com.

A look inside the renovated school. (Photo courtesy: Bobby Tanzilo/OnMilwaukee)

At the time of recording this week’s podcast, move-ins were set to begin in the new building as soon as July 1, while leases in the renovated school begin Aug. 1. Listen to this week’s episode below, and visit OnMilwaukee for more photos and history.

Both new construction (above) and renovated units offer ample natural light. (Photo courtesy: Bobby Tanzilo/OnMilwaukee)

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From a microphone museum to a printing press, this Milwaukee building has stories

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On this episode of Urban Spelunking, we’re visiting the former “Select Sound” on 1st and National in Milwaukee, a building with distinct blue metal cladding and deep family roots. Two families, in fact.

When researching the address, 107 E. National Ave., OnMilwaukee’s Bobby Tanzilo found two interesting family histories — one with an impressive collection of microphones and lifelong hobby of tinkering with electronics, the other with connection early aviation history, printing and even politics. Both families ran businesses at the site for a combined 100 years.

Former Meisenheimer Printing & Select Sound building, 107 E. National Ave. Photo credit: Bobby Tanzilo / OnMilwaukee

Listen to the audio complement to this story to hear how those families were connected, and learn about the new business now open inside the space. Then be sure to visit OnMilwaukee for more history and photos.

Bob Paquette with his microphone collection. Photo credit: Adam Levin via OnMilwaukee

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This historic 1855 home, one of the oldest in Milwaukee, is for sale

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On this week’s Urban Spelunking podcast, we’re live on-site for an update at the 1855 Isaac Leister House, 11142 W. Bradley Rd, in the former town of Granville.

I went along with OnMilwaukee’s Bobby Tanzilo to meet contractors and new owners D’Angelo McNair, Brandon Clark and Barton Clark of All Service Contracting, along with Karen Samuelson who grew up in the home.

New co-owner D’Angelo McNair shakes hands Karen Samuelson, who grew up in the home. Photo credit: Bobby Tanzilo / OnMilwaukee.com
1855 Isaac Leister House. Photo credit: Bobby Tanzilo / OnMilwaukee.com

The house has been renovated while preserving as much of the original character as possible, McNair says. Field stones making up the walls and foundation have been cleaned and uncovered, while original millwork has been carefully polished and restored. Meanwhile, contractors reformatted and expanded the kitchen, while attic has been converted to a media room with 6 stadium seats.

Now, at the time of recording, the house is for sale.

Listen to this week’s episode for an live, on-site update including a conversation with McNair and Samuelson. We’ve also included the original podcast episode for even more background, as well as Bobby’s complete story at OnMilwaukee.com.

The newly renovated living room. Photo credit: Bobby Tanzilo / OnMilwaukee.com
The master bedroom. Photo credit: Bobby Tanzilo / OnMilwaukee.com

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Four years after fire, Trinity Evangelical Lutheran continues to rebuild

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When flames engulfed Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in downtown Milwaukee in May 2018, it was a devastating sight for all, religious or not.

It’s iconic, gothic spires were set ablaze; inside, fire caused widespread and critical damage throughout the 1878 church.

Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church. Photo credit: Bobby Tanzilo / OnMilwaukee

Thankfully (miraculously?) the building, 1046 N. 9th St., was not a total loss, and the congregation has been working to rebuild the church. Now four years after the fire, the project is entering the fundraising stage, which includes restoring the interior to its original gothic appearance and rebuilding the entire organ system.

On this week’s Urban Spelunking episode, OnMilwaukee’s Bobby Tanzilo and I discuss the current status of the project, plus Bobby shares details from his recent visit to the jobsite. Listen below, and visit OnMilwaukee for more.

The original pulpit survived the fire. Photo credit: Bobby Tanzilo / OnMilwaukee
A view from the narthex. Photo credit: Bobby Tanzilo / OnMilwaukee

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This painting reflects the nearly forgotten fishing village on Jones Island

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This week on Urban Spelunking we’re visiting Jones Island, a small section of land in the Port of Milwaukee, now home to Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, among other industrial uses.

A century ago the island looked quite different, and the residents there lived much differently than the rest of Milwaukee, too. It was completely isolated from the city, requiring a boat ride to access it. But residents had many amenities on the island, including a school staffed by teachers who would boat in.

The portrait, created by artist Alexander Gill, now hangs at MMSD’s offices. Photo via OnMilwaukee.com / Bobby Tanzilo.

This week we learn not only about the island, but also tell the story of a painting created by a Jones Island artist. That painting was recently dedicated to MMSD and now hangs at its headquarters building, across from the Harley-Davidson Museum.

Listen to the podcast below, and visit OnMilwaukee for more history and photos.

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Summerfield United Methodist church stays connected to its mission amid financial struggles

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On this week’s Urban Spelunking, we’re talking about Summerfield United Methodist Church, a story about a Milwaukee church with a surprising amount of heart because of the congregation’s commitment to its mission, even with the odds stacked against it.

But first things first, the architecture of the 1904 building, 728 E. Juneau Ave, is beautiful.

“It’s a stunner inside, with an eye-popping stained glass skylight dome, lovely windows, beautiful woodwork and more,” writes OnMilwaukee’s Bobby Tanzilo.

Listen to this week’s episode to learn how the church is addressing food insecurity, even while it’s own future is uncertain. Plus we talk about how the church was built and expanded, and how it has remained committed to Milwaukee’s immigrant community.

Take a listen to the episode above, and be sure to visit OnMilwaukee for even more history and photos.

A look inside the sanctuary. Photo credit: Bobby Tanzilo / OnMilwaukee.
A beautiful stained glass dome above. Photo credit: Bobby Tanzilo / OnMilwaukee.

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New food hall coming to former bank on 59th and North Avenue

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On this week’s Urban Spelunking, we’re visiting the North Avenue Market at 59th and North Ave., set to open later this summer.

The new food hall will make use of a former 1949 bank building at 5900 W. North Ave. — the headquarters for United Federal Savings & Loan Association — with original details of the building’s architecture integrated to the design.

The future home of North Avenue Market. Photo credit: Bobby Tanzilo / OnMilwaukee

The market hall will offer food and beverage vendors, including a speakeasy inside one of the former bank’s vaults, plus office space and other services like massage therapy.

The food hall will also boast a drive-through, another holdover from the bank days, for quick coffee service. Visitors will also notice an original piece of terrazzo floor marked with the bank’s logo.

Listen to this week’s episode of Urban Spelunking for more about the history and project, and be sure to visit OnMilwaukee for more photos.

A rendering of the food hall. Photo courtesy Galbraith Carnahan Architects via OnMilwaukee.
Look at that logo! Photo credit: Bobby Tanzilo / OnMilwaukee

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This is one of the oldest houses in Milwaukee, and it will hit the market soon

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This week on Urban Spelunking, we’re visiting the northwest corner of Milwaukee to spotlight one of the oldest homes in the city.

The Isaac Leister house was built in 1855, in the former town of Granville on large plot of farmland. Much of that land has since been converted to Dretzka Park golf course, but the home remains. In the 1950s it was heavily renovated and is now being updated to hit the market again.

The 1855 Isaac Leister house. Photo credit: Bobby Tanzilo / OnMilwaukee.

Huge boulders and field stone make up the home’s foundation, which is still intact today. The rest of the inside has been modernized, but the basic footprint, windows and rooflines still closely resemble the original design.

Two pre-renovation photos of the house. Photo courtesy of Karen Samuelson via OnMilwaukee.com.

This week on the podcast, we go talk about Isaac Leister, plus share more of its unique history. Listen below and visit OnMilwaukee for more photos and a detailed timeline.

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Remembering the midcentury ‘Pan American Club,’ a pioneering Milwaukee travelounge

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This week on Urban Spelunking we’re visiting the Pan American Club, a true midcentury gem on Milwaukee’s West Side. Dating back to the 1940s and running for two decades, the Pan American Club, 3816 W. Wisconsin Ave., offered a varied menu with selections from 21 countries.

Photo via OnMilwaukee / Bobby Tanzilo.
Photo via OnMilwaukee / Bobby Tanzilo

South America, Central America, Mexico and the US were all represented, each with their own dish. OnMilwaukee’s Bobby Tanzilo found a menu from the original location — complete with midcentury prices — along with photos showing the perfectly vintage decor.

Carpeted walls and lime vinyl booths, plus a mirrored back bar take you right back to the era. Photo via OnMilwaukee / Bobby Tanzilo.

As the business grew, and with the arrival of the Milwaukee Braves, the Pan American Club added a motel and parking garage, plus shuttle service to the stadium. That business model, minus the “travelounge,” is still popular today for bars and restaurants near the stadium, and shuttle service itself is a Milwaukee tradition of its own.

Today, the building doesn’t look much like it did in its prime. Drive by and you likely won’t see much activity, as it is now privately owned and occupied, with all hints of its past life gone.

The building today. Photo credit: Bobby Tanzilo

On this podcast episode we go back to the Pan American’s golden era. Listen above, and be sure to visit OnMilwaukee for even more history about this building — and hundreds more — from Bobby’s Urban Spelunking series.

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Get your local fix with our Radio Milwaukee podcasts. Feast your ears with our food podcast, This Bites. Explore Milwaukee with our history podcast, Urban Spelunking. Follow the Milwaukee music scene with Tap’d In. And delve into the latest movies with our film podcast, Cinebuds. Plus listen to the latest season of our new podcast Diverse Disruptors. Subscribe to them anywhere you listen to your podcasts.

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