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This hair salon is located inside a Walker's Point landmark

This week on the Urban Spelunking podcast, we're visiting an unexpected landmark in the Walker's Point neighborhood. And, all by itself, it paints a compelling portrait of that neighborhood's history.

The retail building is currently home to Folia, a hybrid plant store and hair salon, just off 5th Street and National Avenue. It opened during the pandemic inside a building that looks like a typical -- albeit handsome -- neighborhood storefront. Cream city brick, big first floor windows, ornamental brickwork around the windows; it's nice, but perhaps not quite landmark status.

Folia at 719 S. 5th St. Photo credit: Bobby Tanzilo / OnMilwaukee.

But as OnMilwaukee's Bobby Tanzilo was digging into its history, he found that it was the original home to Our Lady of Guadalupe's mission, an anchor institution in the South Side Latino community founded in 1926. That news came as a surprise to even the present day occupants.

Our Lady of Guadalupe mission provided Spanish-language religious services, but also provided a place for the community to gather. During the week it also offered classes and language support to families, and helped countless immigrants get settled in Milwaukee.

At look at the original mission. Photo courtesy Archdiocese of Milwaukee via OnMilwaukee.

But by the 1945, the community outgrew the space and moved to a larger building. Then, over the coming decades, the Latino population would continue to grow in Walker's Point. By the 1960s, Our Lady of Guadalupe had more members than the longstanding nearby White church.

“In 1966, the Archdiocese decided to merge the two parishes because it was far easier to take care for one building than two. The new parish was named Holy Trinity-Our Lady of Guadalupe parish,” according to Milwaukee Archdiocese history quoted in OnMilwaukee.

Back at the original building, many more businesses set up shop after the mission left, which in its own way, tells how the neighborhood itself changed. Occupants included a string of mom and pop shops, retail stores, oddball manufacturing and even an antique light fixture gallery.

Listen to this week's episode for more about Walker's Point and its history, via this one unassuming building. And be sure to visit OnMilwaukee for more pictures and history.

Director of Digital Content | Radio Milwaukee