Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

Historic Concordia Neighborhood Tour of Homes, 2009

The Historic Concordia Neighborhood is one of Milwaukee's well defined
neighborhoods, named for the college that once was located there. It is
bounded by Wisconsin Avenue on the south, Highland Boulevard on the
north, N. 27th St. on the east, and N. 35th St. on the west. In the
days when Wisconsin Ave. was still "Grand Avenue", it was the home of
many of Milwaukee's Beer Barons and other captains of industry and lined
with their mansions. The more northerly blocks also held many fine homes
as well as less august residences belonging to managers, bankers, and
other business people.

The fortunes of the neighborhood have had ups and downs. The lakefront
became the fashionable address, and the wealthy moved there, leaving
many of the great houses to be cut up into rooming houses during the
Great Depression or World War II, or to be removed to make way for new
developments or the expansion of the Marquette University campus.

In the 1960's and 70's the area had a reputation as a "bad" neighborhood
and a high-crime area. The City of Milwaukee took steps to rehabilitate
this region so close to downtown, and in the 1980's bought, repaired,
and restored many rooming houses to desirable single-family dwellings.
Many of the people who bought those homes are still there today, and
have formed the foundation of a vibrant and cohesive community. The
process of reclaiming the beautiful old homes that fill the area still
goes on, with several having been turned into elegant Bed-and Breakfast

The most recent of these is the Schuster Mansion, at 3209 West Wells
Street. We immediately thought of the old Schuster's department store
chain, but evidently the builder of this mansion made his money in
tobacco. (Surprisingly, tobacco was, until the latter part of the 20th
century, a significant crop in southern Wisconsin, although mainly used
for chewing tobacco or cigar wrappers. Tobacco drying barns can still be
seen in the Southwestern part of the state.) The current owners still
have a bit of work to do, but have none an amazing job of restoring the
large Romanesque mansion (known as "The Red Castle" due to the color of
its stone) and making it a very distinctive and posh B&B. Georgie and I
were very interested to see this house since we have driven by it often
noting the progress of exterior restoration work.

This year "the Pink House", as it is known for its lamentable coat of
paint that covers the Cream City brick exterior, was formally on the
tour. Properly known as the "Walker Mansion", it is an otherwise
well-preserved example of a brick Gothic. It continues to be for sale at
a very reasonable price for such a house, and one can have a lot of fun
fantasizing about what could be done with it if one had both the money
to buy it and the money to restore it as it deserves.

This year's tour also included the Brumder Mansion (named for the owner
of the once-prominent Germania Publishing Company), one of the first
local houses to become a Bed and Breakfast; the Gettleman Mansion, named
for another brewer, since converted into offices; and eight other homes
that the owners shared with us. This was a fascinating and friendly
tour and we enjoyed it very much.
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