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

Spaces and Traces Home Tour 05-08-04

Saturday the 8th was the Spring Home tour conducted by Historic Milwaukee, Inc. We have gone on a number of these tours now, and enjoy them a lot. The organization arranges for open house tours of homes and buildings in an area of the city with architectural or historical connections. This year's spring tour covered the "Sherman Park" neighborhood. The Sherman Park area includes several blocks of N. Sherman Avenue and Grant Boulevard that we drive through frequently on our way to visit friends on the north side. Both streets have an impressive number of well-preserved very handsome homes, many quite large, although not in the league of the east-side and lakeshore mansions. It's very impressive what sort of home a moderately sucessful storekeeper or senior clerk could afford to commission in the 1920's, which is whan most of the homes on the tour were built. The overall exterior impression is eclectic, ranging from "Milwaukee bungalow" to Prairie style to Craftsman and Italianate. Interiors, on the other hand had many features in common, including built-in cabinets and buffets in the dining rooms, natural or gas fireplaces, and leaded, beveled, and stained glass details. The houses are large, spacious, and have many rooms, including an impressive number of finished basements for the period.

Sherman/Grant has long been considered a "transitional" neighborhood, situated as it is on the western edge of the "near north side", which is considered Milwaukee's "inner city", and east of the posh suburb of Wauwautosa. A disturbance at a Sherman Park festival that resulted in several arrests was reported by local media as a riot or near-riot, largely because the majority of attendees were black people. The neighborhoods to the east, immediate west, and north are also heavily African American in demographic, although the streets west also comprise our "fannish ghetto" due to the affordable, spacious housing. Nevertheless, the Sherman Boulevard homes remain mostly in fine condition, and continue to be occupied by people of means. (We did note that many are now occupied by well-to-do black people, which can be discerned by the pictures, etc., on the wall. The tour designates homes by the names of their original owners, as in "Charles Schneider House," "Isadore Blankstein House," in order to protect the privacy of the current occupants--. This lead us to some interesting, if trivial, cultural observations: such as, based on this small sample, one could conclude that the home of a black professional will likely contain a number of impressive pieces of African art, surrounding pretty but kitchy black "angel" dolls.)

It was amazing how well-preserved and cared-for these homes were. I would never have expected to see that many original tile bathrooms and pedestal hand basins with nary a crack or chip. And, although we know that the householders are anxious to show off their homes to the best advantage, we continue to be croggled by the lack of clutter (being of the typical fannish "collector" (pack-rat!) persuasion ourselves. I can see arranging the child's room to look like Architectural Digest with a few tastefully placed toys here and there, but where's the rest of it? There's usually one room or area in each home that's off limits, and we suspect that it's probably crammed to bursting with the occupants' "junk"--.
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