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Engine Co. #2's second home on 4th Street, is now part of the National Ace Hardware complex.
Engine Co. #2's second home on 4th Street, is now part of the National Ace Hardware complex.

The old firehouse you just might miss

If, like me, your trips to the hardware store are extremely focused as you attempt to cut down the number of trips you'll need to make for even the simplest project, you might not notice the firehouse that forms part of Downtown's National Ace Hardware, 1303 N. 4th St., despite the fact that its Romanesque facade is painted red.

The three-story, two-bay fire station, was the second home for Engine Co. 2, which was organized Nov. 6, 1862 and first took up residence in the the former volunteer fire house no. 3 at 422 3rd St.

Despite having been rebuilt in 1873, Engine Co. 2 needed a new home, apparently because as fires started to become more frequent (annual fire alarms doubled from 1873 to 1882) more and larger equipment was required. Company 2's three-man 600-foot-hose cart was replaced with equipment carrying twice as much hose in 1885.

So, MFD spent $21,760 constructing this station, which originally had a 55-foot tower set atop the middle of the facade.

Enter through the hardware store two doors south and you can wend your back into the firehouse, through what one employee told me was the former stable – a single-story skylit building connecting the station to the three-story brick building erected around 1910 for Chas. H. Stehling Co., which manufactured machinery for tanneries.

In the old space, you'll spy some gilt capitals atop the posts supporting the center beam.

There are also a couple of these round holes in the ceiling. These are also evident at the old firehouse on Bartlett Avenue. Some have suggested these were to accommodate fire poles (though they seem a tad small for that and the poles weren't yet invented when the Bartlett station was erected in 1886). Others have averred that they were to drop hay from second-floor lofts to the horses below.

The National employee I spoke with said that he and his colleagues believe a first-floor space in the corner was a kitchen, because of its floor drain and terrazzo floor and wainscoting. Howeve…

Physical activity and unstructured play are not luxuries.
Physical activity and unstructured play are not luxuries.

Is withholding recess an acceptable punishment?

In an April 14 Education Week post, reporter Evie Blad noted that the practice of taking away recess time as a punishment is a common practice. But, it seems, that’s changing ... in some places.

"More and more, schools are doing away with withholding recess for disciplinary reasons, pointing to research findings that unstructured play and exercise benefit students both inside and outside the classroom," Blad wrote before quoting Sara Zimmerman, the technical-assistance director of the Oakland, Calif.-based Safe Routes to School National Partnership:

"Physical activity and unstructured play, those things are not luxuries for kids. That's a key part of how kids learn and how they grow."

Blad noted that about a dozen states have now banned schools from punishing children by taking away recess, and Minnesota lawmakers are currently eying a similar prohibition.

Teachers at some schools also withhold gym, music and art classes as punishment, adding that in many cases they don’t have much else to lord over misbehaving kids.

Parents and educators often band together to fight for funding for gym teachers and art teachers and music teachers. We stand up at board meetings and hold up signs saying these classes are key components of a quality education. But then we allow schools – and ourselves – refer to those subjects as "specials," and to deprive kids of them when they don’t do as they’re told or expected.

We don't say to kids, "no math facts for you today, mister," when they spend too much time staring out the window (though surely some kids would find that a painful punishment). And we don’t say, "OK, no spelling test for you this week" when little Billy talks during a lesson.

Which is it? Is music an important window into science? Is art key to self-expression? Is physical activity important for concentration? Is the power of play at recess developmentally important? Or are those things mere frosting on the math-reading-science cake and exist solely …

Maryland Avenue School has been an East Side fixture since 1887.
Maryland Avenue School has been an East Side fixture since 1887. (Photo: Bobby Tanzilo)

School's green yard earns MMSD honor

It's no secret I'm a fan of the greening of school playgrounds. I wrote about the project at Milwaukee Public Schools' Maryland Avenue Montessori, 2418 N. Maryland Ave., where I am a dedicated volunteer, before it happened and when the first phase was complete.

It was also mentioned in this argument for more green schoolyards and this one, too. In these, I talk about greening projects at Parkside and Fernwood Montessori in Bay View, Brown Street Academy on the North Side and Whittier on the far South Side.

Today, I received word from the Metropolitan Milwaukee Sewerage District that Maryland Avenue Montessori (where, in full disclosure, I am chair of the School Governance Council and a member of the building expansion planning team) has won the district's monthly Green Luminaries award for the rain garden that has greened a large chunk of the school's more than three-acre site.

"It takes vision and foresight to sustainably manage water where it falls," reads the Green Luminaries web page.

"Green Luminaries ultimately help protect our rivers and Lake Michigan by adapting practices that harvest rainfall for other uses or mimic nature by draining it into the ground to reduce water pollution.  Green luminaries like the projects highlighted below are led by true champions who recognize not only the need to manage stormwater, but also the need to innovate and grow, to create lasting good works that connect people and prosperity to the environment."

The award will be presented at Monday's MMSD commission meeting. Previous winners have included Shorewood Natural Lawncare. the Clock Shadow Building and Mitchell Park Domes.

Kudos to principal Joe DiCarlo, Angeline Malkowski Koch, everyone who has served on the Maryland Avenue Montessori Fund and everyone – countless students included – who has donated to or worked in any capacity on the garden, which is a real testament to the tireless dedication of these folks and to teamwork.

It's true, Milwaukee loves PVC.
It's true, Milwaukee loves PVC.

Milwaukee is a top 5 town for vinyl lovers

As Record Store Day approaches (it's this Saturday), Foursquare and real estate brokerage Redfin combined forces to create some interesting data on the top 10 U.S. cities for fans of record stores.

Milwaukee, whose vinyl shops I wrote about in February, clocks in at No. 5, below Portland and Chapel Hill, but above New York and Philly. Not bad.

The cities were ranked by most record shops per capita. For funsies, Redfin also worked out how many new vinyl LPs (at $20 each) you could buy with the money that equals the median price for a home in each city.

While today's New York Times noted that online music surpassed sales of LPs and CDs for the first time ever last year, Nielsen also tracked a nearly 52 percent increase in vinyl sales in 2014. So, recorded music pressed into PVC is definitely not dead.

Here are the top 10 cities on the list of Cities Keeping Vinyl Music Alive, in order:

The top three finishers in Milwaukee in terms of Foursquare ratings:

  1. Exclusive Company, 1669 N. Farwell Ave.
  2. Acme Records, 2341 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.
  3. Rush-Mor Records, 2635 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.

And, finally, some Redfin data:

  • ZIP Code with the most record shops per capita: 53202 (interesting, considering two of the top three shops listed above are in Bay View)
  • Median home price in 53202: $216,900, which equals 10,845 records (at $20 each)