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The building is expected to reopen as King IB Middle School in fall 2016.
The building is expected to reopen as King IB Middle School in fall 2016.
The southern part of the site will be developed separately by the Department of City Development.
The southern part of the site will be developed separately by the Department of City Development.

MPS approves contract to convert Malcolm X for King Middle School

The Milwaukee Board of School Directors on Thursday night approved the construction contract to renovate the vacant Malcolm X site, 2760 N. 1st St., into a new home for Rufus King International Middle School, which currently inhabits a former elementary school.

The plan to move King from the old McNair building, 4950 N. 24th St., to the controversial building on 1st and Center Streets, was made official in October.

The $9.8 million contract with Nicholas & Associates is for the renovation of the 1961 school building, which occupies the western and northern portion of the site, though the southwestern section of the building will likely be razed as part of a related plan to redevelop the southern portion of the site.

That part of the land is mostly playground space and its residential and/or commercial redevelopment is being handled by the Department of City Development.

The contract calls for work to begin on March 2 and to be completed by June 1, 2016. But folks driving past have noticed contractors' vehicles on site for months now as preparatory work – including, I believe, asbestos removal – for months.

According to a district press release, "The move gives King Middle, now housed in a former elementary school, the ability to expand to serve more families along with a full-size gym, large auditorium, more art and music opportunities, opportunities for more foreign language offerings and modern science labs. King Middle is set to open in the Malcolm X facility in the fall of 2016."

In other facilities news, the board hired Foundation Architects to design the new addition at Fernwood Montessori School in Bay View. According to one source, the goal is to have "shovels in the ground" by summer. A similar project approved for Maryland Avenue Montessori School will follow.

Seats at both successful programs are highly coveted and, thus, both programs face space issues. Maryland Avenue, on the East Side, is using two temporary classrooms erected on site until …

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I wonder what the typical guest was like at Milwaukee's disappeared Hotel Auditorium (aka the Auditorium Hotel).
I wonder what the typical guest was like at Milwaukee's disappeared Hotel Auditorium (aka the Auditorium Hotel). (Photo: Milwaukee Public Library)

Welcome to the Hotel Auditorium

It always surprises me how many hotels there once were in Downtown Milwaukee, from the Cross Keys to the Gilpatrick to the Schroeder to the Maryland to the Belmont to the Wisconsin to The Pfister to the Republican House and on and on and on. Seemingly too many to count (though surely that’s not true, strictly speaking).

Recently, while nosing around Westown, I stumbled across the old Auditorium Hotel, alternately apparently known as the Hotel Auditorium (see the photo above) – not to be confused with the famous Chicago hotel of the same name or the more elaborate one with that name in Verona, near Madison.

Though the building was razed in 1965, it stood for nearly a century at 1123-25 N. 4th St. (337-339 in the old numbering system), between Highland and Juneau, on the West Side of the street, where the Bradley Center now stands.

There was a hotel on this site dating back at least to around 1850 when the wooden Fond du Lac Hotel was run by Auer and Bechtel. The two-story place was also known as the Auer Hotel for a time and it was known for its well-kept grounds.

In 1879, Peter Dix bought the place and tore down the old building to erect a new one that was reported to have 75 rooms. The three-story brick Italianate building was designed by architect Joseph Max Landguth.

Dix spent about $8,000 constructing the new – and now eponymous – hotel. The 1894 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map suggests the building was vacant but destined to house another hotel. Indeed by 1902 it was called Thomas House, owned by C. Thomas, and, later, Bogh’s European Hotel.

By 1910, the Sanborn shows the building as home to the Auditorium Hotel, which boasted steam heat, gaslight and a dining room. Just up the street was Wolf’s Hotel. Who was staying in all these places? Traveling salesmen? Visiting dignitaries? Some were likely residential hotels.

The Hotel Auditorium endured as we can see from the photo above – featuring a fine Pabst sign – which is in the stellar collection …

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Tim Talsky opened Bella Caffe with Jim Nowlen in January 2001.
Tim Talsky opened Bella Caffe with Jim Nowlen in January 2001.

Bella Caffe co-owner Tim Talsky passes away

The Third Ward awoke to some sad news this morning.

According to an email sent out by Nancy O'Keefe, executive director of the Historic Third Ward Association, Bella Caffe co-owner Tim Talsky passed away Thursday night.

"Tim opened Bella in 2001 and was a great friend and neighbor," O'Keefe wrote. "This loss is a shock to all of us who knew him. We will keep you updated about information regarding any services for Tim. Please keep Tim and the Bella family in your thoughts prayers."

Talsky was also co-owner of The Soup Market, which has multiple locations in the area.

No further details are known at this time.

Talsky, who opened Bella Caffe, 189 N. Milwaukee St., with Jim Nowlen, was something of a Third Ward pioneer as Bella was the first and only coffee shop in the neighborhood in January 2001.

I always picture Tim behind the counter smiling. We send our deepest condolences to Tim's family and friends.

Milwaukee Public Museum: Where the streets have old names.
Milwaukee Public Museum: Where the streets have old names.

7 new ideas for The Streets of Old Milwaukee

With news that the 50-year-old "Streets of Old Milwaukee" – one of the most beloved experiences for people of all ages in Milwaukee – will close briefly at the end of summer for a update, we started to think about what we'd like to see in the streets.

So, with tongue sometimes firmly in cheek, we suggest:

Invite Milwaukee Film Festival to program the theater

The cinema is a woefully under-utilized feature of "The Streets of Old Milwaukee," so why not let the experts in to program its offerings?

Usinger's sausage

Swing open the sausage shop doors and offer some pre-made sandwiches with Usinger's cold cuts.

Promote literacy

There's a pharmacy, a doctor's office, a carpenter's shop, a candy store, a toy store ... lots of things for old Milwaukeeans to buy. But there's no school for the old Milwaukee kids. You know something like that wouldn't escape my gaze.

Open the Schlitz tavern

You can step inside the candy store and purchase real candy, so why not swing open the doors of the tied house in the exhibit and let the suds flow, though perhaps in shorties and with a limit of one or two. We don't want the wax policeman to have to pick up drunks out of the gutter of old Milwaukee.

High tea at the Watts Tea Room

After all, tea-totalers require refreshement, too.

Expand the range

I know space is at a premium, but now that it's 50 years later, expand the exhibition's reach to include the 1920s and boost its ethnic diversity. By the end of that decade there were more than 4,000 Mexicans living in the city and Bronzeville was in full flower.

And, finally, three words: Night soil men

Look it up. After all, late 19th century/early 20th century Milwaukee wasn't all yummy candy, talented woodworkers and creepy old ladies rocking in chairs on their porches.

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