By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Aug 18, 2021 at 8:51 AM

On Wednesday morning, Clarke Square Neighborhood Initiative (CSNI) announced that it has purchased the home of Menomonee Valley cream city brick magnate George Burnham at 1636 W. National Ave. and will convert it into its headquarters.

The building – which I wrote about here – was owned by Jeff Hicks for nearly half a century.

According to research by Hicks, the oldest part of the house – the front entrance of which faces the Menomonee Valley where Burnham had his brickyard – dates as far back as the 1840s, with additions in the 1860s.

In the mid-1980s, Hicks purchased the old Wells Street bridge house when that span was being replaced and added it to the north side of the home.

When CSNI Executive Director Dr. Patricia Nájera saw a “for sale” sign go up outside the house, she was intrigued.

Najera – who served for two decades on the City of Milwaukee’s City Plan Commission – wanted the house preserved.

“For nearly 25 years, Dr. Najera has been working in Community and Economic Development and understands the importance of location, comprehensive neighborhood plans and an understanding of the needs in the community,” the CSNI statement notes.

“The City of Milwaukee is amid planning the Reconstruction Project of National Avenue from 1st to 39th Street. Most of you know that Highway 59 (National Avenue) is one of the most neglected and ugliest streetscapes in the City of Milwaukee."

“After participating in the initial meetings with city and state representatives, residents and business owners all agreed that little investment has been made on National Avenue for over 50 years but will change by 2027. CSNI is ready to be part of this change.”

CSNI plans to launch a fundraising effort to renovate the home.

“Dr. Najera hopes to spark a conversation with UWM’s School of Architecture and Urban Planning, the College of Freshwater Sciences or the Harbor District about a Bridge House that was relocated from 101 E. Wells to the property in 1985,” according to CSNI.

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Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.