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As soon as it became clear that the former Froedtert Malt / Malteurop facility, 3830 W. Grant St., was going to be torn down, Craig Schaefer, a Village of West Milwaukee trustee and president of the West Milwaukee Historical Society, toured the site with staff and students from UW-Milwaukee’s School of Architecture and Urban Planning.
While the latter made an effort to visually document the complex, Schaefer had his eye out for items that could be saved.
And he found a lot.
In the small space on the lower level of the West Milwaukee Community Center where the historical society stores its collections, he has gathered a variety of objects from the site, which housed maltsters for a century.
There are rolls and rolls of architectural plans and drawings; there’s a 1940s-era scrapbook of newspaper articles about Froedtert Malt; there’s a box full of hats and grain samples and coffee mugs; there are plaques and awards and certificates; there are lab coats and some other clothing items; and there are a couple boxes of mostly 8x10 photographs.
A selection of those photographs – which will be digitized for the West Milwaukee Historical Society by Milwaukee County Historical Society archivists – is included here.
Schaefer says that cataloguing and preserving the items will be a group effort.
Malteurop announced it was idling the malting operation in 2021 and in April 2022 it sold the 17-acre site to an investment group for $900,000.
It was soon clear that the buildings would be torn down and by the end of the year that work was well underway. Demolition is ongoing.
Schaefer plans to sort through all of the objects pulled out of the site and determine which ones are keepers – items that help tell the story of malting in West Milwaukee, which has been home to at least three malting facilities during its history.
“I’ll find a good home for whatever we don’t decide to keep here,” he said.
Although Bohemian-born sculptor and medalist Gustav Bohland’s "Bird and Fish"sculpture quickly went missing from the headquarters building last year, his two other sculptures (“The Sower” and “The Reaper”) were saved and are in storage.
There are also plans to save Milwaukee artist Dick Wiken’s frieze – tracing barley from the farm to the maltster to the brewer to the consumer – which surrounds the entrance of the 1950s building.
The West Milwaukee Village Board's Tourism Commission has approved the purchase of these items, Schaefer said.
“We have tourism dollars available and this would be a perfect use of those,” he said, outlining a potential plan to reconstruct the frieze and group them with the sculptures in a monument in West Milwaukee.
“It would be a tribute to the the malting history of West Milwaukee.”
In the meantime, enjoy this series of photos – all undated and all unidentified – from the cache of images rescued from the landfill.
Fortunately, thanks to former employee Jason Kukla, we can identify what we see in these images.
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 OnMilwaukee.com 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.