By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Aug 03, 2018 at 3:42 PM

Today, I received the alarming photo you see above.

It shows the ongoing demolition of the former Milwaukee Fire Department high-pressure pumping station, 2011 S. 1st St., that was home to Horny Goat Brewing from 2009 until 2015.

According to media reports, the site was sold in 2017 to Becher Development, and Rinka Chung Architecture was tapped to design a commercial development with offices and, potentially, a hotel, that would be built by Michels Corp.

I guess I naively hoped that the former station’s listing on the National Register of Historic Places would be enough to save it and make it part of the developer’s plans.

Apparently not. 

"I do not know if there was any consideration of incorporating the building into the new business park that is said to be going in on the site," said Carlen Hatala of the City of Milwaukee's historic preservation office. "Other buildings in the vicinity were demolished as well to create a big development parcel.

"National Register status does not protect the building. The Elizabeth Plankinton Mansion was also National Register listed. Applying for local designation might have been an uphill battle in the face of the proposed development at the site.

"The pumping station actually had significance for its innovative technology which officials from Chicago and I believe New York City came to observe. There was a Master’s Thesis written about it."

Here is what I wrote about the station in 2016:

This lovely Charles Malig-designed Art Deco building (Malig also did the Deco police station on 47th and Vliet Streets and the Deco bridge house at Cherry Street) opened in January 1932 as Milwaukee Fire Department's high pressure pumping station. Here, three Allis-Chalmers pumps could supply 2,500 gallons per minute, with a staff of three.

According to MFD Deputy Chief and historian Jim Ley, "The idea of a high pressure station was to boost water pressure in the area because of a poor water system after a large fire on Aug. 14, 1929. There had been similar stations out east." A historic designation report notes, "The singular purpose ... was the replacement of Fireboat No. 17 in a heavy industrial area, where the streets and river were crossed several times by bridges and railway tracks."

The Depression quashed plans to build a second such station on the North Side of town. Anyway, by 1948, Ley says, the station was only used to fight seven fires and so it was closed in 1950 and, after selling the pumps, used for training. In 1962, MFD gave the building back to the city and 19 years later it was designated a National Historic Landmark.

(PHOTO: Joe Vent)

Interestingly, in an Urban Milwaukee article about a Michels' representative's appearance before the City Plan Commission in June, no mention is made of razing this building.

The article quotes Andrew Schmitt of Michels Realty telling the committee, "I can’t get into too many details because there are a lot of moving pieces at this point." 

Bay View Ald. Tony Zielinski said in a message this afternoon that there will be a press conference on the development, and the demolition, next week.

"It's always sad when a historically designated building is not maintained and is razed," said Stacy Swadish, executive director of Historic Milwaukee, Inc.

"We encourage people to learn about Milwaukee's history, architecture and the built environment through out walking tours and other programs including Doors Open."

Stay tuned for updates, but the photo says it all. It's too late to save this gem.

This is a truly disappointing "development" in Bay View.

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 an episode of TV's "Party of Five," 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 can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.