The old Caswell (and Posner) Building on the northwest corner of Plankinton and Wisconsin is being converted into apartments. We got a peek at the progress.
There are just over 100 units – in 20 different floor plans on seven floors (nine in the later addition on Plankinton) – in the MKE Lofts, some of which have already welcomed residents, with more being readied for occupancy as I write.
The sleek, modern spaces offer stunning views over old Milwaukee favorites like the Plankinton Arcade, Gimbel's and the Riverside Theater.
Napoleon Bonaparte Caswell arrived from New York soon after Milwaukee was incorporated, and he founded a hardware store on the site. But after his death in 1884, Rice and Friedman opened their eponymous carriage shop at the same location, and the spot was later home to Bloedel's Jewelry Store.
But at the dawn of the new century, the Caswell family leased the property to Max Goldstine's Commonwealth Realty Trust Co., who tapped locally respected architects Van Ryn & DeGelleke to design the seven-story structure, faced in the familiar white glazed brick, which was begun in 1907 and completed the following year.
The basement was originally home to the College Inn subterranean restaurant, apparently affiliated with Miller Brewing. Workers charged with transforming the basement to parking for the building's new residents found remnants of the eatery's old pressed tin ceiling.
In 1913, the nine-story addition at 725 N. Plankinton Ave., was erected on the site of the former Royal Clothing Store.
Though constructed in the Chicago Commercial Style to house a department store, the Caswell never served that purpose. Instead, it became office space, and office space it remained until the building was closed so that work on the new apartments could begin.
Arthur J. Straus bought the buildings in 1925 and ran them until he died in 1964. Two years later, Gene Posner and his son Jeffry bought the complex.
Here are some photos taken at the building last week:
1. The grotesques above the door were long ago dubbed "Charlie" and "McCarthy"
2. No more horses, but still some hay. Along with gorgeous tilework
3. Light wells ensure plenty of interior illumination
4. Stunning original details have been retained
5. More incredible tile
6. Thanks to layout changes, some apartments have original tile
7. The former elevator lobby will become an events space for Mo's Irish Pub
8. Mo's will open the Wisconsin Tap Room in the old Mo's Cucina space
9. How would you like this view from your living room?
10. Apartments have a clean, modern feel
11. Downtown Milwaukee living
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.