As I gear up to go spelunking in the historic home of the Milwaukee Rep, which occupies a complex of former utility buildings, the Rep announced that it has received a one-time half-million-dollar grant from the The Herzfeld Foundation to fund immediate repairs caused by significant settling that has occurred over recent years.
With that money, the Rep has commitments covering more than half the $1.75 million required to make all the necessary repairs. The Rep has already received a $250,000 grant from the United Performing Arts Fund and $75,000 from the Bert L and Patricia Steigleder Charitable Trust, along with a number of donors from individuals.
The complex of buildings – the oldest of which was built in 1897 – houses the Rep's theaters, offices and production shops. Part of the building was constructed atop wooden pilings that are deteriorating due to a drop in Milwaukee's water table, a phenomenon that was recently covered by national media.
According to a statement released today by the theater company, "At this time, the settling poses no threat to the public or Rep employees; however a permanent fix must occur in the near future."
The Rep plans to begin the repair work this summer.
Among the complex of buildings is the old Milwaukee Electric Railway & Light Co.'s Oneida Street Station, where, according to a historical marker on the building, "pulverized coal was first successfully burned continuously and at high efficiencies in furnaces of stationary steam boilers" in 1919.
"For many years, The Herzfeld Foundation has been a tremendous supporter of our work at The Rep," said Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s Managing Director Chad Bauman, in the statement.
"Recognizing that any non-profit organization is only as good as the foundation on which it is built, this extraordinary grant from The Herzfeld Foundation will provide much needed resources toward the costs to repair our building’s foundation ensuring that our award-winning education programs and inspiring productions will continue for decades to come."
"The Rep is a critical part of our vibrant cultural community," added Herzfeld President Bill Haberman. "We need to preserve and sustain it."
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.