Most everyone who notices the building at 326 W. Florida St. in Walker's Point does a double take. What's an old Pabst building doing down here, so far from the old brewery complex?
In 1891, Capt. Frederick Pabst apparently commissioned his favorite architect, Otto Strack, to design a five-story warehouse and industrial building at what is now 331 S. 3rd St., along the railroad tracks in Walker's Point.
At the top of the facade, there's a medallion with a hop bud and the letter B (for Pabst founder Jacob Best? Or maybe it was added later when Louis Bass Co. occupied the building?). The building would be rented by the A.J. Lindemann & Hooverson, which manufactured stoves, water heaters and kitchen appliances, including ranges, waffle irons and hot plates.
At the same time, Pabst was trying to purchase the adjacent Metropolitan Hotel, on 3rd and Florida (the vacant lot in the first photo below), from its owner, a Mrs. Benson. But it appears the Captain never closed a deal for the building, which began life as The Niagara House in the 1850s (Lincoln reportedly bedded down there during his 1859 visit to speak at State Fair), and was later Benson House, Metropolitan Hotel, Railroad YMCA Hotel, Brock Hotel and Baker Hotel.
It was vacant and still owned by Benson Land Co. when it was razed in 1941, after having served for about a year as home to the Boys' Brotherhood Republic, the local chapter of which was founded by William Clucas, a Walker's Point barber, and four high school boys in 1938 to teach local trouble-making kids the ins and outs of city government.
Perhaps that led Pabst next door, where in 1894 he erected another warehouse/industrial rental property just west of the hotel, at 326 W. Florida St.
While Strack was remarkably restrained in drawing his vernacular warehouse, architect C.L. Linde designed a beautiful Romanesque Revival facade for the five-story 326, with an elegant turret, rows of arched windows and, in the center, toward the top, a Pabst medallion. The entrance is marked by a broad Romanesque arch.
Last summer, the sturdy 326 W. Florida St. – which has about 46,000 square feet – was purchased for renovation into a second Global Water Center location, just across the railroad tracks from the water-focused Reed Street Yards.
The first Global Water Center, which has nearly 100,000 square feet spread across seven floors, nearby at 247 W. Freshwater Way, has been such a success that The Water Council was seeking ways to expand, according to council president and CEO Dean Amhaus.
"It is simply supply and demand, as we need more space to meet the interest of businesses from across the world," Amhaus told Water World earlier this year. "GWC II will be a big help as it will provide options not available in our first building."
I got a peek inside 326 last fall. Here are some photos of what it looked like as workers were still removing the contents and moribund machinery, in preparation for the beginning of renovation work.
Global Water Center II (GWC II) is expected to be complete at the start of 2017.
1. These adjoining warehouses were built by Pabst to rent to others
2. Architect C.J. Linde paid attention to detail
3. Vaulted subway tile ceiling
4. Remnants of old industrial use
5. Look at that solid construction
6. This place could stand for centuries
7. All of this is being removed before renovation
8. Peek a boo
9. Pabst medallion on the exterior
10. Ghost signs advertising earlier tenants
11. The view north includes Global Water Center I
12. 331 S. 3rd St.
13. A hop bud medallion adorns 331 S. 3rd St.
14. Underpass facilitating pedestrian passage between GWC I and GWC II
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.