By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Aug 02, 2021 at 11:30 AM

The City of Milwaukee’s Historic Preservation Commission will hold a special meeting on Aug. 12 at 3 p.m. to discuss the temporary historic designation of two houses on Milwaukee’s lower East Side.

The homes – at 2275 and 2279 N. Summit Ave. – might not appear especially extraordinary but according to Dawn McCarthy, who is president emeritus of the Milwaukee Preservation Alliance, they are representative examples of the residential character of a the North Point South Historic District.

The homes – and others nearby – were excluded from the district when it was created decades ago. They are located on a site where a new apartment development is planned and have been acquired by the developer, according to Urban Milwaukee.

“Built in 1889, these buildings are similar in character to those included in the designation report for the North Point South designation report. Th(ese) house(s) are located in the Glidden and Lockwood’s Addition, as are the ones in the district across the street,” wrote McCarthy in her application.

“Similar to the residential buildings across the street, (these are) single family with brick and wood shingle siding and a gabled roof. The lot size and setback are also similar.”

Temporary designation is typically a first step in seeking permanent historic designation for a property.

“It seems likely that because some of the houses on the west are slightly more modest than the ones across the street that they may not have been included due to a bias toward designating larger houses and mansions," McCarthy wrote. "In fact, and importantly, these homes show the variation in residential buildings in the ... district.”

Applications and discussions like this one – as well as ones related to the workers’ cottages in Bay View – help advance the idea that historic doesn’t only apply to the homes of wealthy Milwaukeeans of the past, but the application might also be construed as an attempt to thwart development of the apartments.

McCarthy denies that obstruction is the goal of the application.

"Using historic designations to prevent new development is a misuse of the ordinance. Period," she said. "These buildings have existed since 1889 and were built from solid materials. They may not be big 'H' historic, although we don't know yet, but they have historic value as contributing to the district and as an indicator of how our city was built and evolved.

"The designation process allows for a community conversation to determine if the buildings are significant to the community.  I believe they are. Not pertinent to the historic designation argument but also important, these appear to me to be Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing (NOAH). Nothing built today will be less expensive. Finally, if these houses can be maintained and rehabbed, that will keep building materials out of landfill. Someone might suggest that the houses could be deconstructed, but it is difficult to market the materials. Why throw these buildings away?"

The commission meeting is virtual and can be viewed via the City Channel, channel 25 on Spectrum Cable or on the Internet.

This post was updated on Aug. 2, and with comment from McCarthy on Aug. 3.

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 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.