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The former McKinley School has long been in need of love.
The former McKinley School has long been in need of love.

McKinley Elementary: A look inside a place that matters


For years I've been eager to see inside the former McKinley Elementary School, 2001 W. Vliet St., which was shuttered and sold by MPS nearly 40 years ago. After a 2013 fire, the private daycare and school that operated there also closed for good.

Since then the schoolhouse has been rapidly deteriorating, in some cases at the hands of vandals, other times thanks to forces of nature. But while the city was facing obstacles in obtaining it, the building faced the threat of demolition.

Now, the sprawling 19th century schoolhouse – which was built in sections from 1885 until 1898 (not counting a shoebox-like addition from the 1960s), and looks like no other in the city – has received historic landmark designation from the city and was remediated thanks to federal superfund dollars.

And there's a plan to renovate it into apartments!

This makes me extremely happy, as you might surmise from the many links here to articles I've written on this building (and based on the photo at right). I encourage you to read those for more on the history of the building and what's transpired there in the past few years.

"The city has granted Gorman until the end of 2017 to secure financing for the project," David Misky, of the City of Milwaukee's Redevelopment Authority, told me in June.

"They submitted an application for funds from the Federal Home Loan Bank last week, which is the first step. They are also looking at Historic Tax Credits and Low Income Housing Tax Credits and will likely be submitting those applications later this year and into 2018. The financing really will need all of these credits to make this project doable.

"Meanwhile, EPA is done with their piece and the city is looking to further clean up and secure the property. We continue to have people breaking into the building."

As part of this step forward, I was allowed access to the building, and I can finally share some photos with you of what McKinley looks like inside these days:

Cream city …

Ray's is 56 and has a new parking lot, so why not celebrate?
Ray's is 56 and has a new parking lot, so why not celebrate? (Photo: Ray's Wine & Spritis)

Ray's Wine & Spirits improves a lot & celebrates 56 years on Sunday

Every Milwaukee neighborhood has a liquor store (or three), but some neighborhoods have wine, spirits and beer emporia that are worth driving across town for.

Ray’s Wine and Spirits, 8930 W. North Ave. in Wauwatosa, is one of those places, thanks not only to a deep selection of wine, craft beer and liquor, but because of its upstairs growler gallery with tastings and other events, outdoor seating and, above all, a knowledgeable staff.

The shop opened in its current location in 1961 and has recently improved a lot, so to speak...

So why not throw a 56th anniversary parking lot party, right?

That’s what Ray’s is doing from noon until 5 p.m. on Sunday, July 16.

Johnathan Dye will be there selling his delicious Mr. Dye’s Pies, Marco Pollo and Fatty Patty Burger food trucks will be on hand dishing out tasty goodness, while The Steelheads will perform from 1 until 5 p.m.

Ray’s will sell its booze slushies and there will be "a beautiful, big-ass beer truck" dispensing five beers and Sprecher Root Beer. There will also be ladder ball and bean bag toss.

There’s no cover charge and everyone is welcome at the event, which takes place rain or shine (there are tents!).

Bob Cavallo shot footage at Summerfest '71. Here it is.

VIDEO: Prepping for Summerfest 1971

I spent a fair amount of the late spring this year writing about the history of Summerfest, which, as you all surely know by now, is celebrating its 50th Big Gig.

You can read that baby here.

There is nothing like a photograph to help bring to life the festivals of the past, which is what I thought when I posted these images of Milwaukee having fun at Summerfest in the past as an accompaniment.

But what really takes one back is film and video. And thanks to Milwaukee rock and roll photographer – and musician – Bob Cavallo, we have some footage he shot of the set-up for Summerfest 1971.

Among the performers that year were pioneers B.B. King, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Bo Diddley, The Coasters, The Drifters and Muddy Waters. Also on tap were country stars Jeannie C. Riley, Sonny James, Ray Price and Roy Clark; as well as teen hitmakers like Bobby Sherman and The Jackson 5; rock acts like Mountain, John Sebastian and Blood, Sweat and Tears; and jazz artists like Woody Herman.

Cavallo's band The Messengers also performed on an eclectic bill that also included Sherman and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. It was when The Messengers split up that year that Cavallo traded his drum sticks for a camera and began working for his father, who was a photographer.

It's interesting to see the glimpses of the skyline and, especially, of the poured concrete supports for the future Hoan Bridge before any of the deck was constructed.

Also interesting to see how a couple guys used a rope and pulley system to fly the speaker cabinets for the P.A. systems onto less-than-solid-looking scaffolding and to see the tents, stages and what appear to be rows and rows of folding chairs for seating.

The festival, my friends, has come a long way.

Thanks to Bob for this great footage.

Oh and, because this was 1971, some shirtless stagehand had to moon the camera, so if nudity offends you, don't watch.

A landmark of reggae and the punk scene, "Two Sevens Clash" is now 40 years old.
A landmark of reggae and the punk scene, "Two Sevens Clash" is now 40 years old.

40 years on "Two Sevens Clash" still captures militant zeitgeist of punk, reggae

It was 40 years ago today that The Clash, Sex Pistols and other like-minded fellow travelers fueled the punk revolution in the U.K. and the Ramones, Patti Smith and others did the same here.

Less celebrated, perhaps, is the fact that Jamaican roots reggae was in its heyday at the same time, a fact that did not go unnoticed or unappreciated by punks on both sides of the Atlantic.

(Photographer unknown)

You won’t have to spend much time searching Google to find photos of Smith chilling with Tappa Zukie and Burning Spear’s Winston Rodney, or Johnny Rotten hamming it up with Big Youth for Dennis Morris’ camera.

(PHOTO: Dennis Morris)

The Clash celebrated all the big names of Jamaican music in "White Man in Hammersmith Palais" and covered Junior Murvin’s "Police & Thieves." Rotten traveled to Jamaica to scout talent for Virgin’s Front Line reggae subsidiary.

One of the most important records of the era – and the one perhaps most treasured by punks – was Culture’s "Two Sevens Clash," a reference to July 7, 1977, a date predicted by Marcus Garvey to unleash chaos. Many Jamaicans stayed inside that day and Culture’s hit song captured the zeitgeist not only of that experience but of the upheaval in the international music scene, thanks to the punks’ rip it up and start again attitude.

(PHOTO: Heartbeat Records)

The album, produced by Joe Gibbs, featured the inimitable voice of lead singer Joseph Hill – who died in 2006 – with harmonies by Albert Walker and Kenneth Dayes. Songs like the title track, "I’m Not Ashamed," "See Them A Come" and "Natty Dread Taking Over" were urgent and catchy.

Gibbs tapped Kingston’s top studio talent – drummer Sly Dunbar, bassist Lloyd Parks, saxman Tommy McCook, among others – to provide the backing.

"Their message," wrote Gibbs in the liner notes on the original sleeve. "The unforgotten suffering of their ancestors as they toiled in blood, sweat and tears, only to perish."

Some – most notably "Black St…