1875 Burnham Block, now on the market

Since 1875, the three-story cream metropolis brick J.L. Burnham Block has stood at ninth and Nationwide, taking part in a wide range of roles – assembly and live performance corridor for a wide range of teams, retail outlets, taverns, flats and inns.

With its tall, slender arched home windows, arcade of arches capping the primary flooring and its central pediment, it is among the extra sleek business buildings by landmark architect Edward Townsend Combine, whose work additionally consists of the Henry Button’s residence, Mitchell and Mackie Buildings, The Fitzgerald, Outdated Primary on the Troopers Residence and the Central Customary Crafthouse Kitchen constructing, amongst others.



The ten,300-square-foot landmark – it’s on each the state and nationwide registers – is now on the market, with an asking worth of $1.3 million.

See the total itemizing right here.

There are two retail areas  – about 1,700 sq. toes every – three flats (two at 1,700 sq. toes every and the previous corridor at 3,500 sq. toes), plus a deck, safe parking in again and a few leasable house within the basement.

“Wonderful cream brick business block,” notes the Wisconsin Historic Society. “Unique in kind and look with many intact authentic particulars together with ornamental brick cornice, semi round window arches with keystones and weird arcaded storefront.


“The Burnham Block is one among Milwaukee’s few surviving business buildings with a top-floor public assembly corridor. Within the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Milwaukee proliferated with these upper-story rental halls that performed an important, although now forgotten city group position, internet hosting charity occasions, weddings, lectures and labor, political, and social group conferences. Rental halls have been additionally residence to myriad fraternal societies organized within the nineteenth century, usually by immigrants looking for mutual assist whereas socializing with others and sharing their tradition and language.”

second floor
The second flooring hall.


The block is throughout from The Nationwide cafe, 1/10 of a mile from the freeway entrance and strolling distance to all of the facilities Walker’s Level has to supply.

Whereas it’s listed as a possible proprietor occupancy – the present homeowners lived within the top-floor corridor house for a few years, however don’t now – actually this seems like an funding property. And that makes excellent sense as that’s precisely why cream metropolis brick magnate Jonathan Levi Burnham constructed it within the first place.

Somewhat historical past

Burnham was born in Plattsburgh, New York in 1818 and moved to Milwaukee in 1843 along with his brother George, born two years earlier. Their father, Andrus – who moved along with his spouse to a farm close to Waupun – was a brickmaker, a commerce into which George additionally adopted.

round windows
A pair of oculi within the again.


In 1832, Jonathan left faculty and labored as a prepare dinner on an Erie Canal boat for 3 years. Later, the household moved to Buffalo, the place George (and perhaps his youthful brother) made bricks.

Shopping for 80 acres of land for $400 as soon as right here, Jonathan began a taxi enterprise ferrying ship passengers between the lakefront and inland settlements. In 1844, the brothers set themselves up as brickmakers on rented land round 18th Road within the Menomonee Valley. There, they started to make cream-colored bricks with the native clay utilizing a steam-driven brickmaking machine they’d invented with an worker, a “Mr. Martin.”

Although they initially struggled, reportedly shedding $1,000 that first yr, they grew the enterprise right into a rising concern – due to that machine that allowed them to provide bricks extra affordably – and by 1848 purchased a website close to twelfth and Bruce.


The brothers break up in 1865, although each continued making bricks. Nonetheless, by that point Jonathan had already been elected, in 1852, to a time period within the Wisconsin Meeting. Like his brother, Jonathan had diversified into actual property and, with George, into milling flour, opening the Phoenix Flour Mills.

By 1881, George and his sons have been atop a formidable brickmaking concern, with 200 staff churning out 15 million bricks a yr. Jonathan’s smaller brickyard, additionally operated along with his sons, was making about 10 million bricks round 1890 and had 100 staff.

Actual property was the place the cash was for Jonathan, whose preliminary funding of $400 for 80 acres was now value as a lot as $10,000 per acre.

“His actual property holdings, largely targeting the South Facet, have been among the many most intensive of any Milwaukeean of his day,” famous the Nationwide Register nomination report. “He developed plenty of his heaps with business buildings constructed of brick from his yard, together with the Burnham Block at 907-911 W. Nationwide Ave.”

One other of these developments was the 1870 funding constructing at 100 Seeboth Road that was demolished just a few years in the past after sitting vacant for a few years, but it surely was simply one among many actual property offers.

“Burnham can be stated to have bought vacant land to industrial and business consumers with the understanding that they construct on them with materials from his brickyard, thus profiting each from actual property hypothesis and brick gross sales,” the nomination continued. “Burnham’s various enterprise pursuits didn’t finish with actual property hypothesis and brickmaking, as a result of the 1865 metropolis listing additionally listed his occupation as produce service provider.”

In actual fact, Burnham additionally performed a key position in tumultuous second in Milwaukee historical past, in line with the Seeboth designation report.

“Burnham’s ties to the enterprise group have been sturdy because of his quite a few ventures and he was additionally well-respected amongst his friends In the course of the financial institution riot of 1861 lots of of disgruntled laborers who had been paid in nugatory financial institution notes stormed Alexander Mitchell’s financial institution. Mitchell averted catastrophe by packing up all the deposits and securities and giving them to J.L. Burnham for safekeeping. Burnham took the financial institution’s belongings onto a Lake Michigan steamer and returned with the property when the panic had subsided.”

Jonathan Burnham died on Sept. 24, 1891 – two years after his brother George had handed – and his actual property holdings (which additionally included 240 acres in Marathon County) have been left to his daughter Annie Towne.

Each brickyards continued to function for a time below the route of Burnham descendants and have been finally merged again right into a single firm that seems to have wound down by 1930.

(Facet notice: George Burnham’s residence was just a few blocks west on Nationwide Avenue and survives at present. It was lately bought by the Clarke Sq. Neighborhood Initiative.)

In the meantime, a survey of sources reveals the type of number of exercise on the Burnham Block on Nationwide Avenue throughout the a long time.

A 1982 historical past of the property written by then-owner Roger J. Lieske says that lore holds that the constructing initially served as a lodge, turning into particularly well-liked with hunters capturing at geese within the marshy Menomonee Valley close by.

“The primary flooring of the constructing was a tavern whose partitions have been coated with massive painted murals,” Lieske wrote. “In response to the story, one wall have footage of geese and associated looking scenes. The opposite three partitions have been coated with footage of nudes.”

The highest flooring was a corridor for dancing and leisure.

Lieske added that, “the constructing continued for use on this method till Prohibition,” although different sources are in battle.

For instance, the Nationwide Register report says the second flooring was deliberate as flats and never transformed to sleeping rooms till later. And in 1886, P. Stamm ironwork operated within the retail areas, whereas Zwoster’s Corridor on the highest flooring within the 3,500-square-foot house served as assembly house over time for teams just like the Mitchell Membership, the Eighth Ward Membership, the Fashionable Woodmen, the Pythian Temple, The Unbiased Order of Foresters, The Knights and Women of Honor and others.

The primary group to hire the corridor was The Armin Lodge No. 9 of the Sons of Herman, a German social group named for Harming, a people hero who trounced the Roman military repeatedly within the ninth century. The cultural and mutual assist society met within the corridor each Thursday night from 1875 till 1881.

From 1881 till 1890 the corridor hosted conferences of the German Harugari social society. For a part of that point – 1886-90, the Historic Order of United (Railroad) Workmen Milwaukee Lodge No. 98 met Thursdays.

On Mondays, the American Legion of Honor, T.B. Elliott Council 1086 met on the third flooring from 1883 to 1888, and a trio of Knights of the Maccabees of the World chapters – together with Hunter Tent No. 14, Juneau Tent No. 3 and Natiional Tent No. 87 utilized the house from 1893 till 1911.

You get the concept … People have been joiners again then.

In 1896 that house was referred to as Burnham’s Corridor. In 1915 it was Vanderviefen’s Corridor.

In 1892, Ott & Rinzel, makers of saloon, retailer and workplace fixtures, was occupying one of many retail areas. The Van Der Viefen household lived on the second flooring and would stay there for a few years (at the least by means of 1915), they usually operated the tavern within the different retail house.


Newel put up on the steps to the corridor.


Amongst of their neighbors was poor Benjamin Connell, discovered hanging in his room in 1894, after affected by melancholy. And Lewis and Annie Foster, who have been arrested as “drunkards,” and two of their youngsters despatched to the orphanage at Sparta, with a 3rd residing close by at St. Vincent’s Orphan Asylum on Greenfield Avenue.

Within the early Twenties, a coal seller had house within the constructing and by 1923 Dr. F.W. Milke, veterinarian, had opened his canine and cat hospital, which might stay into the late Thirties.

In 1931 Henry B. Bruce was arrested for violating Prohibition legal guidelines in his saloon within the retail house to the left of the corridor entrance. That very same yr, P.E. Burany’s Nationwide Welding and Machine Co. was doing enterprise within the different retail spot.

Lieske recorded that Annie Towne – Burnham’s daughter – bought the constructing to Joseph and Rosa Szasz in 1928.

In 1932, Lawrence Kenny ran the tavern and in 1933, as Repeal arrived, it was seemingly James Pogas who served the primary authorized beer there.

Two years later the constructing was bought at a sheriff’s sale to Zora and Eli Radjenovich for $8,000.

The highest of the primary staircase.


And again down once more.


In 1937, town took the constructing for $268.74 in delinquent taxes, and John and Marie Osmanski purchased the place for $4,500 in 1943.

They moved their companies, Osmanski’s sheet metallic works (which had been subsequent retailer at 907 W. Nationwide since 1923) and Marvin Machine – which had moved from twentieth and Fond du Lac – into it.

Later occupants on the primary flooring have been extra industrial: Midwest Software & Die, C&C Software & Provide, and in 1982, Lieske’s Reliance Heating. Lieske rented the 911 storefront to Chuck’s Transmissions.

The second and third flooring have been reportedly vacant for a lot, if not all the Osmanski period.

Mirroring modifications within the neighborhood, the constructing took an artsier flip later as Artwork Muscle journal moved in simply in time for its first anniversary in 1987 and began internet hosting live shows and different occasions within the Artwork Muscle Ballroom (aka Membership DuPah, named for native musician Bobby “DuPah” Friedman). One present featured Die Kreuzen, Sofa Flambeau and Monkey Bar.

An undated view (seemingly early ’70s), courtesy of Wisconsin Historic Society.


In 2018, Walker’s Level Heart for the Arts occupied each retail areas, which had been reasonably un-artfully related by a gap smashed by means of the brick wall.

Unique flooring.



As of late, each retail areas are occupied – one by a flower store referred to as Blue Fowl Design and the opposite by a jewellery retailer referred to as Cival Collective. They each are stunning areas with authentic flooring and elevated show window platforms.

The Cival Collective jewellery retailer features a attractive lengthy and low show unit that was discovered within the basement and introduced upstairs (pictured under).


Within the basement – the place you may see that the constructing has flooring joists double the everyday width – a carpenter has his workshop.

Carpenter’s workshop.


Inside the primary entry to the higher flooring is a dramatic steep staircase and what seems to be all the unique wooden ceiling and wall panels.

The 2 flats on the second flooring – one on both sides of the hall, made up from the as soon as separate smaller rooms – are brilliant and spacious, and one has a deck out again. However it’s the high flooring unit that’s the stunner.

A lot of the doorways to the general public areas have transoms above.


Arriving on the touchdown, which might’ve been the ballroom lobby, there’s a former coatroom at left and what’s now the kitchen at proper. A staircase from the kitchen leads as much as a loft house that serves as an workplace for the 2 artists who hire the house. Tucked under the loft is a rest room and laundry room.


The massive open corridor house stays a lot because it was with its two entrance doorways with transoms, excessive ceilings and people tall home windows, looking over the neighboring buildings and the Menomonee Valley the place as soon as the Burnhams made their bricks to a view of Downtown.

Andrew Megow, who lives within the house with a fellow artist says that legend has it that boxing matches (bare-knuckle, in line with some) have been held up right here, as have been basketball video games.

“It is at all times had a very good vibe to it,” he says.

“We have been right here since 2020. It is extremely insulated. We are able to blast music. We’re music followers right here,” he provides, and I notice the drum set, the guitars and amps, “and the individuals downstairs can’t hear something.”


In fact, residing in an uncommon house can have its challenges, too, Megow says.

“We’ve got ‘ballroom issues,’ is what we name it,” he says with amusing. “Simply because if we have to rise up to the ceiling, it is like, ‘Properly, we actually must rise up to the ceiling.’

“However there’s a whole lot of upsides. The view is unbelievable. We generally simply park chairs in entrance of the home windows and simply watch the site visitors up there on the bridge.”