Michael Horne
Bar Exam

Shorewood Tavern Located on Bike Path

American Legion Post has a classic, 1940s bar, just steps from the Oak Leaf Trail.

By - Jul 22nd, 2017 12:06 pm
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The North Shore American Legion Post #331. Photo by Michael Horne.

The North Shore American Legion Post #331. Photo by Michael Horne.

The one square mile that is the Village of Shorewood has a population of 14,000, making it the most densely populated community in the state of Wisconsin. This sidewalk suburb was incorporated as the Village of East Milwaukee in 1900. In an August, 1917 election, the voters (68 of whom went to the polls) delivered the necessary 45 votes to rename their hometown as the Village of Shorewood.

Shorewood is more known for its homes than for its saloons — this is no West Milwaukee, or South Milwaukee, with loads of thirsty industrial workers. Its old standby, The Village Pub, has since transitioned into Cloud Red, while the other watering holes of Shorewood are relatively new.

However, Shorewood retains a venerable drinking establishment in the form of the American Legion North Shore Post #331, which has been open since 1940.

The Legion post itself was formed in August, 1935 as one of thousands nationwide of the organization that was founded in 1919 by veterans of what was then called the Great War.

The members of the post did themselves proud with their building, which is a solid red brick structure with Colonial aspirations. Like many such structures of the era, this one is raised up several steps above ground level. We’ll see why in a moment, but first note the fine engraved cornerstone set into the wall of the entry. The porch has some modest columns, and the front door has side lights and a fanlight window surrounding it. To the left of the door is a sign with a black background, and raised metal letters of an elegant Art Deco script. It reads “American Legion Memorial North Shore 331.” More recent signs, above the door read “Open,” “Hall for Rent,” “Fri – _________ & Fish Fry,” and, encouragingly, “Public Welcome.”

So, up the stairs it is, through the door, which has a script “North Shore” spelled out in glass. A sign in the entryway promotes $2 tacos on Wednesdays, 50 cent wings on thursdays and “Friday Fish Fry w/ FREE Pint of Riverwest Stein Beer!”

And now, down the stairs we go, bypassing the Clarence J. Siegman Memorial Hall above and treading the terrazzo toward the bar below, located in the raised basement. A sign on a table offers an invitation to Yoga Sundays, which is presumably not among the oldest of the building’s many traditions and activities. Once in place, admire the fine old floor and the generally authentic interior. The bar has a well-constructed wooden ceiling, which goes along well with the wainscotted walls. The room has a number of tables for four, with nice sturdy chairs. They await diners eager for home made fish fries, which include home made potato pancakes and “cole slaw from scratch.”

It’s all very genuine and homey, with a collection of odds and ends on the wall. Some have to do with the post and its activities, others are reminders to drink beer. Before we head to the bar, look back at a little game room with electronic and conventional darts, along with other amusement devices. One could get caught in the crossfire here if not careful.

Unlike many places of similar vintage, the Legion Post has managed to escape several decades of misplaced “modernization,” and we are spared the dropped ceilings, boarded-up windows and similar deprivations that so mar other places. Let’s go to the men’s room, and you will see what I mean — two original urinals stand side-by-side like good soldiers, latrine style. The floor is a dizzying tile mosaic — a monochrome Mondrian done in white, black and grey. The door to the toilet stall is wooden and original, right down to the latch.

The bar itself is a “U” shaped affair, with a little peninsula in the middle with the cash register at the very tip. This serviceable setup is convenient for the bartender, and allows enough room so that he can have a stool as well as the customers. The tavern is a draw for locals who have few other options without going all the way across the river to Riverwest. Conversation tends to be about neighborhood things and friends of friends who do not happen to be at their customary seat at the time. All is low key and friendly.

Take a look at the original glass “EXIT” light above the door. You don’t see a lot of them around any more. If you happen to hear some noise outside, it might be the folks out on the patio between the post building and an odd little garage. If you hear some pounding, it might be a Zumba class going on overhead, and if you hear some very fine music it could be locals Kim Zick and Connie Grauer of Mrs. Fun, and it might even be New Year’s Eve.

The Table Set For One. Photo by Michael Horne.

The Table Set For One. Photo by Michael Horne.

Drinks are reasonably priced here, which is another attraction. Perhaps this economy is due to the fact that the entire building is tax exempt. Shorewood’s assessments are done by Accurate Appraisal. In the City of Milwaukee, the bar and restaurant use of an American Legion Post or similar organization is fully taxed, you can be sure. Examples would include Club Garibaldi and the Falcon Bowl.

When it is time to leave, spend a moment of reflection at a round table with a linen cloth, a folded American flag, a red rose tied with a yellow ribbon and an electronic candle that flickers. It is “The Table Set for One.”

A placard explains:

This table, set for one, is small, symbolizing the frailty of one prisoner, alone against his or her suppressors.

The tablecloth is white, symbolic of the purity of their intentions to respond to their country’s call to arms.

The single red rose in the vase signifies the blood they may have shed in sacrifice to ensure the freedom of our beloved United States of America.

This rose also reminds us of the family and friends of our missing comrades who keep the faith, while awaiting their return.

Fun Fact

North Wilson Drive forms the westernmost spine of Shorewood, with Estabrook Park and the Milwaukee River beyond. The east side of the street has a preponderance of post war four-family apartment buildings, built by the dozen and well maintained over the years. This type of development is more common to places like Wauwatosa and western West Allis than it is to the North Shore.

The west side of the street is not developed, with the exception of a Brooks Stevens-designed building at the northwest corner of E. Capitol Drive, a gas station at the north end, and this American Legion Post. Directly behind the post building is the Oak Leaf Trail. Access is via a couple of steps and through the parking lot. This is one of the few taverns along the bike path, with another being The Thirsty Fox on the northwest side of Milwaukee.

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The Verdict

  • Name: The North Shore American Legion Post #331
  • Location: 4121 N. Wilson Dr., Shorewood
  • Neighborhood: None Found
  • Subdivision: None Found
  • Phone Number: 414-961-2123
  • Website: http://northshorepost331.org/
  • Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NorthshoreAmericanLegionPost331/#
  • Twitter: None Found
  • Description: Very authentic basement tavern in a 1940 building that has remained gloriously intact.
    An active American Legion Post, it features such classics as fish fries, spaghetti dinners and live bands along with such novelties as Zumba classes and Yoga sessions. One of the few taverns in the area to be located along a bicycle path.
  • Capacity: Could not be determined
  • Year Established: At this location since 1940
  • Year Building Constructed: 1940
  • Estimated Annual Rent: Could not be determined
  • Property Assessment: Could not be determined
  • Property taxes: Exempt from property tax
  • Property Owner: North Shore American Legion Post #331
  • Business Owner: North Shore American Legion Post #331, Michael Braun, Agent
  • Walk Score: 73 out of 100, Very Walkable. Village Average could not be determined
  • Transit Score: Could not be determined. Bus runs past building, which is on bicycle path
  • Aldermanic District: None. Village has six trustees and a president, all elected at-large
  • Police District: None
  • Bike Racks: None, but building has a railing that would serve.

6 thoughts on “Bar Exam: Shorewood Tavern Located on Bike Path”

  1. Craig Nehring says:

    The buildings to the East have been called “Schroedel’s Cradle’s, after the builder that created them. One may remember Schroedel also built the never completed Rainbow Springs in Mukwonago

  2. PG1946 says:

    Thanks for the information, Craig. I never knew that Francis Schroedel was the developer of the four-family buildings along Wilson Drive. Francis Schroedel also built, among other things, the Bay Village row house development along Santa Monica Boulevard north of Hampton, one of the largest rental housing developments in the North Shore suburbs, around 1950. When I was at Cumberland Elementary School in Whitefish Bay in the early-to-mid-1950’s, many of my classmates’ families lived in what were then generally known as the Schroedel (pronounced “Shray-DELL'”) Homes. The units were considered a good choice for young postwar families who wished affordable access to the well-regarded schools of this bourgeois suburb. I wonder what became of Mr. Schroedel and and his company.

  3. Craig Nehring says:

    Schroedel may have had his hand in the development of part of the old Town of Granville. The subdivision known as Bradley Estates, appoximetly boardered by Calumet Rd to Bradley Rd and from 60th to 51st would have been within Granville in the 1950’s. The reason I mention this is I have in my possession a Plat drawing for this area and it has his name on it.
    There’s a few articles on Schroedel at http://www.w-files.com/files/gh_rainbowsprings.html
    It says he passed away looking for financing he lived to be 67 years old.
    Interesting read at that site.

  4. PG1946 says:

    Many thanks, Craig, for this excellent store of information.

  5. Craig Nehring says:

    Your Welcome

  6. Christina Zawadiwsky says:

    I’ve been to this Legion Post after celebrations at Atwood Park on Memorial Day and Labor Day, and everyone there is very pleasant and friendly and will invite you to sit at their table if no other table or a place at the bar is open! Thanks for the research and all the historical facts, interesting and insightful as usual, Michael Horne!

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