Yesterday’s Milwaukee

Jefferson Street, 1873

The dirt street where the new courthouse was located was mostly residential or empty. That would change quickly.

By - Dec 9th, 2014 10:22 am
Courthouse, 1873

Jefferson Street and Milwaukee County Courthouse, 1873

In the early 1870s Milwaukee did not have much of a skyline east of the Milwaukee River. The biggest buildings were concentrated between the river and Milwaukee St. and the tallest were no more than five or six stories. The other blocks were dominated by residences even along the eastern end of Wisconsin Ave. This view (circa 1873) shows the newly completed Milwaukee Courthouse dominating the skyline. This view is looking north and a tad east of Jefferson St. Note the lovely row houses in the foreground probably dating from the 1840s, when Wisconsin was still a territory.

The church in the background is the Union Baptist, built in 1865 at a site that was considered centrally located for congregants living on both sides of the river. The church was later renamed the First Baptist Church and replaced in 1889 by a new edifice built on Marshall St. and Ogden Ave.

As for the houses on this street, they would not last long as this area would steadily become more commercial in the 1880s and 90s. A masonic temple would replace these homes and the original Layton Art Gallery would be constructed to the south of them as the booming city rapidly grew and changed.


Jeff Beutner is a collector of photographs, postcards and stereoviews of old Milwaukee. This column features these images, with historical commentary by Beutner.

17 thoughts on “Yesterday’s Milwaukee: Jefferson Street, 1873”

  1. Tom says:

    So what is the building between the courthouse and the church? The older courthouse?

  2. Patti Keating Kahn says:

    Please notice in this amazing photo the tracks for the streetcar that were embedded in the dirt road! Over 150 years ago we had a streetcar. It’s exciting that we’ll get one again.

  3. Gary says:

    Tom’s question: “… what is the building between the courthouse and the church?”

    It’s looks confusing in this view, but it’s the west wing of the courthouse shown in another photo in this series.

  4. Ardith Richter says:

    on that dirty street you missed the up to date street car line that is in the dirt. and all of the people that it helped ..mmmmm

  5. Lana Dimickele, Catlin says:

    i am searching for the Marlboro Apt. building that sat on the corner of knapp and Jefferson…….501 east knapp. i grew up there. My dad was the manager of that tall building…..I worked my tail off there back in the late 50’s. I went to Thomas Jefferson St. school. do you have any pictures of my old school and apt. building. The building stood on the corner of knapp nd went around the corner on jefferson St. Thank You

  6. Candy Burr says:

    Alanna–I think we went to school together at Thomas Jefferson–yep in the 50’s. Sorry I have no pictures of your building or the school, but I often wonder what happened to all our old class mates. Hope your are healthy and happy!

  7. Tom Hanover says:

    Where exactly was Thomas Jefferson St School located and when was it razed? I am researching the family history of a former teacher there named Josephine McCrory who likely retired from teaching in the early-to-mid 1950s.

  8. 501 East Knapp St. ???? No such tall Building, Period…. On the North east corner of Jefferson & Knapp St.Was and old rooming house with a sign in the window “Notary Republic”. On the North west side of Jefferson & Knapp Street was was the Convent. Across the Street no such address or tall Building. I should know,I lived across from the Convent two buildings North of Jefferson & Knapp. From the 1940’s till 1956. Jackson St. and Knapp St. on the South West Corner would have been 501 ?? Maybe? The Midget food Store was there.
    I attended the Jefferson street school till about 1952. Mr. Birdschil was Principal at that time.( I may have misspelled his name. ””””He owned a Mink Farm and was bitten by one his Minks and lost one finger. I was in the 4th Grade at that time.I will always remember that.Mr. Birdshel would line up the boy’s before they could enter the school and to remove there caps or hats. And no skip stairs. Ha,HA.
    Mrs. or Miss Mc Crory ? I had McCrory for 6-b on the 3rd floor. I only remember that every time she used the Green Board ,she would leave the class room to wash the chalk off her hands.The only teacher that I recall that ever did that. i believe she must of had red hair when she was young.
    Around 1978 the Jefferson Street School Burned down, Bad electric wiring !. The school was located across from The Milwaukee School Of Engineering on Jefferson St. And behind Juneau Village in the 60’s and 70’s.
    I remember every year ,I got a free ticket to attend the Shrine Cirrus from The Milwaukee Boy’s Club Located a block away on Jackson St. And we had the afternoon off from school. I also remember every week us boy’s going to the 3rd ward to shower & swim On Friday Afternoon’s in the 6th Grade. I then went on to Lincoln High School Located on the 800 Block of Knapp Street..
    I’m 78 years old now, but so much to try to Remember and be thankful for ! As I pass into History and forgotten for ever.

  9. The picture shown above above is North Jefferson Street @ East Wells Street, looking east towards Prospect Ave.and the the Cudahy Tower.( Not Manson Street.) The Cathedral Square. And behind the trees is Saint John’s Church.And 1 block North is The Milwaukee School of Engineering.And 2 blocks North is where Thomas Jefferson Street School once Stood. THE PARK IS WHERE THE OLD COURT HOUSE WAS BEFORE IT WAS A PARK. LONG AGO.

  10. The Pfister Hotel And Tower. Is a ( 5 Star Hotel.)
    .The 5 Star Pfister and Hotel And Tower, located on North Jefferson Street and which is now East Wisconsin Ave..Was built in 1893. At that time it was called the Grand Hotel. Every important person and Every ( US President who came to Milwaukee Has stayed at this Hotel since it opened. ) All the National Baseball teams stayed at this hotel when in Milwaukee. I saw many Famous People there including Movie stars, Generals.Conventions and the Barber shop in the lower level had a special “Clientele ” When Ben Marcus got a shampoo then a haircut there along with a manicure and shoe shine, he would always complain about the bill, being too much !!! We would then tell him he owns the Barber Shop and he would Respond back and say. ” Well, that’s alright then.” HA,HA. We would all laugh…….all important people in Milwaukee got their hair cut there. It was sort of a Secret Meeting Place for well to do people. Mr.Ben Marcus owned it. The Hotel has several Restaurants. And 5 Star Service! A Red Brick Building, Private.Was( The Milwaukee Club ) it was directly across from the Hotel on Jefferson Street…. Jefferson Street has a lot o History. Thank You.

  11. Lana Catlin says:

    50l East Knap Street was kiddy corner from the convent. The Rooming house was across the street from my bedroom window. Always had that sign in the window. But I thought it said something like Income Taxes done. But it could have said notary republic. I use to have to look at it everyday. And Yes, Marlboro Apartments was a huge building with 40 Apt’s in it. My dad was the manager of that apt building. Topez’es store was on my street. One house separated our building from Topez’s grocery store or should I say candy store. .Asalinas, another store was at the end of Knapp street corner of Jackson and Knapp. I remember a Greystone tavern a couple doors down from Asalinas on Jackson St. I also remember Midgets food store. But it was down a block from my building. Marlboro Apartment building took up the end block of Knapp, and went around the corner of Knapp and Jefferson St. 1240 east Jefferson St. was the address for our building around corner….Marlboro Apartments had three addresses all together, 509, 501 East Knapp Street and 1240…Jefferson St.
    Candace Burr how could I forget you? Yes, we were friends in Jefferson St. School. You were probably the only one I never really forgot. John, I lived there from say 1958 till the city decided to tear all the old buildings down. Everyone was being forced to leave from the whole area. I had a lot of friends, and great memories from those years on Milwaukees east side. Juneau Apartments down on Juneau and Jefferson was managed by my uncle. I had a lot of friends in those apts also, including you Candice Burr. When I was going to Thomas Jefferson St. School, the principal was Fredricks.? or Fredricson? I also remember Mrs McCrory, Mrs McMan, I left Thomas Jefferson and my life on the East side in 1963.
    I’m glad to have received this message. I always wondered what became of my childhood school. I live in Indiana now, and I only get to Milw… once a year. I traveled to the East side of Milw. to try to find my old life, where I hold my favorite memories but all the streets have been turned around, or changed. I did find the corner of Knapp Street, but its not the same anymore, The corner where our building sat is empty now. I see the sidewalk where I roller skated, and that’s all that’s left. Square Park is different now. The whole neighborhood has been washed up and rebuilt. I do still see Juneau Park has the old log cabin that we as kids would love to try climbing up. The beaches or still there but now its someone else’s playground.
    John, did you live the Lybecks? They lived across the street from the convent. It was a sad day to see that convent torn down. I used to wake up on Sunday mornings to their beautiful singing. I am so glad you all took the time to write. I just received this message in my email. Please keep in contact. I have a FB account under My email is If anyone wants to chat.

  12. Lana says:

    I do have one picture of Thomas Jefferson St. school, but only from one angle. Sadly its us as kids, playing in the snow by the the basketball hoops. Can’t see the school . And I have a picture of my dad standing in front of Marlboro looking down at the entrance to our home, Manager. Don’t know how to post them in here.

  13. Mary says:

    We use to go “sledding” down “what we called ” Gugglers hill” … sometimes with sleds ,sometimes with round metal disk shaped sleds and even card board boxes !! Oh what fun we had !!! I wonder often about some of the other children ,,, I remember Candy and Milo Burr , and Theresa Branski and all the Lybek kids …

  14. Lana says:

    I remember playing in those huge, snow banks, they were like mountains, in front of our apartment. Us kids would play from morning till nite, outside in those days, we got cold, we went into the hall ways and put our gloves and hats on the hot water heaters, and then smell them burning, lol. We would walk the 1/2 mile to go to square Park, and ice skate, on the pound, they had a warming house that kept us warm. We were only kids of 8,9 10, and we would walk to Bradly Beach, there were actually two beaches, but I only remember the name of one. We took the short cut through, Juneau Park. Went to the hill, rolled down to the railroad below, cross those tracks, and that put us on the mail drag to the beach. We’d be gone the entire day. No one bothered us…..Couldn’t do that these days. “Oh and remember the Gordon Movie Theater on Gordon Street? I remember seeing Blue Hawaii there with my aunt Berdie. My aunt Birdie was a teen-ager, and my Idol. She used to like a guy that live next door to us named Rufus, had a brother named Vinnie……..and I had the biggest crush on Vinnie. The East side was awesome in those days. I later moved to the Southside, and I remember being so scared of the Southside Gangs. LOL

  15. Lana says:

    Candy, I tried to find you on the internet many times. But not able to find you other then the obits. of your brother Milo, and Allen and Joe and Barbara and Tina. Look me up on FB. I left my info in one of my comments.

    You’s former students forgot one thing.In the middle of the Boy’s Playground stood a giant tree when I went to school there.That tree must of been planted when the school was built.that tree should go to Heaven after all it took from the boy’s all those years.( Late 40’s Early 1950’s) Mrs. Mc Man I had, was it 4th Grade. A stern face. But one of the best teachers there. She had a warm heart and could play the Piano as we sang. My Mother had her at Jefferson Street school when she went there. Her name was then Miss Fox. She lived across from the Astor Hotel in an Apartment.Also in the very early 50’s Miss Emilie worked in the Office for the Principal Mr. Birdshel at the Jefferson Street School. The Park is not Square Park ! It’s Cathedral Square and.across the Street From it is Saint John’s Cathedral Church and also where Saint John’s High School once stood.In the 50’s I was a skater at Cathedral Square each winter and froze my feet every time I skated there, because my skates were to tight. And I came from a Poor Family. Ha,HA. The Midget food Store was on the South west Coroner of Jackson at Knapp St. Then they moved across the Street into the basement of an Apartment on the North East Coroner. You are Correct 501 East Knapp is Correct.East of the Milwaukee River The Address’s get higher as you go east and west of the river they get higher as you go a kid I never went to the store in the middle of the Block. Topez’s,,I really don’t know why?
    I would ask my Mother for her Weekly Street Car Pass on the Week Ends and Would love to ride the route 10 Street car.which crossed Jefferson street And Wells Street It went to West Allis and then to State Fair grounds when the state Fair was here.Every other Route !0 Street car went to Wauwatosa. It was an exciting ride.I hope they bring back the Street Car. People don’t know what there missing. A bus could never compare to a Street Car. Instead of a horn it had a Bell Clan,Clan and riding the Rails and seeing the Street car Coming as I waited for it. WOW.. And the Route 10 street car ran past Lincoln High school.And Cathedral Square!
    .With out a Pass it was 7 cents for Children and 10 cents for Adults.i
    PS, I lived across the Street from The Convent and would watch the Novices Play Volley ball and tennis in the Court Yard from my Second floor.and some times when the door was open at the court yard to let cars into the Court yard. I would sneak in and watch them only to be told to leave. I was about 8 or 10 years old at that time. BRING BACK THE STREET CAR. Without a Street Car or as known today as a trolley, Milwaukee’s Downtown looks like a Hick Town.

  17. Tom Hanover says:

    John & Lana: It would have been Miss (Josephine) McCrory as she never married to my knowledge. By 1952 she would have been 61 years old. Does that seem about right? Any recall of what grade/grades she taught? I’m trying to find out what year she retired too. Thanks!

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us