T. A. Chapman Late 1860s
Long before Gimbel's and Boston Store, T.A. Chapman was the city's department store. This is its first location.
Remember Chapman’s department store? The downtown location was at the southeast corner of Milwaukee St. and Wisconsin Ave. for nearly a century, until the company closed its doors in 1981. Sadly the venerable building would be demolished and replaced by the 411 Building.
This, however, is a photo of Chapman’s first department store building, on Water St., taken in the late 1860s. The building in the foreground should look familiar as it is the Iron Block Building which still stands today. The dark building, just to the right, has a sign announcing T. A. Chapman & Co. To its right is Matson’s jewelry store.
T.A. Chapman was started in 1857, decades before stores like Gimbels and Boston Store would be established. It was founded by Timothy A. Chapman who had moved from Boston to Milwaukee in 1857. He soon joined a partnership which opened the dry goods store of Hassett & Chapman. By 1865 he would be in business for himself, a very opportune time as commerce would boom in Milwaukee after the Civil War.
Indeed, Chapman did so well that in 1872 he would build a new and much larger store at the Milwaukee St. and Wisconsin Ave. location. After a fire destroyed that building in October, 1884, Chapman rebuilt within six months at the same location. His third building, constructed in 1885, was the one that was demolished a century later to make way for the 411 Building.
Iron Block Building Today (next door)
Jeff Beutner is a collector of photographs, postcards and stereoviews of old Milwaukee. This column features these images, with historical commentary by Beutner.