City Officials Act to Save Cambridge Ave. Home
Ald. Kovac sought temporary historic designation, contends too many period homes have been razed for apartment buildings.
The Historic Preservation Commission held a meeting Monday afternoon to determine whether a Lower East Side house should receive temporary designation as a historic building. Owner Thomas Wong bought the property at 1773 N. Cambridge Ave. (a block north of Brady St.) in early 2014 with the intent to demolish the home. He already owns the property immediately to the south and his intent is to build an apartment building in its place.
Carlen Hatala, Historic Preservation Planner for the city, presented a rationale as to why the house should receive this temporary designation. Hatala argued that it fulfills several criteria of the Historic Preservation Ordinance.
First, it exemplifies the cultural, economic, social, or historic development of Milwaukee due to its prior owners. Three historically significant Milwaukee businessmen and their families have owned the house through its existence, Hatala noted: Charles E. Crane (who lived there from 1880-1894), Thomas M. Claslin (1899-1920) and Anson Eldred (1917-1936). You can find the full history of the building here.
Second, because of a careful remodel between 1903-1904, the house has withstood the neighborhood changes that occurred in next 111 years.
Architect Joel Agacki, of Striegel-Agacki Studio, argued that other Milwaukee homes better embody the Arts and Crafts style than the 1904 remodel. He dubbed the home a “nuisance property;” presently it’s a rooming house and it is not economically feasible to turn it into a development property. Architect Kerry Yandell added that the house doesn’t retain its original style. “It has been adorned in response to popular trends at the time,” Yandell contended.
Hatala contests this last point. She believes original style doesn’t matter at this point – the house has survived 111 years at its current style and is therefore significant.
Ald. Nik Kovac agrees. “It’s not a house I want to lose,” Kovac says. When he noticed the demolition permit in May, the house went on his radar and he filed for the temporary historic designation. Kovac admits the home may not be as grand as others, but argues it adds historical value to the district to which it belongs. He adds that everywhere an apartment building currently stands there was once a historical home or mansion [for example, the apartment building to the north, Flats 1809]. The trend right now is to demolish old homes and replace them with new apartment buildings and he aims to stop that, Kovac vowed.
The criteria for a temporary historic designation was met and will remain in place for 180 days. Ald. Robert Bauman compares the designation to a temporary restraining order that could potentially be lifted, but during this time, the preservation committee is required to consider making the house a permanent historic designation. Although the temporary designation does not restrict demolition, it does require that a certificate of appropriateness be submitted before any action can be taken.