Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Redevelopment Planned for Milwaukee News Building

Historic building was once center of Milwaukee's Newspaper Row.

By - Jun 4th, 2018 01:59 pm
The Milwaukee Abstraction Association Building and the Milwaukee News Building. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The Milwaukee Abstraction Association Building and the Milwaukee News Building. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Two small historic buildings in the heart of Downtown are set to see new life.

The Milwaukee News Building (1879, 222 E. Mason St.), the onetime home of The Milwaukee Journal, and Milwaukee Abstract Association Building (1884, 216 E. Mason St) have long been vacant, but a plan is coming together to restore life to the buildings that were a core part of Milwaukee’s former newspaper row between N. Broadway and N. Water St.

Building owners Stella Montoya del Portillo and Hugo del Portillo have nominated the Victorian Gothic-style buildings for permanent historic designation by the city.

Reached by phone Monday morning, Montoya del Portillo tells Urban Milwaukee “we are going to remodel.” She hopes work begins later this summer.

They hope to receive historic preservation tax credits to rehab the buildings, which are awarded by the state and federal government. In addition, the buildings are eligible for facade and white box grants from the city, with the local historic designation ensuring that any modifications are historically sensitive.

According to a 1980 building survey, the buildings were joined in 1970, with the first-floor facades being merged while the upper floors retained their distinct appearances. At that time banisters, doors, hardware and fire-place mantels were installed after being salvaged from demolished Milwaukee mansions. Sconces and stairway lighting was installed from the demolished Garrick Theatre in Chicago that was designed by famed architect Louis Sullivan.

How many of those historic fixtures remain today is unclear. The city’s assessment records contain photos from 2004 of substantial water damage, with a note that the electrical connection to the buildings was severed because of the extensive damage.

Combined the buildings have 9,410-square-feet of space according to city records. They contain Cream City brick facades, a reality that has been unfortunately hidden by gray paint. The western Abstract Association building is four stories tall, with the eastern News Building rising three stories.

The Historic Preservation Commission has scheduled a special meeting for July 2nd to hear the application. The buildings are already listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The del Portillo’s acquired the buildings in 2014 for $295,600 according to city records.

With or without redevelopment of these two buildings, the area around them will change drastically in the coming years. BMO Tower is under construction at the other end of the block, and the current BMO Harris Bank offices in the M&I Building just west of historic buildings will be redeveloped starting in 2020. The Hop, Milwaukee’s streetcar system, will also begin running just to the east of the building’s on N. Broadway later this year.


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2 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: Redevelopment Planned for Milwaukee News Building”

  1. Jeff says:

    Remodel into what?

  2. MollyO says:

    I’m happy these buildings will not be torn down.
    Milwaukee has already lost much of its history.
    Thanks for the pics.

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