Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

So is the Journal Building Historic?

Historic Preservation Commission goes from one preservation battle to another.

By - Feb 5th, 2019 02:26 pm
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Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Headquarters

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Headquarters

Just a day after the Historic Preservation Commission granted temporary historic status to the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, two aldermen have nominated the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel headquarters for historic protection. The move could trigger another hotly-contested historic preservation debate within City Hall.

Council members Robert Bauman and Michael Murphy submitted nomination papers following the Tuesday morning Common Council meeting to designate the building at 333 W. State St. as a historic structure.

The six-story building has seen a lot of changes in its nearly 100 years of life. Built in 1924 for The Milwaukee Journal, the printing presses have decamped for suburban West Milwaukee while an ever-shrinking reporting staff remains. A highly-decorative frieze (stone artwork wrapping the building) depicting the history of communication was removed from the building in 2011. A handful of decorative elements still remain on the facade, paying tribute to historic figures in communication and printing. City records indicate the building has 256,429 square feet of space –much of it now empty.

The full-block complex, which includes a building originally built for the Milwaukee Sentinel (918 N. Vel R. Phillips Ave.), has been listed for sale for a couple years since the paper has changed hands. Gannett, the paper’s current owner, rejected a takeover bid this week from Digital First. But Digital First, which owns almost 10 percent of Gannett already, could bid again or attempt a hostile takeover. But whether the sale goes through or not, the newspaper could find itself on the move.

The building is reported to be under contract for purchase currently by developers Joshua Jeffers and Tony Janowiec.

Jeffers has successfully navigated the restrictions of local historic designation in the past, for buildings both old and new. Most recently the developer secured approval to build an 11-story office building at the northwest corner of N. Broadway and E. Clybourn St. in a city-designated historic district. Adjacent to that he also successfully redeveloped the Mitchell and Mackie buildings. On the other end of Downtown, the developer is pursuing a plan to develop an event space in the former St. James Episcopal Church.

In response to Jeffers’ church plans, Bauman said in July 2018: “We should give you the man-of-the-year award for historic preservation.” If Jeffers’ acquisition and Bauman’s nomination both move forward, Jeffers will have to vie for back-to-back titles.

Bauman, who sits on the city’s Historic Preservation Commission as the council representative, could not be reached for comment by the time of publication.

A building’s owner retains the right to appeal the decision of the Historic Preservation Commission to the full Common Council. The designation would require any future exterior modifications to the building to obtain a Certificate of Appropriateness from the commission. The city’s historic preservation ordinance does not govern the interior of buildings.

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3 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: So is the Journal Building Historic?”

  1. David Coles says:

    Thank you, Aldermen Murphy & Bauman.

  2. blurondo says:

    “A highly-decorative frieze (stone artwork wrapping the building) depicting the history of communication was removed from the building in 2011. A handful of decorative elements still remain on the facade, paying tribute to historic figures in communication and printing.”

    1) What happened to it?
    2) Without it, what’s historic about the building?

  3. putnampit says:

    In Portland,ME, the old Press-Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram building was turned into a hotel . The building was a dump, but the city recognized the history that took place over the years — the powerful, prestigious, famous people who came, hat in hand to have their say. The Journal building is a monument to the work that went on inside as much as the architecture. I was proud to work in both buildings and I am happy the aldermen recognize its importance.

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