Michael Horne
What’s It Worth?

Kinn Hotel’s Building Worth $1.5 Million

Future hotel's building has colorful history since 1868. And oh, can it handle heavy loads.

By - Aug 15th, 2019 11:20 am
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602-606 N. Broadway. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

602-606 N. Broadway. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Earlier this month the Historic Preservation Commission approved a proposal by developer Charles Bailey to add a partial one-story penthouse addition to his proposed Kinn Hotel at 602-606 N. Broadway.

It will not be the first time the 1868 Italianate commercial structure has raised the roof. In 1899 Judah Monis Lawrence [1816-1902] took out a permit for a $1,870 alteration to the place he had owned since it was built 31 years before. “Add another story on top of present bldg. — 12″ brick wall,” wrote the inspector. At some point a mansard roof on a portion of the building (likely the corner, where the hotel is planned) was also removed and replaced with a full story.

Structure Reinforced

Manufacturing often coexisted with office space in larger early Milwaukee buildings. Early tenants in this one included Joseph Goldsmith & Co. Commission Merchants (1871); Harry Essen Wholesale Clothing (1873-1883) and the American Express Company, which occupied a space for over four decades, from 1876 to 1917. All of these businesses dealt in bulk goods of one sort or another, so there must have been considerable comings-and-goings here in the early days. In 1910 one would find within a block’s distance business offices coexisting with a knitting factory, a wholesale milliner, a tailor, a cap factory, a knitting mill, a glove factory, the Milwaukee Trunk & Bag Co. as well as a machine shop to fix all of the errant equipment in the many manufacturing concerns. It is amazing the old wood framed structure handled the beating.

In 1929 the Lawrence Block was controlled by attorney Douglass Van Dyke [1881-1958], the grandson of Judah M. Lawrence and the trustee of his estate. Just months before the stock market crash he spent $15,000 to “alter and remodel” the building. The permit called for him to “replace present wood posts with iron columns. Wood girders reinforced with channels. Floor Load 100 lb./s.f.”

One hundred pounds per square foot is a substantial load, within range of that found in a warehouse, and about twice what would be called for if the building were used as office space alone.

In August 1929 North Central Distributors, Inc. took out a permit “to sell Victor Radios + Talking Machines + Records at Wholesale” from 602. In 1936 the entire building was leased by Hooker Paint and Glass for the purpose of selling wholesale paint and glass. Those are all heavy commodities.

In 1956, Douglass Van Dyke was still in charge, this time representing the Van Dyke Estate as trustee, with his family having owned the place for nearly 90 years. He spent $3,000 to “support 1st, 2nd, 3rd & 4th floors by inserting additional steel beams and columns.”

A Declining Downtown

By 1962 the building joined the rest of Downtown in a downward slide from which many historic structures did not survive. That January the Lawrence Block became the offices of the Unemployment Compensation Department of the Industrial Commission of the State of Wisconsin, adding a touch of gloom to the atmosphere. By 1968 it was vacant, and owned by the Goldsmith Building Co. In 1970 it was sold to public relations executives and partners Ben Barkin and David Herman for $65,000.

In December 1971, with the space vacant, Barkin and Herman accepted the offer of Don Plotkin to operate what we would today call a “pop-up” wholesale and retail clothing store, returning the building to one of its early uses. Plotkin was nearly thwarted when the inspector threatened to shut the operation down even before it started.

Plotkin responded that “he did not realize he needed a permit.” Plotkin had “gone through expensive advertising.” Plotkin got his permit, just in time for the holiday season. In 1973 Donald Arenson, a part owner of the building, sold fabrics at wholesale and retail from here, while much of the building remained vacant. In May, 1973, an 18-foot by 3-foot blade sign was moved to 602 from a few doors up at 612 N. Broadway, and displayed prominently on the corner. It advertised Needlecraft, a retail store.

There were plans in 1974 to open a coffee house here, but that scheme was 40 years ahead of its time, and it was canceled. Later in 1974 Albion Kahn turned the old warehouse space into a men’s clothing store. The next year Roger Kriete bought the place for $123,000. In 1976 he covered the first floor with “Texture III — Cedar Siding,” which was then a popular medium for defacing old buildings, as was corrugated metal facing, which was also present here. The building sold twice in 1982. In April Kriete sold it to Broadway Development Associates for $275,000. Kahn, the clothier, bought it for $310,000 in September. He operated his store here until 1988.

A New Historic District

Like many other buildings in Downtown at the time, this one faced an uncertain fate. Old Reconstruction-era buildings would be much more profitable if the owners did not have to pay to maintain a building. Surface parking lots were all the rage, and a number still exist within sight of this building. On September 23rd, 1986 the city established the seven-block East Side Commercial Historic District, which included the Lawrence Block. Kahn had sold the building in August to Atty. Terry Gray for $413,500. The building reverted largely to office use, except for the considerable vacant portions. But it was spared for a reincarnation, along with downtown Milwaukee itself.

Renderings of Proposed Addition

Three-Story Addition Renderings

Five-Story Addition Renderings and Building Photo

The Rundown

  • Name of Property: The Lawrence Block. To become The Kinn Hotel
  • Address: 602-06 N. Broadway, City of Milwaukee
  • Assessed Valuation: The 7,200-square-foot lot is assessed at $540,000 ($75.00/s.f.) and the 25,966-square-foot improvements are valued at $1,006,200 for a total assessed valuation of $1,546,200. 2008 Valuation: Land — $288,000; Building — $1,908,000; Total — $2,196,000
  • Taxes: 2018: Treasurer’s system was down for maintenance. However, at a combined property tax rate of $25.88 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, the tax bill should be about $56,832.48
  • Owner: 600 North Broadway LLC, Joshua Jeffers, Agent. Owner purchased building 06/30/2017 for $1,550,000
  • Type: Italianate Commercial building
  • Architect: Unknown
  • Year Built: 1868
  • Neighborhood: Juneau Town
  • Aldermanic District: 4th, Robert Bauman
  • Walk Score: 98 out of 100 “Walker’s Paradise” Daily errands do not require a car
  • Transit Score: 63 out of 100 “Excellent Transit” Transit is convenient for most trips. Streetcar stop on block
  • Bike Score: 83 out of 100 “Very Bikeable”
  • 1894 Sanborn Map Sheet #010
  • 1910 Sanborn Map Sheet #015
  • National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form

How Milwaukee is it? It is four-tenths of a mile south of Milwaukee City Hall.

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One thought on “What’s It Worth?: Kinn Hotel’s Building Worth $1.5 Million”

  1. just1paul says:

    Great article. Thank you for the history.

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