Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Newspaper Row Buildings Getting Fixup

Cream City brick buildings from 1879 and 1884 get new paint job, other repairs.

By - Sep 4th, 2019 03:56 pm
216-222 E. Mason St. during painting. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

216-222 E. Mason St. during painting. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Two small, historic structures hidden among a cluster of larger office buildings are being rehabilitated.

Building owners Stella Montoya del Portillo and Hugo del Portillo have initiated repair and painting work on the three-story The Milwaukee News Building (1879, 222 E. Mason St.), the onetime home of The Milwaukee Journal, and the four-story Milwaukee Abstract Association Building (1884, 216 E. Mason St).

The buildings, part of Milwaukee’s historic Newspaper Row on E. Mason St., have been vacant for years. The couple nominated them for local historic designation last year, a measure the Historic Preservation Commission unanimously endorsed. The buildings are already listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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 were 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.

Together the buildings have 9,410 square feet of space, according to city records. They contain Cream City brick facades, a reality that has long been hidden by gray paint. Only the color will change now. A crew has been painting the buildings white the past few days.

A crew member on site said that other repairs are planned.

The del Portillo’s acquired the buildings in 2014 for $295,600 according to city records. The property is assessed for $313,900.

Regardless of what the del Portillo’s do with the property, the area around them is certain to continue changing. Irgens is developing a new tower for BMO Harris Bank to the north and has plans to redevelop the bank’s current home just to the west. To the east the Milwaukee Athletic Club is being redeveloped into a new hotel and revamped home for the club.


2018 Photos

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One thought on “Eyes on Milwaukee: Newspaper Row Buildings Getting Fixup”

  1. David Coles says:

    Why anybody would paint bricks is beyond me. You’re taking something that is basically maintenance-free and turning it into something that needs regular maintenance.

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