Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Goldmann’s Campaign Canceled, Sign Headed to Cincinnati

Historic neon sign won't return to Mitchell Street, instead slated to go to sign museum.

By - Sep 20th, 2019 04:57 pm
McDonald's neon sign at the American Sign Museum. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

McDonald’s neon sign at the American Sign Museum. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

A $20,000 fundraising campaign to repair and display the former Goldmann’s Department Store sign has been canceled. The 800-pound sign will be shipped to the American Sign Museum in Cincinnati where it will eventually be repaired and installed in the indoor museum.

On Monday we reported that the group sign had the 24-foot-tall sign, an approved plan and a location, all they needed was the money to make it happen. Now they’ve changed directions.

“Preservation is a tough hobby which can be bittersweet, but with efforts by many people over the last two years, I’m happy to have saved this treasure and ensured its future,” said Old Milwaukee Facebook group leader Adam Levin. The Milwaukee history enthusiast co-founded the non-profit Old Milwaukee Neon Co. with three partners earlier this month. Levin reported that he refunded all of the donations received through the GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign.

What changed in a week? “I reached out to the sign museum and asked if they came to a decision and they accepted,” said Levin in an interview. “$20,000 is a lot of money to raise and not easy to raise. I really think it needs an indoor life. It’s done its time outside.” Levin had described the sign museum as an option earlier this week.

Goldmann’s operated at 930 W. Historic Mitchell St. from 1896 until it closed in 2007. Unlike the many chains it competed against, the store was always a stand-alone enterprise.

“The foundation created to save old Milwaukee neon doesn’t end here,” said Levin in a post announcing the change. He pledged that the newly-formed organization would stay active in saving neon signs in Milwaukee.

The sign sat behind the former store before a collector purchased it and hauled the sign to North Dakota in 2015, storing it in a field. Levin crowdfunded $2,000 in late 2017 to buy the sign back and former area alderman Jim Witkowiak, who owns a funeral home at 529 W. Historic Mitchell St., went to pick it up. “For some reason, I just woke up one morning and said I’ll go get the sign,” said Witkowiak at a hearing regarding the sign’s future.

Witkowiak and Levin presented a plan to the Historic Preservation Commission in July to mount the sign in a parking lot Witkowiak owns at 545 W. Historic Mitchell St. The commission unanimously endorsed the plan and wished the partners good luck.

The sign, currently in storage at a property owned by Witkowiak, still needs to be shipped to Ohio. Levin is working with the museum on coordinating transportation.

Levin is joined as a director at the new non-profit by Witkowiak, Mary Martin and Nancy Bush.

Enjoy the photos of the sign’s future home from our 2018 trip to Cincinnati.

American Sign Museum

Sign and Rendering

Video Showing Sign Condition

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One thought on “Eyes on Milwaukee: Goldmann’s Campaign Canceled, Sign Headed to Cincinnati”

  1. frank a schneiger says:

    This is devastating news and another blow to our precious South Side heritage. First, the removal of the beloved National Liquor Bar pouring bottle sign on 26th and National, a welcoming symbol and icon for every pot-bellied wino between Becher Street and The Domes. And now this, the loss of one of the last beacons of hope for the morbidly obese, many of whom came from as far away as St. Francis and Cudahy to purchase their XXXXXL leisure suits. And, Cincinnati? That’s the final insult, unless the secret plans to rename Layton Boulevard “Melania Trump Terrace” continue to move forward.

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