Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Central Standard Opening Downtown Tasting Room

Distillery will move from Walker's Point to redeveloped 1874 building on E. Clybourn St.

By - Jan 10th, 2020 04:25 pm
Central Standard Craft Distillery in 320 E. Clybourn St. Rendering. Rendering courtesy of Central Standard Craft Distillery.

Central Standard Craft Distillery in 320 E. Clybourn St. Rendering. Rendering courtesy of Central Standard Craft Distillery/HGA.

Central Standard Craft Distillery is trading its small Walker’s Point taproom for a three-story building Downtown.

The craft distillery, led by Evan Hughes and Pat McQuillan, will purchase and renovate the long-vacant three-story building at 320 E. Clybourn St.

The partners said they performed an extensive search for a new space after reaching capacity at their current tasting room, located in a 1,600-square-foot space inside Milwaukee Brewing Company‘s S. 2nd St. brewery. “We either had to be open to the public or closed for private events,” said McQuillan during a tour of the space Friday.

The 11,700-square-foot building will address those issues and more.

The first floor will contain a tasting room with an event space on the second floor and leasable office space on the third floor. A rooftop patio is planned that will offer views of Lake Michigan, the US Bank Center and Historic Third Ward.

The tasting room will serve light food by a known restauranteur. “We believe we have that person, but we are not ready to say who just yet,” said McQuillan. A commercial kitchen will be constructed in the basement.

A 100-gallon pot still will be relocated from the current tasting room to the new space, but general production will remain at the company’s distillery at 2330 W. Clybourn St.

They hope to be open this summer in time for the Democratic National Convention. “If it works out great, we would love to. If we miss it, unfortunately, we miss it,” said Hughes.

If they do miss the DNC, they’ll still have plenty to look forward to. Developer Joshua Jeffers is building a new office building, the 11-story Huron Building, just west of the future tasting room. A three-hotel complex is under construction a block east of the building. Both of those projects will open after the political convention.

The Hop, with tracks split between north-bound and south-bound, runs on both sides of the property.

The activity in the area, including being a block from the Historic Third Ward and two blocks from E. Wisconsin Ave., was a big part of the draw for the distillery. McQuillan and Hughes also said the building itself, including the high ceilings, large windows and exposed, cleaned Cream City brick also made it a natural fit.

An elevated freeway, Interstate 794, passes the building across the street affording a great advertising opportunity should the company install a large outdoor sign as a conceptual rendering suggests it might. But what about painting the name on the side of the building? “We’re going to do something cooler than that,” said Hughes.

The firm is in the process of selecting a general contractor and architect for the project. A purchase price for the property was not disclosed, but McQuillan said the transaction is expected to close in February.

About the Building

Originally built in 1874 as a headquarters and store for the Wisconsin Leather Company, one of the largest such companies in the country at the time, the building at 320 E. Clybourn St. (then 114-116 Huron St.) wasn’t home to a leather company for long.

A historic designation report notes that Wisconsin Leather relocated by 1887 after entering financial failure. “It is difficult to learn what caused the crash as to find out anything definite as to figures. Among business men the opinion is expressed that old-fashioned business methods practiced by the firm did not enable it to cope with rivals that reached out for business in the modem way and placed it at a disadvantage,” wrote the Milwaukee Sentinel. Pfister & Vogel would acquire the company in 1889.

The building was designed and owned by architect Edward Townsend Mix, which explains the unusual design choice of carving the architect’s name into the cornice.

The freight elevator in the building is powered by water, one of only a handful in the area to do so. A large cylinder fills and empties in the basement propelling the carriage up and down. Much to the chagrin of the Milwaukee Water Works and history buffs, the elevator will be replaced to accommodate the rooftop patio and modern safety standards.

The distillery will have plenty of other modifications to make. The floors have settled with a slope over the past 140 years and a bricked-in mystery vault remains in the basement underneath a first-floor safe.

Central Standard won’t be the first tenant in the Italianate-style building involved in the production of alcohol. The Charles L. Kiewart Company, a hops and brewery supply firm, was located in the building starting in 1892.

Most recently it’s been home to exotic art and furniture store From Afar. Before that it was home to retail store White Thunder Wolf.

The property is assessed for $689,900. Lorette Russenberger has owned the building since 1999 according to city records, having acquired it from Robert E. John of Renaissance Books. Permits indicate a substantial repair and rehabilitation of the structure was undertaken in 1999 and 2000.

The building has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 2005, but has not been locally designated.

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