Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Puddler’s Cottage Given Temporary Historic Protection

House is at least 153 years old, but is it historic?

By - Feb 24th, 2021 06:47 pm
2530 S. Superior St. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

2530 S. Superior St. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The Historic Preservation Commission unanimously granted temporary historic protection to a one-story, 1,397-square-foot house at 2530 S. Superior St. on Wednesday. It’s a precursor to a bigger debate on granting permanent historic protection to most of the block.

“Unlike some of the big grandiose mansions we have looked at in the past, this is a worker’s cottage,” said commissioner staffer Carlen Hatala in presenting her report on the property.

Believed to be built in 1868, the house is known as a puddler’s cottage. The nearby rolling mill constructed and sold the small structures to its employees. Puddlers were ironworkers that formed molten metal into higher quality iron.

Joseph Paterick, a resident of one of the neighboring cottages, filed an application to protect the property after it was sold in December. He also filed to permanently protect the entire row of seven cottages on the east side of 2500 block of S. Superior St.

He told the commission Wednesday that he had earlier put down earnest money to buy the house. Then COVID-19 hit.

“Long story short, I couldn’t get a loan to save my life,” said Paterick, blaming the pandemic. “I wanted to restore the puddler’s house to its original structure and keep that beautiful carriage barn.”

He said he and another neighbor were concerned when roofers and other contractors said there was a plan to demolish the carriage barn and build another house on the property.

The lot is extra wide because in 1996 an earlier owner demolished an adjacent puddler’s cottage.

“The property is 70 by 150 feet? No wonder they are worried about development,” said commission chair Alderman Robert Bauman of the neighbors.

“It’s been only in the past couple of decades that these properties have been looked at as throwaways in Bay View,” said Hatala of the puddler’s cottages and their highly desirable location..

But the new owners, brothers Ryan and Chris Konicek, said they have no plans to demolish the house.

Nor any plan to build a second house.

“We do not have active plans to put a structure there,” said Ryan Konicek. But he said it would make sense for one given that one was there previously. “We did purchase this property keeping in mind that it has an additional lot.”

Permanent historic designation of the seven houses would not prevent an eighth from being built. A city-designated historic district would include design guidelines regulating future exterior alterations. The city’s historic preservation ordinance does not apply to the inside of a building.

Chris Konicek said the property suffers from substantial deferred maintenance, something he said was a driver in leading prior owner Sheri Aiosa to sell the house for $230,000.

The brothers, who have rehabilitated a number of houses in the neighborhood, are seeking state historic preservation tax credits to support their renovation efforts. The use of the credits would give the state historic preservation officer, but not the city, some say in alterations to the interior of the property.

But Hatala said in her conversations with the Wisconsin Historical Society, no formal application has been filed and making modifications to the property without first securing approval could jeopardize a future credit award. Chris Konicek said that was a surprise and he would follow up. “I would recommend that,” said Hatala.

On a 4-0 vote, the commission unanimously granted the house temporary historic designation, effectively a 180-day restraining order on any modifications. A permanent hearing on the broader district is scheduled for March 18th.

The temporary designation goes into effect immediately. Permanent designation requires Common Council approval.

Ryan Konicek asked if repairs could be made in the meantime. Vinyl siding is falling off the carriage barn and seven windows are reported to be leaking. Hatala referred him to her colleague Tim Askin to secure a certificate of appropriateness to make any changes.

About the House

Like many puddlers’ cottages, the house at 2530 S. Superior St. has been modified repeatedly.

An addition to the house was made in 1964 and the kitchen was substantially remodeled in 1967. In 1977 the front porch was enclosed, though the porch roof is believed to be original.

Asbestos siding was added in 1950, then vinyl siding after 1990.

The carriage barn on the site was built in 1894. Its location is unusual said Hatala, noting it’s the type of structure typically built with a more expensive house. Many have been demolished in favor of single-story garages.

When the property was subdivided in 1868, William Disch appears as the owner with a valuation consistent with a home on the property. Future owners include Horace C. Rising in 1875 and John W. Morgan in 1894. All three worked at the mill.

Alan J. French was the longest resident in the house’s history. He bought the property with his wife in 1964 and lived there until his death in 2017. Aiosa, the most recent owner, is his daughter.

“I never would have thought I would have all this information from a cottage this simple,” said Hatala. “ is amazing.”

She noted that many of her normal methods of research, visiting the Central Library and Register of Deeds for historic records are unavailable.

The Milwaukee Preservation Alliance is backing the historic designation. Executive director Jeremy Ebersole said the cottages tell the history of the neighborhood and the relationship between the mill and its workers.

He noted the 1982 national historic designation report for the neighborhood notes the then-eight cottages as contributing structures.

The large Bay View rolling mill closed in 1929 and was demolished in the following decade.

“All remnants of that massive complex are gone today,” said Hatala.

Today the multi-block mill site has been all but erased. The southern tip is parkland at the northeast corner of E. Russell Ave. and S. Superior St. and its northern tip (now part of the port and freeway system) continued well past E. Lincoln Ave.

Bauman noted that the rolling mill was an important historic site. The Bay View Massacre took place outside its doors. Over 14,000 participants were striking for an eight-hour workday. Members of the Wisconsin National Guard fired on and killed seven members of a large crowd outside the mill on May 4th, 1886. A historical marker sits just north of the row of cottages and an annual re-enactment is held.

It’s the second time in the past year that a historic designation has been considered for a puddler’s cottage. Charles Tollefsen and Amanda Nelson demolished a house at 2556 S. Shore Dr. and are now building a replacement in line with the style of others on the block. Nearby resident Gary Edelman applied for historic protection on the structure, but shortly thereafter withdrew the nomination citing neighbor ambivalence.

Further south, permits have been filed for the demolition of a carriage house at 3072 S. Superior St. No historic designation application has been filed in that case.

Superior Cottages

2 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: Puddler’s Cottage Given Temporary Historic Protection”

  1. RadioWires says:


    Did Washington shit there? No? Then it’s not historic. Preservation has been horrifically abused as an extension of racist redlining practices and needs to be done away with. Anything that important historically is already protected.

  2. SiddyMonty says:

    These little cottages are important. They need to be protected.

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