Jeramey Jannene

New Mural Brightens Former Tannery

Dave Watkins' new mural at River Place Lofts is visible from Interstate 94.

By - Nov 20th, 2023 05:28 pm
River Place Mural by Dave Watkins Aside Finishing House Building. Photo by Nate Vohmof.

River Place Mural by Dave Watkins Aside Finishing House Building. Photo by Nate Vohmof.

A large mural adds a “pop of color” to a revitalized complex of former tannery buildings at the northern edge of Walker’s Point.

That’s how artist Dave Watkins describes his recently completed mural, an approximately 2,200-square-foot piece on the west side of the five-story Finishing House building in the River Place Lofts complex. The abstract, orange-and-blue mural adorns a stair and elevator that was added to the Cream City brick building as part of its 2018 redevelopment into 28 apartments.

Watkins said he “[drew] inspiration from flowing blue reflections of the nearby Menomonee River, combined with the prominent use of oranges, and cream tones representing the distinctive Cream City Brick of the surrounding architecture.”

Watkins, based in Bay View, was commissioned by developer Peter Moede to paint the piece. It faces the newly completed Power House building, the final building in the development. The complex also includes the Beam House (63 units, 2015), Docks Building (39 units, 2018) and Finishing House.

The complex is unusual for the city in that it’s effectively a gated community. Accessible from the western end of W. Freshwater Way, the complex is secured by a fence and hemmed in on its other sides by railroad tracks and the canal. But the public can catch a glimpse of the mural from Interstate 43/94 while traveling on the High Rise Bridge or by taking a boat ride on the South Menomonee Canal.

The buildings were previously used by the Pfister and Vogel Leather Company as a tannery. A Canadian Pacific rail line divides River Place Lofts from The Tannery Complex, which Moede acquired in 1988 with his father and in the 1990s repurposed a number of the buildings as office space. The developer, who is working with his sons on River Place Lofts, previously sold the office portion of the complex.

For more on the Power House project, see our coverage from May.

Watkins commissioned drone photographer Nate Vomhof to photograph the piece shortly after it was completed. In addition to his River Place mural, Watkins has recently completed pieces for the Social Development Commission, the City of West Allis and Uptown Art Week in Chicago.


If you think stories like this are important, become a member of Urban Milwaukee and help support real, independent journalism. Plus you get some cool added benefits.

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us