Monday, October 08, 2007

Coast Guard Station Salvation?

A new proposal has been floated to rehab the 1916 Coast Guard Station along Milwaukee's lakefront, calling for conversion of the Prairie Style building to a maritime museum focused on Milwaukee and Lake Michigan. The time limits on the previous proposal, an Indian cultural center that's been floating around in fund-raising limbo for 4 years, expired over the summer, prompting Milwaukee County to call for its demolition.

Milwaukee Coast Guard Station

The Coast Guard station has been allowed to rot for decades, subject to fires, a deteriorating roof, and a collapsing sea wall. In its current state, it's one of those buildings that easy for laypersons or developers to dismiss as an "eyesore" (one of my pet peeve words as it's so often abused and misused.)

Coast Guard Station

Renovated, however, it could be a thing of unquestioned beauty. It's a bit hard to see through all the window boardups and general decay -- this building has none of the ornamental razzamatazz of City Hall or the Pfister Hotel. Its beauty is a bit more subtle.... and till it's renovated, it's hard to fully appreciate.

I will say this: it's absurd that anyone would oppose a private for-profit entity's proposals to redevelop this historic property. Opposition to private business on the lakefront is meant to keep it from turning into a giant parking lot or housing development -- not to remove options from preserving important parts of its own heritage. We allow the marina to operate. There's a kite stand, a concession stand, bike rentals, the Art Museum, Discovery World, Alterra... we really couldn't find a way to let some restauranteer or other willing entrepreneur get in and do what must be done to salvage the Coast Guard Station?

Milwaukee Coast Guard Station
The building after an April 2005 fire that damaged the roof.

This is an existing building, not someone coming in out of the blue and gobbling up open park land. It's a part of the lakefront's heritage. Show some common sense, Milwaukee! This handsome beast deserves to be saved.


Anonymous said...

The idea of having a restauranteer move in has come and gone. The indian ground barrier it still there, blocking any commerical development and is ultimately what will cause the demise of this building. I worked on this building for a semester @ UWM in a historical restoration class around 1990. Back then this building was already pretty far gone. The 2nd floor is burned out it the middle. But, since there two stairways, you can still get around. It's creepy inside and I hated being in there. There has been another fire since then. For as much as I like old buildings in Milwaukee and I don't agree with all of the demolition that has and is currently going on. I can honestly say that I can part with this building. Also, The matching house which was once just north of the station is long gone.

Anonymous said...

I'm sad to hear that. I think its a beautiful building and I believe that if someone can do something with it, they should. It could very easily be a great building again. A nice restaurant would be perfect. I do not like the idea of another museum being placed in some building we can't use. I like the idea of a museum district at Michigan and Lincoln Memorial. There is no need to stray away from that area.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting information. I am a Marquette grad who recently began talking about approaching the county about possibly developing the building into a restaurant. However, this news about the Indian ground is intriguing since any commercial development would probably require a parking lot to be built somewhere in the vicinity.

Anonymous said...

Per the news, This building is set to be torn down by the City of Milwaukee in March 2008.
(Thank God)

Margaret Foster said...

Can I have permission to use one of these photos on our magazine's Web site, We're doing a story on the demolition of this building.

Jerry A. McCoy said...

I just learned that this incredibly rare example of a Prairie Style lighthouse has been razed.

SHAME on Milwaukee!

Jerry A. McCoy
Silver Spring, MD
(I have family in the Milwaukee area)

Tina said...

Good Job! :)