Highway 41, aka 27th Street, is one of Milwaukee’s major retail corridors. Between Oklahoma Avenue to the north and I-43 to the south, you’ll find the massive Aurora St Luke’s Medical Center, the historic Leon’s Custard stand, grocery stores, a cake shop, a movie theater, and even a laser tag arena. What you may not expect to find lining the side of this busy thoroughfare is a 160+ year-old Italianate Cream City Brick home, but indeed it’s hard to miss, plopped between an optometrist and a tanning salon.
The grand Jacob Nunnemacher House has been standing watch over this street since before Milwaukee had annexed its original home of the Town of Lake, before 27th Street had changed names from Kilbourn Road, and even before the Civil War had begun. In those many years, this sleepy, rural suburban plot of land has seen it’s own long and storied history of uses.
Farmstead of Jacob Nunnemacher and the Nunnemacher/Kinnickinnic Distilleries (1856-1876)
The Swiss-born Nunnemacher was one of those enterprising early-Milwaukeeans who seemed to have his fingers in every aspect of the growing city. But his second home, eventually sitting on some 480 acres, was perched to look over his growing distillery.
Home of Werner Trimborn and the Kinnickinnic Distillery (1876-1879)
The Nunnemacher’s made this their rather opulent home/inn until Jacob’s death in 1876. The next resident, industrialist Werner Trimborn, retrofitted the distillery but passed away himself just some 3 years later.
J. Hermann / Milwaukee Rendering Companies (1879-1883)
Better known as a glue maker, this rendering company (eventually becoming part of Pfister and Vogel tannery) was in operation at the farm for 4 years. It’s likely many of the animals were “rendered” during this time.
Various homesteads (1883-1931)
First, prominent banker F.F. Reidel purchased the home and remaining farm (1883-1911), and was followed by postman Walter Stenz (1911-1931).
Home of Louis and Bridget Czerwinski and Evergreen Camp tourist motel/bar (1931-1954)
In the 1930s, Bridget Czerwinski and her husband Lewis lived in the old mansion, and it would appear that it was during their ownership that the surrounding land became a popular tourist campground/motel on the increasingly-busy Highway 41, named Evergreen Camp. It’s probable, too, that the Czerwinskis converted part of the Nunnemacher house into a bar for visitors.
Wildenberg Evergreen Hotel (1954-2014)
There’s no definite record that Edward J. Vanden Wildenberg nor his family ever lived in the Nunnemacher house, but instead ran it for decades as a trailer park, hotel, and bar. Reports and images from over the year indicate the many of the alterations to the original structure were made during the Wildenberg era.
In 2014 the Wildenbergs turned over the keys to the City of Milwaukee to account for delinquent taxes. Today it’s still obvious how picturesque the Nunnemacher home once was, though it is in an admittedly deplorable state. Based on the burning fire and mound of blankets in the back shed, I’d venture a guess that the motel still has it’s share of unannounced guests.
That being said, the City of Milwaukee has prepared preservation guidelines for any future developers to help restore the brick mansion to its former glory. And in the last year there have been a few signs of possible progress in the Garden District of South 27th Street. If you’ve got a spare $600,000 lying around and can get to City Hall before December 15 of this year, I see a historic, pre-Civil War home with your name on it.