The Marquette Interchange in downtown Milwaukee is confusing and stressful, even with both eyes on the road. But add in the looming, interesting buildings encroaching on each side and it’s no wonder drivers seem to become distracted through this stretch.
One building (among many) always seems to catch my eye, especially while I’m headed east-bound. It has a beautiful Cream City Brick exterior and sits immediately next to the highway barriers. I had to find out more about this building, so I took the 13th street exit to St Paul Avenue and parked in front of the new Third Space Brewing for a quick peek.
Address 422 is the most impressive building on the tiny, half-block N 15th Street, which dead-ends both at St Paul and I-94. It’s currently for sale by Paradigm Real Estate, as evidenced by some relatively-new signage about the grounds. A cool $470,000 will snag a savvy investor 11,000 sqft of usable space over 4 floors, along with 3 restrooms and 1 non-functional elevator.
Though Paradigm states the building was erected in 1929, the Wisconsin Historical Society dates it back to 1901. Peculiarly designed by prolific Milwaukee-theater architect Charles L. Lesser, 422 N 15th is more utilitarian than baroque.
The oldest evidence of a building user I could find was the Milwaukee Casket Company, which was founded in 1875 in Berlin, WI and owned this parcel of land as early as 1886. In more recent years, residents have included Action Heating and Cooling, Trounce Records, Scratch Pad / The DJ Warehouse, and the Odessa MMA Club.
Though 422 N 15th is still on the market, one of Milwaukee Casket Company’s other former buildings will be the new headquarters for Plum Media. Plum, a local digital media company, will be renovating and adding onto 1430 W St Paul Ave next door (Plum also appears to currently own 422 N 15th).
The mystery building at 422 N 15th Street has tens of thousands of cars pass each and every day. It may have had a morbid birth with the Milwaukee Casket Company and a lonely past few years without a tenant, but it’s in a position poised for more growth. The nearby St Paul Ave has mainstays such as the original Sobelman’s, new blood like the aforementioned Third Space Brewing, and some of the city’s best home decor warehouses. I’m sure we’ll be seeing this building being lit up by more than just highways and headlights soon enough.