Warehouse No. 1 honors Third Ward's industrial boom
by Becky Roozen
Published Jan. 3, 2005
Story published on OnMilwaukee.com
In 1892 a furious fire swept through the Third Ward demolishing nearly everything, including the Hansen Hop & Malt Co. building at 126 N. Jefferson St. In 1904, the construction of Warehouse No. 1 was completed on that site, contributing to Milwaukee's industrial boom of the early century.
And just recently, for its 100th birthday celebration, that same structure -- once Hansen Storage -- was refurbished and re-dedicated with its original name, Warehouse No. 1, to the flourishing Third Ward district offering a glimpse of yesteryear's architecture in one-of-a-kind office and retail space.
But the renovation didn't eradicate the distinctive style implemented by popular architect of the time, Herman Esser, says Pat LeSage, co-owner of the building since 1998. "He did a very nice job of putting some neat details into this building, and they're still here today."
The timber is irreplaceable, LeSage says. "There are no more trees left like this that can be harvested. The story goes that all these buildings in the Third Ward were rebuilt around the same time, and there was an old forest up in central Wisconsin -- supposedly near Stevens Point -- that was unharvested, and that's why all these buildings look the same."
Because of that original construction of timber, "It is very roomy, and it kind of flows through to every single floor," says Tad Gospodarek of Core Creative, one of the several companies housed in the historic building. "It was designed to retain some of the warehouse characteristics, having the very high ceilings, too. A very casual and unique work setting."
Who knew this industrial warehouse built over 100 years ago would shine through as an antique asset to the Third Ward's budding consumer paradise? Back then, no one.
"It was obviously such an industrial area (although there was a vibrant Italian community residing in the neighborhood by then, -.ed) at that point because Milwaukee was such a hub for shipping and receiving," Gospodarek says. "But it actually turned out to be a much more elegant building and façade than any of the other warehouses in the area."
LeSage says, "Not much has changed in terms of the structure, but what happens inside the building has changed dramatically.
"They had a warehouse with freight elevators, and we turned it into a modern office building, with all the modern conveniences," he adds.
And what really makes this place come alive, says LeSage, is its location. "It's unique because it's part of a district that's unique," he says of the Third Ward. "It was a very commercial area, there was a housing boom and now the shops follow the people.
"There's nothing prettier than the week before Christmas if there's a light snowfall and the Third Ward is all decked out and you walk down Broadway. There's just a different feel to it."
And since such hard work and renewal has been put into this 100-year-old building, LeSage says Warehouse No. 1 is unquestionably a catch.
"We've had offers to buy the building, even from some people who are pretty well-known around here that are very wealthy people," he says. "But I think we have a very emotional attachment here. This is really something. You don't just find these things, and to find a whole area of Milwaukee like this, it's unique."