Former Schuster’s / County’s Coggs Human Companies Middle

As a window re-opens on one former Milwaukee division retailer, it seems more likely to shut for good on one other.

Work has begun to rework the previous Schuster’s – which additionally briefly bore the Gimbels identify – on King Drive and Garfield Avenue, which has begun to shed its steel cladding, into a brand new residence for quite a few space nonprofits. (Take a final look inside right here.)

Former Schuster’s / County’s Coggs Human Companies MiddleX

On the identical time, the previous close to West Aspect Schuster’s constructing, owned by Milwaukee County for the reason that early Sixties and now referred to as the Marcia P. Coggs Human Companies Middle could also be torn down.

The three-story constructing, 1220 W. Vliet St. presently homes workplaces for companies just like the county’s Division of Well being and Human Companies (DHHS) and the State of Wisconsin’s Milwaukee Enrollment Companies, in addition to a meals financial institution within the decrease degree.

Two flooring of state workplaces will quickly be vacant as these companies relocate later within the yr, leaving only one flooring – the third – occupied by county workers.

In accordance with Supervisor Shawn Rolland, whereas the county stays dedicated to offering companies on the twelfth and Vliet website, at the least 4 of eight potential options to ongoing problems with funding and deferred upkeep embody tearing down the 1910 constructing. Two others would see the constructing bought.


“Initially, the county investigated choices to lease area elsewhere, however rapidly decided that the associated fee to lease the area we’d like would create important monetary challenges for the county sooner or later, seemingly resulting in cuts in companies and employees,” Rolland says. “So, they started to think about renovation and rebuilding.

“We’re assessing extra than simply renovation vs. rebuilding. We’re evaluating which proposal would ship the most effective outcomes for the county, for our employees, and for our constituents. Which proposal would supply the most effective structure for our residents? Which might meet individuals’s wants for parking? Which proposal would ship essentially the most environment friendly use of taxpayer funds? Which different leases might we finish by relocating departments past DHHS into the Coggs constructing? We’re taking the time to do our homework and get this proper.”

These eight choices embody a diversified mixture of renovating the constructing, tearing it down or promoting it to a developer and constructing a brand new, smaller constructing with parking.

“At this level, DHHS is recommending constructing a brand new facility, demolishing Coggs, and finding DHHS employees within the facility,” Rolland says.  “This feature would allow us to reduce prices, ship on our strategic plan and ship on our ‘no mistaken door’ philosophy, whereas additionally fixing for the necessity for workers parking with out spending tens of thousands and thousands of {dollars} on a brand new parking construction.

The constructing in December 1979. (PHOTO: Wisconsin Historic Society)


“The county might in the end advocate possibility 6 (demolition) if our employees decide that it makes good monetary sense and strategic sense for different county departments to finish their leases elsewhere and consolidate within the new Coggs constructing.”

Nevertheless, if the county in the end chooses one in every of two choices that embody promoting the constructing to a developer, the Brust & Philipp-designed former Schuster’s might get a brand new lease on life. There’s one possibility that additionally requires renovating and persevering with to make use of the present constructing for DHHS employees.

“The county’s objective is to ship a variety of companies – the Getting old and Incapacity Useful resource Middle; Youngsters, Youth and Household Companies; housing companies; veterans companies; Milwaukee Enrollment Companies, and many others. – to residents who want them, multi functional location,” says Rolland.

“This technique helps our ‘no mistaken door’ philosophy, serving to to make sure that residents don’t must drive to at least one facility, then one other, then one other for the assets they want. Re-investment on this Coggs Middle is also a catalyst for change on this underserved neighborhood.”

As if typically the case on the cash-strapped county, the choice will seemingly come right down to cash.

Brust & Philipp’s drawing for a brand new water tank in 1923 that additionally reveals the Schuster’s signal on the north aspect of the constructing. (PHOTO: Milwaukee County)



“Each Milwaukee County choice must be a financially accountable choice,” Rolland says. “Everybody is aware of in regards to the county’s fiscal challenges. There are tons of of thousands and thousands of {dollars} in deferred upkeep in our parks, parkways, and services, and every year, the annual county price range begins with $10-plus-million deficit that we on the board want to shut.

“The county expects to avoid wasting a big sum of money over time in working and upkeep prices by razing the Coggs constructing, and constructing anew. Moreover, county employees consider they will present extra entry to parking extra affordably by razing the Coggs constructing and constructing a smaller constructing with fewer sq. toes.”

Rolland says that the supply of federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding decides on the way forward for the constructing a time-sensitive one.

“We have now a singular alternative to allocate ARPA {dollars} we’ve acquired to assist the county reduce future prices and ship higher outcomes to residents,” he says. “ARPA {dollars} should be allotted by the top of 2024, and spent by the top of 2026. That makes rebuilding now a extra strategic and engaging possibility, as a result of we are able to tackle all identified and unknown upkeep points proper now.

“If a serious challenge arises sooner or later, there is not going to be ARPA {dollars} accessible to assist us resolve it.”

Somewhat historical past

Though the 213,000-square-foot constructing dates to 1910-11, Schuster’s historical past within the West Aspect neighborhood dates to a lot earlier.

Artwork Deco railing on the backside of the escalators.


The truth is, this long-vibrant buying space was the place German immigrant service provider Edward Schuster received his begin in Milwaukee.

Born in Driburg, Westphalia in 1831, Schuster went first to Australia, then returned to Germany earlier than delivery off for Milwaukee in 1883, the place he purchased into Jacob Poss’ retailer on twelfth and Walnut, which grew to become Poss & Schuster.

The next yr, Schuster opened his personal retailer on third and Brown Streets, bringing alongside 19-year-old clerk Albert T. Friedmann, who would run the enterprise after Schuster’s demise in 1904.

That retailer expanded in 1888 and was expanded with a brand new constructing subsequent door in 1889. However that new constructing was consumed by flames in 1892 and changed with the present constructing on the positioning – lengthy residence to Fein Brothers – designed by Schnetzky & Liebert.

In 1895, Schuster returned to his roots and opened a west aspect retailer – run by his brother Charles Schuster – within the former Poss & Schuster location, Poss’ retailer having simply closed. By 1899 it had doubled in gross sales quantity and was too small.

By 1909 Katz’s division retailer at 1043 Winnebago Avenue – occupying one of many 5 factors on the intersection of eleventh, Vliet and Winnebago Streets – was vacant and Schuster’s moved in, filling its two flooring plus basement. When the adjoining Manasse retailer opened up, Schuster’s annexed that area, too.

Winnebago store
Outdoors the Winnebago retailer, in a picture from a Schuster’s publication. (PHOTO: Courtesy of Metropolis of Milwaukee Analysis Library)


Nonetheless, demand exceeded accessible area and a 150×150-foot website on the northwest nook of twelfth and Vliet was bought. In 1894, the positioning had been practically filled with constructions, together with homes and retail areas for a saloon, a tailor and extra.

These constructions have been eliminated and revered architects Peter Brust and Richard Philipp (whose agency lives on as we speak as Zimmerman Architectural Studios) have been tapped to design a brand new Neoclassical showpiece of a division retailer.

In accordance with a Schuster’s newspaper advert from March 5, 1911 – the eve of the brand new retailer’s opening – Schuster’s, “aimed to present Milwaukee an establishment that she could be pleased with.”

It additionally famous that it deliberate no large grand opening affair, focusing as a substitute on gross sales, noting that it might “have a good time … in a becoming method.”

“There will likely be no decor or different outward show on this event, Our efforts have been directed towards making this a memorable occasion from a merchandising standpoint.”

On the identical day, the Sentinel carried one other advert for the brand new retailer however this one positioned by The Milwaukee Electrical Railway and Mild Firm.

Rendering from 1911 T.M.E.R. & L. commercial.


“Schuster’s, Milwaukee latest large retailer opens tomorrow, its administration alert for each sensible enchancment which might add to the comfort, consolation and in the end the economical benefit of their patrons have included The Electrical Firm’s service of their gear,” the learn the textual content that accompanied a rendering of the constructing’s exterior.

“The Schuster Co. know the waste and worries of an impartial plant. Of their retailer at Third St. and Garfield Ave. they’ve operated their very own gentle and energy plant, and adoption of Central Station service for this new retailer is in keeping with their progress and with what enterprising retailers in different cities are doing each day.”

Iron railing
Authentic iron railings.


Earlier than it opened the brand new retailer, nonetheless, Schuster’s needed to filter out its outdated place, opting to order all new merchandise for the twelfth Avenue retailer, somewhat than shift its stock over from Winnebago Avenue.

“We now stand upon the brink of one other necessary transfer in our enterprise profession,” learn an advert positioned within the Sentinel on Feb. 19, 1911. ”In 10 days extra our West Aspect Retailer will likely be housed within the magnificent new construction simply accomplished by us on the nook of Twelfth and Vliet Streets.

“Already tons of of busy palms are making ready for the opening – however in the interim an important activity lies earlier than us – shifting. After we first deliberate to maneuver, we took under consideration the uncertainties of the climate right now of the yr and we then determined that it might be much better to get rid of our current inventory proper right here in our current location, even at an incredible loss, than to try to maneuver in a potential March blizzard, and so our consumers have been instructed to proceed with the acquisition of a completely new inventory for the brand new retailer – they usually did. This, subsequently makes it all of the extra necessary that we displose of each greenback’s value of products in our Winnebago Avenue retailer – proper right here – and now.”

roof stairs
Authentic roof stairs.


Among the stock was, nonetheless, shifted over to the third Avenue retailer, as one later advert famous, in order that consumers there might have entry to comparable, and infrequently the identical offers and costs, with out feeling omitted.

It bears noting right here that whereas the places as we speak could appear shut to one another, when the Vliet Avenue retailer opened, transportation was a lot slower and the store felt rather more distant.

When the shop closed for good in 1961, the Sentinel famous, “Sixty-six years in the past when the twelfth Avenue retailer was opened, it was 40 minutes faraway from the third Avenue. location by the ‘horse-and-buggy’ transportation services then accessible. Now it takes lower than 4 minutes driving time to go from one retailer to the opposite.”

old window
An authentic window on the fourth flooring.


That nearness led to the shop’s demise.

The Sentinel quoted a Schuster’s assertion that mentioned, “it makes little enterprise sense to take care of two large shops inside arm’s size of one another by as we speak’s shrinking-mile requirements,” and so consolidation moved ahead.

However first, there was a 1923 addition to the twelfth and Vliet retailer, extending it to thirteenth Avenue, and the construction was fully modernized and up to date and re-dedicated 14 years later.

However the post-war constructing increase modified the demographics of town and massively expanded its footprint. Much less necessary than having two large shops a mile-and-a-half aside was having shops serving the brand new neighborhoods bobbing up.

The escalators.


And so within the 4 years earlier than twelfth and Vliet closed, new outlets have been opened at Cudahy’s Packard Plaza and in Capitol Court docket, which was developed by Schuster’s. Two extra shops have been deliberate for completion inside a yr.

“These would be the Schuster’s Wildwood retailer at Hwy 100 and Nationwide Avenue the place building is to be began quickly and a brand new retailer on the west finish of Madison for which plans have been accomplished,” famous the Sentinel.

“Enlargement of the shop at Capitol Court docket can also be a part of this system and an extra 20,000 sq. toes of area will likely be open for enterprise in April … New departments have already been added to the Packard Plaza retailer in Cudahy and a serious enchancment undertaking for redecorating and inside growth on the West Mitchell Avenue retailer has simply been accomplished.”

And so, on Jan. 28, Schuster’s on Vliet closed its doorways for good, it’s workers supplied jobs at different places.

coggs plaque
A plaque devoted to Marcia P. Coggs.


The next yr, Gimbels purchased Schuster’s – working briefly as Gimbels-Schuster’s – and in 1963, the Milwaukee County Division of Welfare bough the previous division retailer constructing and started utilizing it as workplace area.

It has been often known as the Marcia P. Coggs Human Companies Middle since 2003, when it was renamed in honor of the primary Black girl elected to the Wisconsin Legislature, who was additionally a neighborhood Civil Rights chief preventing for truthful housing, training points and extra.

What survives?

At this time, on the skin, the constructing appears to be like kind of the identical, though the massive first flooring show home windows have lengthy since been lined up.

There are nonetheless lions and shields and different ornamental components above the entrances and if you happen to look out again you may see the stays of a pilastered entrance that is been partially obscured by a more moderen lobby addition (under).

back entranceX

There’s nonetheless a low-key cornice alongside the roofline, although an ornamental parapet ornament (which could be seen in a photograph greater up on this put up) was eliminated someday after 1979.

Inside, there are solely minor traces to be discovered and it’s a must to look fairly exhausting to search out them.

The one apparent ingredient that survives from the Schuster’s period is the financial institution of escalators that also carry visitors between flooring.

Basement terrazzo.


In some stairwells, there are iron railings that clearly have been in place when Schuster’s was open and within the basement terrazzo flooring survive, as does at the least one modern chrome Artwork Deco railing, close to the underside of the escalators.

Behind the scenes, you may discover the insides of the unique home windows up on the fourth flooring, the place there may be additionally an authentic staircase to get out to a part of the roof, in addition to early Johnson Controls gauges and dials within the basement (there are at the least two sub-basements, too!).

Probably the most fascinating Schuster’s-related factor I discovered was painted on a fourth flooring wall in a comparatively small area filled with outdated furnishings and large plastic rubbish carts.


Right here, two rows of 4 coloured dots, maybe 4 inches throughout, with one other row of simply three dots are painted on the wall. Written in pencil in most dots is the identify of a division, corresponding to “Bakery dept.,” Junior miss store 2nd,” “Information and radio dept. 2nd flooring,” “Elevator entrance 2nd flooring” and “Males’s washroom.” Close by have been a pair small painted ornamental motifs.


Maybe departments within the retailer have been color-coded for workers causes and this was an identification chart.

Close by, there is a small shingled turret peak that appears prefer it would possibly’ve been a part of a retailer show, although it is unclear what its goal actually was.



In any other case, the inside has been fully transformed. Inside partitions have been constructed to create workplaces and corridors and the place appears to be like nothing like a former division retailer.

Will it keep or will it go?

Whereas renovation all the time sounds preferable to preservationists, those that love historic buildings and the nostalgic, Rolland believes the constructing merely stays too large for the county’s wants.

basement gauges
Basement gauges.


“If we renovated the constructing, we might have 70,000 sq. toes of unused area within the Coggs constructing,” he says. “Even when we moved each acceptable county division that’s leasing area into the renovated Coggs constructing, we might nonetheless have 24,000 sq. toes of unoccupied workplace area.

“It’s an enormous, ageing constructing, and it’s extra space than we’d like. Constructing anew provides us the chance to right-size our footprint and assemble a ‘Goldilocks’ constructing – one which’s not too large, not too small, however good for our wants.”