A city with a ‘genuine abundance’ of historic buildings

Port stands out because of its structures of historical significance, according to a study intended to identify National Register contenders

DOWNTOWN PORT, where Franklin Street is lined with buildings of significance, is a historic district listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Photo by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press staff

Port Washington has a “genuine abundance” of historic buildings, many of which may be eligible for inclusion on the state and national registers of historic places.

That was the conclusion of an architectural and historical intensive survey done last year by Legacy Architecture and presented to the Common Council recently.

While the conclusion may seem like a no-brainer in a community that touts its historic downtown and well-kept neighborhoods, it’s something that can’t be found everywhere, Jennifer Lehrke of Legacy Architecture said.

“There is a nice collection of historic buildings that remain in the city,” she said. “We don’t always find that. Sometimes, we work in a community and we find half the (historic) buildings have been demolished or destroyed.

“Port Washington has some great gems. It’s definitely not one of those communities (where a significant number of these structures have been destroyed).”

Port is so rich in historic buildings that they are sometimes “almost taken for granted,” Bob Harris, the city’s director of planning and development, said.

“There are a lot of them, and they’re important to the community,” he said, noting they help bring to life the character of the city.

The survey lists buildings of all types, from commercial and retail shops to private homes and other structures, such as the St. Mary’s Cemetery chapel on Webster Street and the anchor from the Toledo.

It’s filled with information about the architecture of buildings within the city, when they were built and sometimes who designed them.

It lists buildings that are on the state and national Register of Historic Places, as well as structures that could potentially qualify for inclusion on the registers.

And that, in large part, is the importance of the study, Lehrke said.

“These surveys are meant as planning tools,” she said. “They’re meant to identify buildings that are potentially eligible for the National Register.”

But, she quickly added, the survey doesn’t impose any sort of restrictions on properties or their uses.

“There’s no teeth that comes with this,” she said. “You can paint your house any color you want. You can make renovations.”

If someone chooses to seek inclusion on the National Register, she noted, they could become eligible for tax credits to do work on the building.

“That’s where teeth come in,” she said. “They want to make sure you’re doing the right thing for historical buildings.”

Harris noted that the survey also can be used if the city wanted to create a historic preservation act, commission or ordinance — something the city isn’t considering at the moment.

“This could be a foundational instrument for that,” he said. “The details included are very good. It really highlights the importance of the building stock we have here.”

The survey, he added, updates one done in 1998, and it was paid for by the State Historical Society using federal funds.

The survey notes that of the 518 structures of architectural or historical interest in the city, 22 are eligible for including on the National Register.

Many are along Grand Avenue and Wisconsin Street, including the Eghart House, while others are scattered throughout the city.

They include Poole Funeral Home, the Ozaukee County Administration Center —the historic courthouse is already listed on the register — Port Hotel, the historic firehouse (today Lake Financial) and the Smith Bros. shanty on the west slip.

Also listed is the post truss bridge near Fisherman’s Park.

It also identified 71 properties included in the earlier survey as potentially eligible but that no longer qualify because of modifications.

Two complexes and two residential districts containing 52 other structures were also noted as potentially qualifying for the register. Among these are the Lake Park complex, which includes the bandshell, Yacht Club and Veterans Park; the St. Mary’s Church complex, which includes the church, school and convent; the Schanen Acres area, including 30 homes south of Grand Avenue between Eva Street and Grandview Drive and north of Lincoln Avenue; and an area of Grand Avenue that includes 18 buildings between Madison Avenue and South Eva Street.

Lehrke said the survey shows the city’s pride in its history and the buildings that embody that pride and in some cases can serve as a stepping stone for economic development, since historic communities tend to be places people want to live and visit.

“I know Port Washington is very proud of its historical buildings,” she said, “and it has every right to be.”


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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
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