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If You Preserve It, They Will Come: Kenosha Architecture Walks

10/2/2019 - Frederick Butzen

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Kenosha Wi Architecture Tour
Kenosha Wi Architecture Tour
Kenosha Wi Architecture Tour

I love architecture. Being a fourth-generation Chicagoan, I grew up among the finest architecture in America. In my youth, I explored the city endlessly. Later, as a mail carrier doing special delivery, I had the pleasure of walking through – of experiencing –  practically every building in downtown Chicago. 

I learned to love the work of men like SullivanBurnhamRoot, and Wright. I also learned to detest the shortsightedness and greed of the city’s leaders, as one treasure after another fell to the wrecking ball.

A handful of preservationists have worked tirelessly to slow down the steamroller of “progress”; one, photographer Richard Nickel, lost his life in the cause. Although they saved some great buildings, many masterpieces – the Garrick Theater, the Midwest Stock Exchange – are gone forever. And the losses continue.

When I moved to Kenosha in November 2017, I was delighted to find that Kenosha itself is an architectural treasure. While it doesn’t have the spectacular buildings of Chicago, or the Frank Lloyd Wright masterpieces that can be seen in Racine, Kenosha’s architecture is lovely, widely varied, and – most important – well preserved.

The preservation of Kenosha was due in part to a depressed local economy, and in part to the actions of civic leaders. With the closing of Kenosha’s major factories in the 1990s, the real-estate market was severely depressed, which meant that older buildings weren’t being lost to developers. At the same time, civic leaders in business and government worked to identify and preserve noteworthy buildings.

With the revival of Kenosha’s economy, considerable amounts of money are being invested in refurbishing classic older buildings – buildings that today cannot be built at any price.

The result is a city whose architecture is remarkably beautiful, and remarkably intact. To walk through downtown Kenosha is to walk through a living seminar of American domestic architecture of the last 175 years. And “walk” is what I’m inviting you to do.

In this article, I’ll describe three architecture walks through downtown Kenosha. Each walk takes between 90 minutes and two hours, depending on how leisurely you walk and how many pictures you take. At the end, I’ll list some other Kenosha sites that are worth seeing, and give a few sources where you can find more information.

All of our walks are in Kenosha’s downtown. If you don’t have a map handy, look here.

Walk #1: Civic Center District

Our first walk looks at some of Kenosha’s impressive civic buildings and churches, plus some lovingly restored classic buildings. 

Get Started

This walk centers on Civic Center Park, 900 57th Street. Click here for a map.

To begin, drive (or walk) to the corner of 56th Street and Sheridan Road. (If you’re unfamiliar with Kenosha, 56th Street is the east/west boulevard with the streetcar tracks running along it.) Park on 56th Street a block or so east of the post office – parking in the immediate vicinity of the post office is limited to 15 minutes. From there, you can walk to the first building on the tour.

The Walk

Kenosha Post Office, 5605 Sheridan Road – The first building on this walk is the Kenosha Post Office, at the southeast corner of Sheridan Road and 56th Street, which was completed in 1933. Its limestone facade is a good example of the Federal style – thick with pillars, arches, vertical windows, cornices. The interior features some lovely décor in metal and marble; however, the original WPA murals were covered up decades later with some crude daubs.

Kenosha County Courthouse912 56th Street – The next stop is kittycorner from the Post Office: the Kenosha County Courthouse and Jail, at the northwestern corner of Sheridan and 56th Street. Completed in 1925, this is a lovely Neoclassical building. Unfortunately, the building is not accessible unless you have business with the court, but do step into the lobby, where you can see fine marble work, mosaics, and murals, and – straight overhead – a Tiffany-style skylight. The inscription along the courthouse’s facade reads: “ERECTED BY THE PEOPLE OF KENOSHA COUNTY TO THE CAUSE OF JUST AND CAPABLE GOVERNMENT”.

Kenosha County Administration Building, 1010 56th Street – This building, which is just to the west of the courthouse, was constructed around the same time, and was originally a meeting hall for the Loyal Order of Moose. Check out the corner windows, which are framed with beautiful ironwork.

Dinosaur Discovery Museum5808 10th Avenue – On the south side of 56th Street is the Dinosaur Discovery Museum, which faces onto Civic Center Park. Originally built as a post office in 1909, in the 1920s the building was moved several blocks to its present site, where it served as the home of the Kenosha Public Museum until being repurposed as the home for the Carthage Institute of Paleontology. The exhibits trace the history of the dinosaurs, from their reptilian beginnings, through the KT asteroid extinction, to how birds are descended from them. The basement houses the Carthage Institute’s paleontology laboratory, where fossils are prepared and studied, as well as an exhibit on how the building was moved to its present site. If you know any kids who love dinosaurs (and what kids don’t?), be sure to bring them along.

Reuther Central High School913 57th Street – To reach our next stop, cross 10th Avenue to Civic Center Park, walk to the park’s center, where you’ll see a large V-shaped sculpture. Turn right (south) and follow the path to 58th Street, where you’ll see Reuther Central High School. Built as part of the same City Beautiful project as the county courthouse, and in the same neoclassical style, it was finished in 1927. Originally named Central High School, then Mary D. Bradford High School (after the pioneer in Wisconsin public education), it is now named after Walter Reuther, long-time president of the United Auto Workers – a reflection of Kenosha’s past involvement with the auto industry. I suggest you walk back west to 10th Avenue, then south along the parking lot, where you can appreciate the building’s neoclassical facade. When you reach 58th Street, look east; you’ll see the school’s auditorium, now named after Kenosha music educator Ralph Houghton, and is the home of the Kenosha Symphony Orchestra. If you can get access to the auditorium, look over the proscenium, which is decorated three 1920s-vintage murals, the central one being an allegory of the Progress of Kenosha.

St James the Apostle Church5804 Sheridan Road – Our next stop is St James the Apostle Catholic Church, at the southeast corner of 10th Avenue and 58th Street. This is the oldest Catholic parish in Kenosha, having been founded (originally as St Mark’s) in 1844. The present building, renamed St James the Apostle, was finished in 1884, and is a fine example of English Gothic Revival. If you can get access to the church itself (unfortunately, it’s usually locked), be sure to view the woodwork of the pews and along the ceiling, and the metalwork that decorates the sanctuary.

Bradford Community Church5810 8th Avenue –  This Gothic-Revivial Unitarian-Universalist church was built in 1907, for Florence Buck, the first woman pastor in Kenosha. The exterior, made of rough, irregular limestone blocks, was cleaned in recent years, though in tight corners you can see how completely the stone had been blackened by more than a century of coal smoke and automobile exhaust. The church was sold in 1929, and served as a library, then later as a restaurant and bar. Kenosha Unitarians bought the building in 1991 and re-established it as a church, named after Mary D. Bradford, the educator and prominent member of the original congregation.

The Stella Hotel & Ballroom5706 8th Avenue – Turning north on the west side of 8th Avenue, in the next block you’ll come to the Stella Hotel & Ballroom. This lovely building was originally the Kenosha Elks Club. Over the years, it fell into disrepair and eventually closed. The building was purchased and redeveloped as a luxury hotel and banquet complex – part of Kenosha’s renaissance in tourism and hospitality. I’m told by Kenoshans who remember the original building that the original lovely décor of the building has been faithfully restored. The second floor of the building, behind the pillars, is a ballroom; and both it and the rooftop bar/restaurant offer a spectacular view of Lake Michigan.

Kenosha National Bank Building625 57th Street – Walk past the Stella Hotel, then turn right onto 57th Street, where, a block to the east, you’ll see the Kenosha National Bank Building. This eight-story building, finished in 1928, this Classical Revival building is one of Kenosha’s architectural treasures. It never fulfilled its economic potential – it was finished just before the start of the Great Depression – the building fell into disrepair and was slated for demolition. Purchased by Clovis Point LLC, it is being restored to its original state, for offices for businesses and professionals. The rooftop penthouse is being restored as a luxury home, complete with rooftop garden.

5610/12 7th Avenue – For this final stop on this tour, walk back west on 57th Street, then cross 7th Avenue, to 5610. This little gem of Prairie-School architecture is a beautifully restored shop/apartment, whose retail space now serves as a workshop. Note the tapestry brick, the plaques above the doorways, and the beautiful detailing in limestone. If you have a chance to step inside, you’ll appreciate the restored stairways and floor tiles. It’s one small example of the restoration work being done by Kemosha’s growing community of artisans, artists, and developers.

Afterwards

If you’re feeling peckish after all that walking, stop in at the Wine Knot Bar & Bistro, 5611 6th Avenue, which is about two blocks east of our starting point, for a glass of wine and a meal. Or if beer is more your thing, walk a block further south on 6th Avenue to the Rustic Road Brewery, 5706 6th Avenue, for a brew made on the premises, along with a brat or burger.

Walk #2: Library Park

Our second walk is in the historic district centered around Library Park.

Much of the information for this walk is, frankly, cribbed from the guided tour of the Library Park Historic District conducted by Bob Lichter and John Leuck, who are docents with the Kenosha History Center. I thank them for doing my research for me! Any mistakes or misstatements in what follows are due to my not being able to jot down what they were saying quickly enough.

Get Started

Library Park is at 711 59th Place, immediately south of the business district.  Click here for a map.

I suggest you park in the parking lot of the Simmons Library, which entered on the east side of 8th Avenue. At that point 8th Avenue is one way running south, so you will need to turn south onto 8th Avenue from either 60th or 59thstreets.

In this walk, we’ll start at the Simmons Library, which gives Library Park its name. From there, we’ll walk to the north end of the park, then walk counter-clockwise around the park.

The Walk

Gilbert M. Simmons Memorial Library711 59th Place – We’ll start our walk at the Simmons Library, Kenosha’s principal architectural treasures. It was designed by Daniel Burnham, famed for his design of Chicago’s Columbian Exposition and for the Burnham Plan of Chicago, which helped create Chicago’s glorious lakefront. The library was the gift of Zalmon G. Simmons, a Kenosha civic leader and manufacturer (his company was the first to make an affordable coil-spring mattress, the “Simmons Beautyrest”), in memory of his deceased son. The library’s exterior will remind you of such Burnham masterpieces as the Museum of Science and Industry, but on a smaller scale. Its interior was restored in the 1980s, and the woodwork, mosaics, glass, woodwork, and metalwork are a feast for the eye. The carrels on the balcony of the west wing are a comfortable place to work, and there’s a free behind-the-scenes tour of the library on the second Saturday of each month. But, enough said: Go. See. Enjoy.

Abraham Lincoln Statue, northeast end of Library Park – If you walk to the northeast corner of Library Park, you’ll see a status of Abraham Lincoln, a gift to the city by Kenoshan Orla Miner Calkins. It was by New York sculptor Charles Henry Niehaus, and was dedicated in 1909, the centenary of Lincoln’s birth, and was restored in 2003 to remove corrosion and re-apply the patina. This is a sober, thoughtful work that reflects popular admiration of the 16th president.

Kenosha County Soldiers’ Monument – Winged Victory, north end of Library Park. – Walk 50 feet or so to the west and you’ll see the Winged Victory, a 61-foot column and statue that commemorates the men of Kenosha County who fought for the Union in the Civil War. It was designed by Daniel Burnham to complement his library, and, like the library, was a gift to the city by Zalmon G. Simmons. Its base contains a box of memorabilia of the war, including personal testaments of some Kenosha veterans of the Civil War.

Residences at Library Park720 59th Place – Originally, this building was a YMCA built in 1930, thanks to a contribution by Charles Nash, the industrialist who owned the Nash Motors Company. The Tudor Revival style is rather out of date for 1930, but it complements the other major buildings in the Library Park district. This classic building has been completely refurbished, and has reopened this year as rental apartments. 

Christ the King Church, 5934 8th Avenue –  To continue the tour, we cross 8th Avenue to the First Congregational Church, built in 1874. Now a non-denominational church, this is another fine example of Gothic Revival.

The Allis Apartments, 811 60th Street –  Continuing our walk south, the Allis Apartments, at the corner of 8th Avenue and 60th Street, is a fine example of the Prairie School, and the comfortable flats that are so typical of Midwestern architecture. Its style differs so radically from that of the Residence at Library Park, across the street, that it’s hard to believe that they were built at about the same time.

Arthur H. French House6008 8th Avenue – Continuing down 8th Avenue, the next house was built in 1908 by businessman Arthur French (1860-1938). 

Allen House6012 8th Avenue – The next stop on 8th Avenue is the house built in 1906 by Nathan Allen, who owned a local tannery.

Hale/Farr House6028 8th Avenue – The next house was built in 1848 by businessman William Hale. Prior to the Civil War, it was one of two “stations” on the Underground Railroad in this district, the other being the Ruben Deming home, on the other side of the park. Around 1890, the home was acquired by William Farr, a surgeon with the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad., who rebuilt it in Italianate style. Between 1916 and 1923, it was the home of Horace Johnson, who invented the closed-crotch for men’s underwear while working for Cooper’s Klosed Krotch Underwear Company, a forerunner of Jockey International. Kenosha remains home to Jockey International, though their manufacturing is now done elsewhere. Since 1923, it has been the headquarters of the Woman’s Club of Kenosha.                                                                                        

First Church of Christ Scientist, 6032 8th Avenue – Moving south on 8th Avenue, the next two buildings both have the address of 6032. The building to the north was built in 1928 as a Christian Science church. It was later acquired by the Armitage Academy, a private elementary school, which built the extension to the south. It is now home to Here We Grow Academy, a day-care center.

Volney French House6044 8th Avenue – Moving south on 8th Avenue, the next house was built in 1846 by attorney Volney French (1811-1881), who was father of Arthur French. It’s a lovely miniature in Greek Revival style.

Jewish Community Center, 6050 8th Avenue – At the corner where 8th Avenue curves into 61st Street is the Beth Hillel Temple, which was built in 1927. The inscription over the entrance is from Isaiah: “My house shall be a houe of prayer unto all nations”.

Masonic Temple807 61st Street – Moving east on 61st Street, we come to the Masonic Temple, which was built in 1924, and designed by Chicago architect Richard Gustave Schmid, who specialized in Masonic temples. This grand neo-classical revival building is now being used as a storage facility.

Frederick J. Gottfredsen House, 711 61st Street – East of the Masonic Temple, this home was built in 1888. Its use of arches and stone blocks is reminiscent of Chicago’s Rookery Building. Frederick Gottfredsen, an executive with the Pabst Brewing Company, was the second husband of Mary Head Wells, the grandmother of Kenosha native Orson Welles

Jacob G. Gottfredsen House, 705 61st Street – This home, at the corner of 61st Street and 7th Avenue, was built in 1869 by Jacob Gottfredsen an immigrant from Denmark who started a successful brewery. He was the father of Frederick Gottfredson.

Orson Welles Birthplace, 6114 7th Avenue – Two doors south on 7th Avenue is the bright blue building that is the birthplace of Orson Welles.

Edward Bain House6107 7th Avenue – Crossing 7th Avenue, we see the Edward Bain House, built in 1860. Bain owned the Bain Wagon Works, a major manufacturer of wagons – in particular, the Conestoga wagon used by pioneers on their trek to the American West. This is a beautifully preserved example of mid-19th-century architecture in the Italianate style, down to the detailing on the gables. 

Louis Thiers House, 6025 7th Avenue – Crossing 61st Street and walking north on 7th Avenue, we come to the Louis Thiers House, a Queen-Anne-style home built in 1893 by Louis Thiers, a well-known Kenosha photographer. Previously, this site had been the home of Reuben Deming, a minister and abolitionist, who, with his wife, Mary, ran a “station” on the Underground Railroad. The Deming home was moved to 1116 61st Street, where it stands today. The book Focus on Louis Thiers, by Diane Giles, Beverly Brandl McCumber, and Dane Pollei, has a generous selection of Thiers’ work, and gives a picturesque portrait of Kenosha at the turn of the last century. Copies are available at the Kenosha History Center.

Urban J. Lewis House6019 7th Avenue – Continuing north, we come to the home built in 1892 by banker Urban Lewis. In 1920, it was bought by the Hansen-Lendman Funeral Home, which owns it to this day. This is another beautifully preserved example of late Victorian architecture in the Queen Anne style.

Lucien Scribner House, 6003 7th Avenue – Our last stop on 7th Avenue is one of the oldest in Kenosha, having been built in 1843 by architect Lucien Scribner. It was later the home of Peter Pirsch, inventor and nationally known manufacturer of fire trucks. Note the “widow’s walk” on the roof, where a family member could look out over Kenosha harbor and, hopefully, catch sight of a ship bearing a loved one.

St Matthew’s Episcopal Church5900 7th Avenue – Our last stop on our circuit of Library Park is St Matthew’s Episcopal Church, which is another Gothic Revival church (complete with flying buttresses), built in 1879 to a design by architect A. H. Ellwood. If possible, take the time to walk through the church, which is truly lovely. The church’s Skinner organ dates from 1925, and was recently fully restored by the T. R. Rench Company – a classic example of the organ-builder’s art.

Afterwards

Once you’ve finished appreciating the architecture, walk two blocks north on 6th Avenue to The Buzz cafe, 5621 6thAvenue. Relax with a sandwich – I’m especially fond of the Basic Panini – and a local brew on tap.

Walk #3: Harbor District and Third Avenue

Our final walk looks at some of the newest buildings in Kenosha, and some of the oldest. This is also the longest of our walks.

Get Started

This walk centers around Southport Marina and the lakefront along Third Avenue. Click here for a map.

Park in the parking lot of the Civil War Museum. The museum is at 5400 1st Avenue, and the parking lot is immediately east of museum building. From the parking lot, walk to the museum, which is the first stop on the tour.

The Walk

The Civil War Museum5400 1st Avenue – For our first destination, walk through the museum – from its eastern entrance off the parking lot, to its western entrance on 1st Avenue. Opened in 2008, this museum is unique to region: an educational and research facility dedicated to the Civil War and its aftermath, and, in particular, to the role played by the six Midwestern states in the conflict. As you walk through, look up: the arches across the roof mimic the arches of the bridge at Appomattox, Virginia, where Lee surrendered to Grant. Also, the gift shop has a fine selection of reasonably priced used books. If you have time, the exhibit “The Fiery Trial” is well worth experiencing: lest we forget.

The Kenosha Public Museum5500 1st Avenue –  As you leave the Civil War Museum, turn left and walk south down the 1st Avenue mall. During the summer, this is the site of the Harbormarket, Kenosha’s outdoor market, held each Saturday. As you pass south of the Civil War Museum, look east, between it and the Public Museum. You’ll see a pathway leading down to the statue of Christopher Columbus, near Kenosha’s Southport Marina. The Public Museum was established in 1933, and its present Harbor Park facility opened in 2001. It is devoted to a number of subjects: principally, natural history of the Kenosha region, the fine arts, and the natural sciences. If you have time, be sure to take a peek inside and see what’s happening.

Harbor Park Condos –  As you pass the Public Museum and continue south, you’ll come to 54th Street. Look west, where you’ll see Harbor Park immediately west of the museums, between 54th and 56th streets, and 1st and 5th Avenues. This was the site of Kenosha’s harbor-side industrial park, where the Nash Motors Company – later, American Motors , then Chrysler – had a major assembly plant. The development of this beautiful location as condominium homes has helped to spark Kenosha’s renaissance. To the north, between 54th Street and the harbor, is the Kenosha Sculpture Walk. Streetcars encircle the area, running east on 56th Street, circle past the harbor park, then back west down 54thStreet. To the south is Southport Marina, with parks and the homes of the Third Avenue Historic District, which you’ll see on this walk. And to the east, ever-beautiful Lake Michigan.

Southport Marina, 21 56th Street; Wolfenbuttel Park, 5901 3rd Avenue; Eichelman Park, 6125 3rd Avenue – Once across 56th Street, follow the paths that lead south and west, along the lakefront, which will take you to the Third Avenue Historic District. Southport Marina is one of Kenosha’s two marinas – the other is the Simmons Island Marina, north of the harbor mouth – and the one that can berth sailing craft. South of the marina are two of Kenosha’s most popular lakefront parks. Follow the paths that run west of the parking lots; these will lead you to  the east side of 3rd Avenue.

Jeffrey-Nash House, 6221 3rd Avenue – Our first stop is the house immediately south of Eichelman Park. It was built in 1909 for industrial Charles W. Jeffrey, son of Thomas B. Jeffrey. The senior Jeffrey was an industrialist and inventor who co-founded the Gormully-Jeffrey Bicycle Company, and who invented the clincher rim for pneumatic tires that is used on bicycle and automobile wheels to this day. In 1897, Thomas Jeffrey sold his stake in the bicycle company and started the Thomas B. Jeffrey Company, whose Rambler automobile was the first use a steering wheel. Charles took over the company upon his father’s death in 1910 and concentrated on producing heavy-duty trucks, many of which were used by US forces during World War I. In 1915, he and wife sailed for Britain aboard the Luisitania; when the ship was torpedoed, Jeffrey’s wife was killed. In mourning, he sold the company and the house to Charles Nash, former president of General Motors, and devoted himself to philanthropy. A plaque on the house’s 3rd Avenue archway calls this home “The Monster House”; I’ve not been able to discover why.

Continuing south on the east side of 3rd Avenue, you’ll pass three lovely mansions:

The Kemper Center6501 3rd Avenue – South of the Jeffrey Home, you come to the Kemper Center. This historic site was the home of Charles Durkee, who settled in the Kenosha region in 1835 and amassed a huge holding of land along Lake Michigan. Much of the land he sold in parcels to individual developers, but kept the largest single tract, on which he built a mansion. Upon his appointment as governor of Utah, Duekee sold the land and its buildings to the Episcopal Church, It used the property as a boarding school for women, named “Kemper Hall” after Jackson Kemper, an Episcopalian bishop. From then until its closing in 1975, the school was run by the Community of St Mary, an order of Episcopalian nuns. Today, the Kemper Center, along with the Anderson Arts Center immediately to the south, is run by a not-for-profit foundation, and forms a beautifully preserved civic resource – from its working observatory, complete with rotating copper dome, to its chapel and classrooms. The Durkee Mansion itself has been restored to its mid-19th-century glory, and is open for tours on selected weekends throughout the year. Rooms in what had been the girls’ dormitory, with its view of Lake Michigan, are now rented to artists and other professionals. If you walk around the complex, look at the plaques set in the building’s west facade by the school’s graduating classes. Each plaque is a token left by a  group of young women who were then just beginning their lives, and who are now part of history: such is the passage of time. 

Now, cross to the west side of 3rd Avenue, and head back north. Along the route, you’ll pass series of lovely mansions:                                                              

North of 61st Street, the homes change abruptly from mansions with spacious lawns, to frame bungalows set just off the street. Still, these bungalows, modest though they are, have a lovely view across Eichelman Park to the lake.

Eagles Ballroom, 302 58th Street – At the corner of 58th Street, you will see the Eagles Ballroom (now the Madrigano Marina Shores banquet hall). This ballroom/banqueting facility, built in 1927, is a splendid example of the pseudo-Moorish style then in vogue. Eagles Ballroom also site of a noteworthy event in the history of rock’n’roll: Buddy Hollyplayed there in 1959, nine days before his death in a plane crash at the age of 22.

Community Garden, between 57th and 58th streets – As you continue north along the west side of 3rd Avenue, you’ll see a small community garden. What sets this garden apart is that it consists entirely of beds raised on tables to waist level, suitable for persons who use walkers or are wheelchair-bound. The garden is for residents of Lakeside Towers, which the next, and final, stop on this walk. In itself, this is not significant architecturally, but it is a thoughtful touch on the part of developers, for residents who are impaired but who still enjoy gardening. A truly livable city is made up of many such touches.                                                     

Lakeside Towers5800 3rd Avenue – The final stop on this walk is the Lakeside Towers, which is housing designed for seniors and the disabled. The buildings themselves are not particularly interesting, but their location is superb – overlooking the lakefront parks, Southport Marina, and Lake Michigan. 

Afterwards

At the end of the walk, you’ll not be far from the Ashling on the Lough Irish Pub, 125 56th Street – just west of the Southport Marina – which boasts that they’ve “perfected Irish comfort food”. So, while you rest your feet, enjoy a pint of Guinness alongside a plate of shepherd’s pie or County Clare meatloaf.

Other Architectural Highlights

What follows are some other architecture highlights to be seen in Kenosha, in no particular order.

Campus of Carthage College

Carthage College is one of Kenosha’s oldest yet newest institutions: oldest, in that it was founded in 1847, shortly after the city of Kenosha itself; yet newest, because it mosted to Kenosha from Carthage, Illinois, in 1962. 

The campus, at 2001 Alford Park Drive, at Kenosha’s far north side, is in a beautiful setting along the Lake Michigan shoreline, and straddling the Pike River. The architecture, while concrete-modern, is functional and, while cold, complements its setting well.

“The Rita”

The Rita Tallent Picken Regional Center for Arts and Humanities – aka “The Rita” – is the center at the University of Wisconsin, Parkside, for theater, music, film, and the visual arts. It is a lovely facility. Having attended concerts there, I’ve found that the performance area for music is comfortable, well designed, and has excellent acoustics. It’s well worth visiting; or you can take a virtual tour.

Southport Beach House

The Southport Beach House is at 78th Street and 2nd Avenue, along Kenosha’s lakefront. It was built in 1940 to serve as a public beach house, and later was re-built to serve public events, such as wedding receptions. The interior ballroom is a minor masterpiece of Art Deco., which makes excellent use of its unobstructed view of Lake Michigan. To its north is a lovely park with a lake vista; to its south are the Kenosha Dunes.

Rhode Center

The Rhode Center, 514 56th Street, is a 1920s-vintage movie palace whose pseudo-Moorish-style décor has been lovingly restored. It now serves as the home of Kenosha’s Lakeside Players. While not as grand as some Chicago theaters of similar vintage, it is a minor masterpiece of the genre. If you can gain access to the building (it’s usually locked up), it’s well worth exploring.

Southport Lighthouse

The Kenosha Southport Lighthouse, 5117 4th Avenue, was the original lighthouse that marked the entrance to Kenosha harbor. It served mariners from its building in 1866 until it was replaced in 1906 by taller lighthouses to the east and south. It is now managed by the Kenosha History Center , and houses a Great Lakes maritime museum that is open to visitors from May through October. It’s well worth a visit,whether you’re interested in architecture or in the history of the Great Lakes region.

Franks Diner

Franks Diner, 508 58th Street, has been a Kenosha landmark for 90 years. It’s housed in two converted railroad dining cars, and is crowded, hot, and definitely not handicapped-accessible. What it does offer is a trip into the past, with its 1920-vintage wooden décor and seating; and – if you like plain American-style breakfasts or lunches – really good food. Pro tip: always get the homemade bread – it’s a light wheat that’s absolutely delicious.

Washington Park Velodrome

A “velodrome” is a venue for bicycle races. Kenosha’s Washington Park Velodrome, at 1821 Washington Road, is the oldest continuously operating velodrome in the US, having opened in 1927. It features weekly races from May through August (weather permitting). This isn’t a beautiful structure, but it works well within its park setting. And the races are fun to watch – admission is free.

Allendale

I’ve saved the best for last.

Kenosha’s Allendale neighborhood is in the southeast corner of the city: from 61st Street in the north to 75th Street on the south; Lake Michigan on the east to 7th Avenue on the west. In Kenosha’s heyday, this was the neighborhood of professionals and business leaders. The homes were individually designed, and are vary enormously in size, style, and period – from the 19th-century mansions of the 3rd Avenue Historic District, which lies in Allendale’s northeast corner, to the modest frame houses, to ranch-style homes of the 1960s and 1970s, to the Frank Lloyd Wright homes along 7thAvenue.

Space does not permit me to go into detail. I suggest,instead, that you take the time to drive around the neighborhood – or, better yet, take a random walk. If you love architecture, I guarantee that you will be delighted.

For More Information

I hope I’ve piqued your interest in Kenosha and our architecture! Here’s a few sites where you can find more information:

The City of Kenosha’s website on historic preservation gives detailed information on the four historical districts in Kenosha, as well as details on all Kenosha properties and artifacts that have declared to be historic. It also presents information on the process of listing a property or artifact as historic.

The archives of the Kenosha History Center contain a wealth of information about the historic properties in Kenosha, as well as about the people who built them and the industries that supported them. You will have to go to the Center in person to research the archives. While there, be sure to talk with any of the docents on duty; they will be glad to help you, and are themselves a rich source of information. If you’re in a mood for listening, you’ll hear some really good stories about Kenosha’s older, and rougher, days.

The web site of the Wisconsin Historical Society has information on buildings and neighborhoods throughout Wisconsin. It was a great help in assembling the information on these walks.

Finally, the on-line archives of the Kenosha News is worth checking for information on individual buildings and their owners. The site’s archives are extensive, and its “advanced search” feature is both powerful and user-friendly.

Frederick Butzen

Frederick Butzen

Community Blogger

Recently retired software engineer & technical writer. Essayist and amateur musician, lifelong Chicagoan and newly arrived Kenoshan, enjoying exploring life and culture north of the Cheddar Curtain.

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