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With temporary historic protection now expired, the debate to preserve Bay View's Puddlers' Cottages continues

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Audrey Nowakowski
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WUWM
Two of the seven pudders' cottages on the 2500 block of Superior Street. Efforts to designate historic protection status for the cottages remain uncertain as temporary protections expired in September.

In February of 2021, the Historic Preservation Commission granted temporary historic protection to one of the puddlers' cottages in Milwaukee's Bay View Neighborhood. This house was one of seven on the 2500 block of Superior Street. The Commission then approved permanent designation for all of them in March.

However, this designation for the 1860s-era cottages was lost in September without the approval of Milwaukee’s Common Council.

"Once you see them, you can't unsee them. They're everywhere you look," says Jeramey Jannene, the president of Urban Milwaukee.

Jeramey Jannene, the president of Urban Milwaukee, wrote an article about what could be next in the fate of these cottages. He shares why this decision would be important for the community of Bay View.

"There's this demand to live in Bay View. There's just demand for bigger houses. These houses are Civil War era houses so they're not the most up to date and are usually heavily altered," notes Jannene.

He adds that the houses occupy an interesting space in Milwaukee's real estate scene. The rolling mill that the puddlers' cottages were built around were built because of its proximity to the lake.

READ MORE ABOUT THE COTTAGE'S HISTORY HERE: Permanent Historic Protection Being Considered For Bay View Puddlers' Cottages

The remaining cottages don't quite have lake views, although Jannene notes if you built a house big enough, they could.

The decision to designate historic protection to these homes is currently idling before the Common Council. Marina Dmitrievich, the newest alderwoman to the council, has tried to put the decision in the hands of the seven owners of the cottage houses.

So far, she's received three votes for historically designating the homes and three votes against, according to Jannene. There's been no word from the seventh cottage owner.

Suppose the council doesn't act within two years. In that case, the permanent designation will expire. The process would have to start all over again, according to Jannene.

"The interesting thing in front of the council is that all the alderwoman is asking [is] basically for the votes of the property owners. But by law, the council does not have to give that to them. They can rule even over the objections of the property owner to designate the property as historic," he notes.

Jannene says a decision on the homes won't likely be made until after the mayoral race, like most political issues in Milwaukee at the moment.

Still, tensions are rising as a new house is being built where an eighth cottage home once stood. This lot has been empty since a previous owner demolished an adjacent cottage in 1996.

"[The property owners] say it'll be sensitive to the context of the neighborhood, but there are no standards to which they can formally hold them. There's a bit of a race of: does the designation come in and actually get approved? Or do they get the rights to build their house even if the designation will come after," Jannene explains.

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