Beer Line Trail

Hungover? Quaff-Aid to the rescue!

This tired old three-story building at 3456 N. Buffum in Milwaukee housed many different businesses in its century of use, from coffin makers to fiberglass fabricators. But most notably it once housed a company marketing a popular hangover cure. Carl Swanson photo

This tired old building at 3456 N. Buffum in Milwaukee housed many different businesses in its century of use, from a coffin maker to a fiberglass fabricator. Sixty years ago it was also home to a company marketing a popular hangover cure. Carl Swanson photo

In March 2015 they demolished the abandoned three-story factory at 3456 N. Buffum St., in Milwaukee. In its 100 years the building saw many tenants come and go, including a feed and fertilizer dealer, an animal research laboratory, a chemical processor, a fiberglass fabricator, as well as firms manufacturing soap and plastics.

Sixty years ago, this was the birthplace of Quaff-Aid, hailed as a miracle cure for hangovers – until federal agents raided the place.

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Milwaukee’s Center Street icehouse was a Riverwest landmark

This concrete foundation, atop a river bluff south of Gordon Park, supported Wisconsin Lakes Ice & Cartage Company's Center Street icehouse, which was destroyed in a massive fire 103 years ago. Carl Swanson photo

This concrete foundation, atop a river bluff south of Gordon Park, was part of the Wisconsin Lakes Ice & Cartage Company’s Center Street icehouse, destroyed in a massive fire a century ago. Carl Swanson photo

Reader Dan Soiney asks: “Do you know anything about the large concrete foundation in the woods just south of Gordon Park? If you wander off the Beer Line path right after entering the woods, there is a long three-sided foundation.”

The foundation is all that remains of the Wisconsin Lakes Ice & Cartage Co. Center Street icehouse. The 350 x 100-foot icehouse, built in the late 1800s alongside the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul RR’s “Beer Line,” was one of several icehouses on the upper Milwaukee River. The icehouse burned to the ground in a spectacular multi-alarm fire in June 1911 but parts of its foundation remain in the woods east of the Beer Line Trail.

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Harambee gets a Superfund site

Vacant since 2008, this industrial building at 3456 N. Buffum St., at the northern end of the Beerline recreational trail contains a variety of hazardous substances and will be cleaned-up under the EPA's Superfund program. Photo by Carl Swanson

Vacant since 2008, this industrial building at 3456 N. Buffum St., at the northern end of the Beer Line Recreational Trail contains a variety of hazardous substances and will be cleaned-up under the EPA’s Superfund program. Photo by Carl Swanson

The Environmental Protection Agency has determined hazardous waste inside a vacant industrial building at the northern end of the Beer Line recreational trail qualifies for a “time-critical removal action”  under the federal Superfund law.

The century-old three-story building at 3456 N. Buffum St., has seen many industrial uses over the years, everything from a casket maker to a company marketing a hangover remedy, but has been vacant since 2008 and is in an advanced state of disrepair.

The EPA inspected the property in early spring and its tests revealed a number of contaminants including lead, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), chlorinated solvents, waste oil, flammable and corrosive materials, and asbestos. Since the hazards are apparent and the property owner is unable to conduct the necessary cleanup, the EPA has decided the building warrants a Superfund designation, clearing the way for immediate action funded by taxpayer money.

Starting June 11th, contractors will begin removing substances deemed an imminent threat to safety. The EPA believes the problems are confined to the interior of the building and said surrounding residents are not at risk. As a precaution, the EPA will monitor air samples throughout the two-month cleanup project to ensure residents are not exposed to harmful dust. Additionally, security guards will be on-site during non-working hours.

The EPA said residents can expect increased truck traffic on Keefe Avenue, Holton, and Buffum streets as well as the alleys that surround the property. Access to the Beer Line Trail next to the property may be restricted at times.

Note: A more recent post on this property, including details of what was found inside, is here.

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Once upon a Riverwest crime wave

In the 1850s, a collection of shanties occupied the banks of the Milwaukee River at North Avenue, the inhabitants of which were victims of a series of almost magical thefts. Today, trees have replaced houses and a grocery store occupies the railroad yard that employed the community's residents, but the "red shirt mystery" endures. Photo by Carl Swanson

In the 1850s, a collection of shanties occupied the banks of the Milwaukee River at North Avenue, the inhabitants of which were victims of a series of almost magical thefts. Today, trees have replaced houses and a grocery store occupies the railroad yard that employed the community’s residents, but the “red shirt mystery” endures. Photo by Carl Swanson

Before there was a Pick ’n’  Save at the corner of Humboldt and North in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood there was a railroad yard. Older residents of Riverwest will remember mostly weed-overgrown tracks and the occasional idling diesel locomotive but long ago this was once a point of intense local pride. This was the site, in the mid-1850s, of the main repair shop and roundhouse for Byron Kilbourn’s La Crosse & Milwaukee RR, the second-oldest railroad in Wisconsin.

And here a baffling series of crimes took place. In time a solution was found but the perpetrators were never brought to justice. (more…)

Riverwest: A railroad ran through it

Beer Line Trail, Milwaukee Riverwest neighborhood. Carl Swanson photo

Beer Line Trail, Milwaukee Riverwest neighborhood. Carl Swanson photo

Six decades ago in the Riverwest neighborhood on Milwaukee’s north side, a kindergarten boy stood at the edge of the Fratney Street School playground and watched a steam locomotive struggle past with a seemingly endless train of railroad cars.

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EPA evaluates Beer Line building

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Like so many Milwaukee industrial buildings of a certain age, the decrepit three-story building at 3456 North Buffum Street is abandoned, boarded up, and slowly falling apart. Nothing so remarkable about it, other than the fact that the last business left behind enough chemical nastiness that the Environmental Protection Agency is currently evaluating the property for possible cleanup under the Superfund program.

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