Harambee

Milwaukee’s lost business district

Fine buildings are reminders of a once-prosperous business district. Carl A. Swanson photo

Fine buildings are reminders of a prosperous business district. Carl A. Swanson photo

The six blocks of Martin Luther King Drive between Burleigh Street and Keefe Avenue are like many on Milwaukee’s north side. There are churches and liquor stores. There is a public school and a private choice program school. There are vacant buildings and vacant lots.

There is nothing to show this street’s history extends back hundreds of years to Wisconsin’s first inhabitants.
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Flambeau: The little engine that couldn’t

Flambeau Motors factory

This brick building at 245 E. Keefe Ave., formerly housed Flambeau Motors, a maker of outboard engines. The company lasted about 10 years and made interesting, if quirky, lightweight aluminum motors that are today collector items. Carl Swanson photo

Wisconsin has led the outboard motor industry ever since Ole Evinrude fired up his prototype engine on the Kinnickinnic River in 1909. In the years following World War II, Wisconsin outboard makers manufactured half the motors sold in the United States.

With the easing of wartime manufacturing restrictions in 1945, a new company on Milwaukee′s near north side was ready to earn a place in a market dominated by established brands. Metal Products Corp., 245 E. Keefe Ave., was late to the game but confident its lightweight and innovative Flambeau outboard motor would be a hit as the country turned its attention from war to recreation.

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