In the 1880s the Northwestern Union Ry. began building north along the east bank of the Milwaukee River. In time these tracks became part of the Chicago & North Western system and hosted some of the fastest long-distance passenger trains in the world. But before that could happen, the railroad had to resolve the great apple orchard standoff.
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.
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.