Clarke Square Neighborhood Initiative has purchased a historic Cream City brick home on Milwaukee’s near south side for its new headquarters.
The nonprofit neighborhood organization bought the George Burnham House at 1636 W. National Avenue, a 153-year-old structure that was once home to the Burnham Brickyard founder and his brother John. Burnham Brickyard, which was founded in the mid-1800s and located in the nearby Menomonee Valley, helped make the city famous for its cream-colored bricks.
Clarke Square Neighborhood Initiative, a group that’s focused on facilitating neighborhood-led efforts to improv the quality of life in the near south side neighborhood, acquired the property for $90,000 from longtime resident Jeffery Hicks. It completed the purchase on Aug. 23.
Patricia Najera, principal consultant for the Clarke Square Neighborhood Initiative and a former member of the city’s plan commission, saw a for sale sign on the home in early March 2021.
“As a historian and community developer, I immediately saw an opportunity to blend the past with the future of the Clarke Square Neighborhood. The deep historical significance of this site makes it special, and an auspicious location for continued neighborhood development in this, now, vibrant Latinex community,” Najera said.
CSNI plans to launch a capital campaign to renovate the home. Engberg Anderson Architecture will serve as architect, and Najera the developer.
“We are thrilled about the purchase of our first property,” said CSNI board president Charles Green said. “We are looking forward to the transformational community impact of the project in the Clarke Square neighborhood.”
The property is situated between two large rental properties, near the intersection of Cesar E. Chavez Drive and National Avenue. It’s directly across the street from the former Badger Mutual Insurance Co. headquarters, which is now a Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers clinic.
Prior to the sale, the house had been a one-tenant property for the past 44 years.
In 1985, Hicks relocated a bridge house from 101 E. Wells to the Burnham House property and converted it into a chapel.
The property fits within the city’s reconstruction project of National Avenue, from First to 39th Street. That work, which is expected to be completed by 2027, includes removing and replacing deteriorated pavement, curb and gutter, driveway approaches and sidewalks, along with upgrading street lighting and traffic signals.