The Wisconsin Historical Society has wrapped up survey of Superior’s historic buildings and presented its findings to the Superior Historic Preservation Committee.
The survey was conducted to update a similar study conducted in 1983, and to determine what structures in Superior may be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. While the original survey focused on buildings constructed before 1940, the survey conducted in this year updated information to include properties built between 1940 and 1980.
The new survey was conducted in January and February by Kelly Blaubach of Cultural Resource Management at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
“We’re required to undertake survey projects to identify historic buildings,” said Joe DeRose of the State Preservation Office at the Wisconsin Historical Society. “The focus is to try to get them listed on the National Register of Historic Places.”
The register was established in 1966 in response to federal urban renewal and interstate projects in the 1950s and 1960s that wiped out swaths of historic resources, DeRose said. It serves as the official list of significant historic properties across the nation and entry onto the list makes property owners eligible for federal preservation tax credits. The program is managed by the National Park Service.
To be eligible for listing in the national register, a building must be at least 50 years old, have historic integrity and must be significant. DeRose said buildings can be put on the registry individually or as part of a district.
Four districts were identified in the new survey:
- The Woodstock addition in Billings Park, which is unique in Superior because it wasn’t platted on a grid. Blaubach said the Minneapolis landscape architectural firm that developed it in the 1920s took advantage of the natural landscape and marketed it to affluent residents, creating a collection of high-style homes built from the early to mid-century.
- The 1100 blocks west of Hammond Avenue to North 12th Street that feature a collection of row houses. “You don’t find those anywhere else in the state,” DeRose said. “Milwaukee has some. Eau Claire has one, and that’s it. The ones you find around the state were all built in the same time period, the late 1800s and early 1900s.” Blaubach said “row houses are all over Superior and it’s distinctive.”
- The area around North 21st Street and Hughitt Avenue for it concentration of mixed early architectural styles. “This is a huge concentration of these houses from 1900 to 1930,” Blaubach said.
- Central Park.
The survey also looked at contemporary-style structures built in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Recommendations included listing the former City-County Complex and the Catholic Diocese of Superior administrative offices on the National Register of Historic Places as examples of contemporary architecture.
The City-County Complex was slated for demolition in the early 2000s as part of the plan for building the Government Center until a developer stepped in to renovate the building into today's City Center Offices.
“While it’s tempting to focus on the oldest buildings and worry about keeping them around, a lot of the mid-century buildings now are coming up on times when they’re being demolished,” Blaubach said. “Educational buildings in Superior were an example of that. Cooper Elementary in Billings Park was just demolished two months ago … also the round high school building built in 1965.”
Cooper opened in 1970 to replace the original school built in 1893.
Other properties considered eligible for the National Register of Historic Places include industrial sites such as grain elevators on the waterfront in North End, iron ore docks in Allouez, industrial buildings near the grain elevators and the former Superior Iron Works, today known as Lidgerwood-Mundy Corporation.
Churches and schools were included in the recommendations: St. Francis Xavier and Concordia Lutheran churches; Temple Beth El, a former synagogue built in the 1960s on Faxon Street; and Nelson-Dewey school in East End.
“A large portion of the survey work was on residential architecture,” Blaubach said. “Superior has everything.”
She said Superior has one of 19 octagon-shaped houses in Wisconsin, examples of colonial revival, craftsman bungalows, prairie school, Tudor revival examples, contemporary homes, side-by-side duplexes, Queen Anne duplexes and a garden apartment, the Nottingham Building on North 19th Street and Tower Avenue, among its architectural styles.
A copy of the final report will be on available at wisconsinhistory.org and properties surveyed are included in the Wisconsin Historical Society's property database.