5/20/2009

Those Bicycle Building Norwegians

So, there I am last week, surfing through google's book search, looking for stuff about the old Green Bay Trail. (I'm a bit obsessed about that old road, you may have noticed). Once I'd exhausted those hits, and being of a genealogical mindset, I started searching for info on my ancestors, among them the Huseby family. My Great Great Great Uncle Arne Huseby was a bicycle manufacturer in Milwauke in the late 1890s through early 19-teens. The company was called the Huseby Cycle Company. Innovative, no? They specialized in wooden frame bicycles, but also made some more unusual bikes like the bamboo-frame bike shown at right.

Searching google books, I got a hit on one of those old vanity publications they used to do all the time - the kind where you pay a fee, and they do a glowing writeup of your company and include it in their book along with a photo of your premises. Or, you don't pay a fee, and you get half a paragraph, and no photo... or you don't get mentioned at all. This book was an overview of Milwaukee manufacturing at the turn of the century. And there was the Huseby Cycle Company! The listing was very nice. It included a pic of the main building (shown at left), and gave a location. I've seen the location of the company described before, but it never helped me locate the building. Milwaukee changed a lot of street names, and most of the street numbers sometime in the 20s or 30s. An address was almost useless unless you have a map from before the names changed - which I don't. But this time, the building was listed as being on the corner of Lake and Ferry. And thanks to "the power of the internet", I was able to find a listing of street names before and after the switch. Lake and Ferry translated to "2nd and Pittsburgh".

A quick check of google maps showed what looked to be the building! Sadly, street view is not available for the streets in that area, so I'd have to visit in person to see what the building looked like now. Happily, I'd be a few blocks away over the weekend!



View Larger Map

And sure enough, it's the same building... or at least what's left of it. There's no trace of "Huseby" on the building. The name Laskin does appear in the stonework, indicating that, while the Husebys used the building, they weren't the original owners. Despite, the bricked up windows, awful paint job, and other atrocities inflicted upon the building, it was still pretty cool. I mean there I was, standing in the same spot that relatives of mine stood over 100 years ago!

IMG_8793

So, photographic documentation of the exterior complete (see here for the full set of photos), I checked to see if I could get inside. It was a long shot, this being 9:15 on a Sunday morning and, sure enough, no luck. One entrance featured a sign for a theatrical supply company. Closed on weekends. The other entrance seemed to connect to a series of artists' studios/galleries. Glancing over the names I saw that I recognized one! James Hempel, a highly talented portrait painter has space inside the building where my long-gone relatives made bicycles out of inappropriate materials! Now, I've never met James, but I'm familiar with his work because a good friend of mine has known him for ages... went to school with him or some such. So, once I finish typing this up, I'll have to shoot an email to my friend. Perhaps there's some Huseby Cycle memorabilia floating around the building. I'd love to get a look at it if there is!

3 comments:

Michael Gerlach said...

Loved this article! Wanted to let you know that I just purchased a newspaper from 1986 and there is a full page advertisement for the Huseby Cycle Company. Only a few small tears in the fold creases. Let me know if you're interested or would just like to take a look some time.

The Fishmonger said...

Mike, very interesting! Well it's interesting if you meant to type 1896 rather than 1986. They were long gone by 1986! lol. You can contact me at ribarnicagmailcom. Thanks for looking me up!

Michael Gerlach said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

..................................

..................................