St. James Court to be dedicated as a historical site next month

The St. James Court apartment building, located at 831 W. Wisconsin Ave. across from the Milwaukee Public Library, will be dedicated in the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places as a historic site Oct. 1. The building was accepted into the national registry in 2007.

The registry evaluates a property’s age, integrity and significance when considering properties for indiction.

Owner John Hennessy began working on the building in 1994 and put it through a $1.5 million renovation in hopes of having it accepted by the national registry.

“I knew the building had potential,” Hennessy said. “So we decided to renovate it in such a way that it could ultimately be placed on the national register of historic places.”

The refurbishing took eight years to complete and in 2007, St. James Court was finally accepted by the national registry. Now that the building features a new look and national recognition, Hennessy wants to focus on marketing his apartments and his area.

“Now is kind of a good time to promote (the building), and we hope people will be more interested in living in the Westown area,” Hennessy said. “We’ll kind of show them that we have this cool building and that this would be a pretty nice place to live.”

The complex was built in 1903 by the architectural firm Ferry & Clas, who constructed other famous Milwaukee landmarks like the Pabst Mansion and the Central Library.

Grace Booth, a junior in the College of Education and resident in St. James Court, said the retro style of the building adds to the allure of living there.

“The building has a lot of historic charm and character,” Booth said. “One of the main reasons I chose to live here was because I loved how old the apartments were.”

Hennessy said  about 80 percent of the apartments are occupied by Marquette students withthe other 20 percent occupied by young professionals.

Plenty of buildings are still around since 1903, but Hennessy said the combination of its design, its builders and the area it resides in makes it worthy of its dedication.

“That area right on Wisconsin Avenue is kind of an enclave of historic buildings,” Hennessy said. “One of the things that they noted when we applied to be on the national register was that this area is not just an address but it’s a real environment there.”

Hennessy said he is proud of the revival of St. James Court from a crumbling building to a historic artifact with modern style and sleek design, but what he really takes pride in is the effect his refreshed building has on Milwaukee.

“It’s very satisfying to me that we rehabbed this building and made it a vital part of what’s going on nowadays,” Hennessy said. “It’s not just a relic from the past that’s falling apart or anything. I’m kind of proud of it, but more than that I want to promote it because it can show what historic buildings can do for an area.”

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