Now & Then: The Long and Short of It

Our history can be near or far, which can be a measure of distance or time. For these Now & Then pieces the geographic focus is our neighborhood and the time horizon is usually long, at least by Madison standards.

This month I begin by looking back only a few years to 2012 when a hot topic was redevelopment of the block across from the Overture Center bounded by State, Fairchild and Mifflin Streets. Plans were advanced by the 100 Block Foundation, created by Jerome Frautschi and Pleasant Rowland, and challenged by city planners, preservationists and citizens. After debate, compromises and a new plan, the redevelopment moved ahead and has now become a settled part of the urban landscape.

One of the survivors of the fracas was the unassuming Schubert Building which had been designated a city landmark only a little further back in history: February 28, 2008. Its own story goes back another hundred years to 1908.

The two-story building had commercial space on the first floor and an apartment above with a bay window overlooking Mifflin Street. It was built for Andy Schubert’s Silver Dollar Saloon and Restaurant, a favorite destination until prohibition began in Madison in 1917. Occupancy varied for the next 20 years or so until Badger Office Supplies found a home on the first floor from 1941 to 2006.

The Schubert Building was designed by Madison architect Ferdinand Kronenberg whose considerable portfolio includes the Cardinal Hotel, Emerson School and St. James Catholic Church. Stylistically the Schubert Building is Queen Anne, a mode that easily incorporates eclectic elements including the delightful Arts and Crafts-inspired transom window above the storefront windows.

The brick building was painted long ago (today it is tan) and is now part of Cento, an Italian restaurant that also occupies the Fairchild Building next door. The Schubert Building is survivor and a good example of adaptive reuse, the most promising way to preserve our built heritage.


Posted in Newsletter.