Monday, March 26, 2018

The Orchard in 1910

The University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee gives us a fascinating look at Athletic Park and its neighborhood as seen in 1910.

This map shows a section in the city bordered by Burleigh on the north, &th Street on the east, 10th Street on the west, and extending one-half block south of Chambers. Which, of course, includes Borchert Field, then known as Athletic Park and identified here as "American Association Milwaukee Club Base Ball Park".

This is part of the University's Digital Collections. This one comes from a series of municipal maps:
The Digital Sanborn Maps of Milwaukee 1894 & 1910 are two fire insurance atlases featuring detailed color maps of Milwaukee. Produced by the Sanborn Map Company, the 1894 atlas includes four volumes, consisting of 450 map sheets and the 1910 atlas includes eight volumes, consisting of 830 map sheets. Sanborn maps were designed to assist fire insurance agents with insuring property. Produced for over 12,000 urbanized areas in the United States, Sanborn maps have been described by the Library of Congress as "the single most important record of urban growth and development in the United States during the past one hundred years." Some features found on Sanborn fire insurance maps include: construction material of dwellings, commercial buildings, and factories, fire walls, windows, doors, style and composition of roofs, wall thickness, cracks in exterior walls, elevator locations, building uses, sidewalk and street widths, layout and ownership names, property boundaries, distance between buildings, house and block numbers, location of water mains, hydrants, piping, wells, cisterns, and fuel storage tanks.
Outstanding. And catnip to a history lover like myself. You can go block by block and see the structures that were once in place, often in exacting detail.

Let's take a closer look at the ballpark itself:

At this point, the grandstand is showing the horseshoe form it would eventually take:

The first base stands, however, weren't yet connected to the main building, and were uncovered. Bleachers with no roof.

I wonder when they were connected?

In 1944, a large section of the first base grandstand roof was torn apart by storm winds. I wonder if not being part of the orginal structure contributed to that collapse? Was it not built to the same standards as the rest of the park?

Moving on to the outfield, we see another set of bleachers, along with two permanent buildings. On the left, a "Ticket Window and Waiting Room", and on the right, "Lockers".

Would be interesting to see if those facilities were retained in the ballpark's later life. Take a look at this arial photograph from the 1930s, after the grandstand was built out but before permanent light standards were added in 1935:

You can see the layout is essentially the same as our 1910 map; small bleacher section roughly in the middle, buildings bordered in outfield fence along each side.

All in all, a wonderful peek into the Orchard's past. We are indebted to the Sanborn Map Company for chronicling this chapter in Milwaukee history, and UWM for preserving it for our use today.

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