In early 1930, Nash Motors executive Walter Alford and Mrs. Gertrude Alford had suffered a devastating family loss when their son Ferrin and his friends were killed by a speeding C&NWRy passenger train on that New Year during a scavenger hunt. Heartbroken, Mrs. Gertrude Alford still proceeded with their mutual dream of the $200,000 Art Deco Alford Building, 164-feet in length and 125-feet deep and covering over half of a block at the northwest corner of Fifty-Eighth Street and Seventh Avenue. Walter’s final illness that winter had halted negotiations, but now work was to begin in two weeks with completion by late summer already with long-term leases by Montgomery-Ward, JC Penney and the Leath Furniture company of Elgin, Illinois. Kenosha architect Joseph Lindl of Lindl and Schutte faced the building with Indiana limestone and spacious display windows as specified by the lessees. Kenosha contractors J C Tully Construction company, Josephson and Zimmerman Electric,F J Watkins Plumbing and Thomas Heating employed local craftsmen.
The Alford Building hosted the Barden Store after the latter vacated its original venue in 1985 and an antique-and-collectibles business into the 1990s but recently caught the eye of Blue Point Development, a creative Chicago-based firm with already-completed residential projects in Kenosha County, that is restoring the Alford to ground-floor retail and second-floor residences at nearly $8 million. Completion is planned by the end of January, 2022.
Across the street to the east is the born-again Barden Building designed by Kenoshan Charles Augustine. Once one of Kenosha’s prominent department stores and locally considered almost a mini-Marshall Field’s, Barden’s had originated in 1889 at Main at Market (Sixth at 56th) and relocated to Church Street at Wisconsin Street (Seventh at 58th) in 1905. After 1985 the Barden Building hosted first an antique shop with an Italian eatery and then the Omega candle factory before falling into dormancy almost simultaneously with the neighboring Alford Building. About then, several 19th Century commercial buildings to the south were demolished for parking spaces, and as the once-busy 58th Street corridor was losing importance, city leaders recognized the need to correct the worrisome vacancies and bought the two massive structures. Encouraged by the city’s confidence and the nearby Stella Hotel project, up stepped the Kenosha-based Witico company with Matt Geary of Public Craft Brewing Company and with Kathy Meyer and Hanni Gould of Culinary Infusion. Each had considered occupying the entire Barden Building independently before reaching a co-sharing agreement with specific needs in mind. Public Craft Brewing offers main-floor dining and entertainment and basement brewing facilities with outdoor seating under a 1960 canopy that was featured in a Kenosha Evening News editorial cartoon at its installation. Culinary Infusion’s Upper East second-floor space is hosting banquets. The Barden Building (now ‘The Barden’) opened in early Autumn of 2020.
Kitty-corner from the Barden Building is the former Kenosha Evening News building, already emblazoned with Herzing University signage heralding the city’s fourth and newest college planned for 1,000 to 1,200 medical and nursing students. Campus president Jeff Hill acknowledged 58th Street‘s rebirth as a destination for student amenities and the University’s role in the vision for downtown Kenosha’s burgeoning entertainment district.
In addition to a historian, Lou Rugani is a longtime radio host – his shows “Remembering Kenosha” (weekdays, 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.) & “Music of the Stars” (Sundays) can be heard on WLIP 1050AM