Written by Angie Mack Reilly 10/11/17
things associated with the culture and history of America, especially the United States.
“This fundraiser is a long shot. Maybe. Maybe not.
I drive past the former record factory/recording studio site several times a day.
The home was built on the property in 1961 after the record plant was demolished. I heard that it was bought and renovated by an architect who owns several Milwaukee River properties. In fact, I do believe that this same architect developed the million dollar home across the river from this one. I know his name. I have spoken with him about the importance of the music history in this area. I also believe that I gave him a Paramount Walking Tour Booklet. This was several years ago. Apparently, he is not interested in preserving the history of this property to my knowledge.
Of course, someone who works in any type of real estate is going to want to profit off of this property. And guess what? In all reality, it will probably sell quite soon.
You see, I own a home as well as a music business (Ozaukee Talent) within a few blocks of this location. I have lived in Grafton for almost 22 years now. So I understand a lot of the “inside scoop”.
Within recent years, Grafton has embraced some large scale development projects including Aurora hospital. The population of Grafton is becoming more diverse and homes are selling quite quickly with all of the new physicians and hospital staff moving in.
For many years, I tried to get a Paramount Museum in Grafton. I was part of the Grafton Historic Preservation Commission and Downtown Development Ad Hoc Committee to name a few. I worked closely with the Village President, Village Administrator, Village developers and more.
At one point, we had a list of “museum artifacts” so that we could keep track of our inventory. We considered several destinations for a museum in Grafton, including this one. But, at the time, it was owned by a single property owner who, I assume, just wanted to live peacefully along the river without any bother of tourists. There wasn’t anything that we could do with it being owned.
So the tourists would come to Grafton. International tourists. They would go to the Grafton Chamber of Commerce to try to find out where the museum was in Grafton. The Chamber would send people TO MY HOUSE. I kid you not. Why? Because for many years, I have been known as the local historian on the matter. So I would volunteer my time and spend half of the day with visitors from Russia, Germany, France, Japan, New York, California, New Orleans, the UK and more. I have even given “the tour” to school groups which has proven to be very educational.
Anyhow. Long story short.
No Paramount museum in Grafton. LOTS of meetings and thousands of volunteer time and years on my part. Plans. Emails. You know. But in the end? Not a lot of action. So I pretty much gave up on the idea of trying to preserve the music history of Grafton.
Apparently, Port Washington WI is in the process of getting “The Blues Factory” which would include a museum. It seems to me that is another project with a lot of talk and very little action. Nobody has approached me from that development project to help get involved……which, to me, is a bit…..odd. It would also supposedly house a theater. I work in theater for a living.
Ever since the house on the former pressing plant went up for sale, I have thought to myself, “Gosh…I wish I had the money to buy that property and actually DO SOMETHING that commemorates the history.
As a business owner, music teacher, musical producer, etc…..I am quite busy. But yesterday, as I was driving around doing some errands, I thought,
“I HAVE TO AT LEAST TRY.”
There is a window of opportunity for this home to be some sort of destination that would be educational.
I can’t really claim outright what it will become. I am sure that there are zoning rules. That is why, at minimum, I think that it’s safe to say that this home could remain residential yet house a recording studio or some other type of educational facility. In all honesty, I don’t know what the Village of Grafton rules are about making the home a business.
I just know that the world of music should preserve this property to commemorate the artists who recorded here and had their records mass produced and shipped from here.
Like I said, someone with money will probably purchase the home. And the history and story of this important American landmark will be pushed into the background and eventually forgotten about. And I will still have to drive past this property on a daily basis.
People. We have an opportunity.
Yes. It’s a “long-shot”. They are asking a lot for this home. Why? Because it’s been renovated to sell big and make a nice profit.
This is the same location that PBS History Detectives filmed “Lost Musical Treasure”. You can search for the 2 episodes on YouTube. I pitched the show idea to the show producers and corresponded with and educated them for at least a year before the show was even filmed. I also worked with playwright Kevin Ramsey to ensure the historical accuracy of his musical “Grafton City Blues” which has since been renamed “Chasin’ Dem Blues”.
I am an educator. I also teach music for a living. Right now, I have about 40 private students per week. I am also producing Disney’s The Lion King for the North Shore Academy of the Arts at the Cedarburg Performing Arts Center.
Music is my life. I have been teaching and performing for at least 18 years now.
As an educator and musician, I would be a fool not to at least TRY to preserve this property.
I admit, it’s a tough time in America to give right now. With the new administration, hurricanes, threat of nuclear war, shootings and racial conflicts going on, people have more things to think about than giving to projects like this. If you can’t give, it’s OK. No judgement.
But with my connections (and your connections), maybe there are some people out there with some means who care about preserving this vital cultural history that has literally shaped popular culture around the globe.
As I used to pen, “They made history when the needle hit the wax.” (Some of the early recordings were etched into wax!) That’s why Jack White made his Grammy-award winning Paramount “box sets”…. to preserve the music history. Oh yes. I have tried talking to him as well. Not an easy guy to get a hold of. And I was told that their recent purchases and developments as a business have been quite substantial. (They created their own “record factory” for making vinyl.)
At the end of the day, I just want to say that I tried one last time. –Angie”