125 N WATER ST | Property Record | Wisconsin Historical Society

Property Record


Architecture and History Inventory
125 N WATER ST | Property Record | Wisconsin Historical Society
Historic Name:JOYS BROTHERS, INC. - Shipbuilders
Other Name:HOFFCO SHOE POLISH CO. - Harry hoffman Co. Inc.
Contributing: Yes
Reference Number:68327
Location (Address):125 N WATER ST
Unincorporated Community:
Quarter Section:
Quarter/Quarter Section:
Year Built:1892
Survey Date:1984
Historic Use:industrial building
Architectural Style:Commercial Vernacular
Structural System:
Wall Material:Brick
Other Buildings On Site:
Demolished Date:
National/State Register Listing Name: Historic Third Ward District
National Register Listing Date:3/8/1984
State Register Listing Date:1/1/1989
Additional Information:SEE HAER FORM. The MV in the photo code is short for MVIS negatives.

This five-story, red brick manufacturing building features metal window lintels trimmed with rosettes, an entablature of tiny arched openings and an altered first floor. The decorative terra cotta cornice is inscribed with "Joys Bros."


The outfitting of sailing and steam vessels constructed in Milwaukee as well as in other Great Lakes yards created a demand for sailmakers and ship chandlers. In 1844 Greenleaf Norris, a Bostonian, set up shop in the corner of Erie and East Water Streets, near the confluence of the Milwaukee and Menomonee Rivers. G. D. Norris & Co. operated as "ship chandlers, sailmakers, awning and tent manufacturers and dealers in naval stores." Andrew Joys, a Norwegian immigrant arrived in the U.S. in 1856 and joined the firm, which was operated by both Norris & Joys families until its incorporation in 1904 as Joys Bros. Co., conducting business throughout Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan and Illinois. The basement and parts of the first, second and thrid floors of this building were used for storarge, the first and second floors held offices, the third handled lettering, the fourth has a gasoline engine and was used for cutting and sewing, and the fifth was used for sewing. They made sails and assorted canvas goods and jobbed marine hardware and supplies. In 1957, the firm merged with another long-established canvas manufacturer, the R. Laacke Co., but operated as a subsidiary until joint quarters were found in 1961. Since 1963, this building has provided manufacturing, storage, shiping and office space for the Harri Hoffman Co., makers of Hoffco shoe polish and related products.

Mason is Strachota.

Brick Commercial Style building important to the character of the Lower Third Ward district.
Bibliographic References:A. Building Permit. B. Historic Third Ward Walking Tour, Historic Third Ward Association, 1998. On Building. Historic Third Ward Historic Walking Tour, Historic Third Ward Association, 2009. Sanborn Insurance Maps - 1888 and 1894.
Wisconsin Architecture and History Inventory, State Historic Preservation Office, Wisconsin Historical Society, Madison, Wisconsin

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