“All Pull Together”

December 29, 2017

A bold redevelopment project in Milwaukee Wisconsin’s Harambee neighborhood.

A Neighborhood Institution

The building located at 2821 N. 4th St. has a rich and storied history.

It originally housed the Nunn Bush Shoe Co., but most recently the property was acquired by the Milwaukee Area Technical College in 1985. It then housed the Milwaukee Enterprise Center, a business incubator, until 2011 when the school sold the building to an investment group.

Plans to convert the site into low-income housing fell through and the location switched owners twice again in 2013 and 2014. In a generous move by Sunset Investors, the property was donated to the current developers.

Ultimately the property was brought into the hands of a partnership between Wisconsin Development, LLC, and the non-profit Martin Luther King Economic Development Corporation (MLKEDC). In 2015 they announced plans for Welford Sanders Lofts.

Welford Sanders Lofts will be a mixed use facility, housing commercial tenants in its first phase and adding residential space in future phases. The building’s name was chosen to honor the late Welford Sanders, former director of MLKEDC, whose passionate vision for revitalizing the Harambee area inspired the project. “Harambee” is a Kenyan tradition of community, translating literally as “all pull together” in Swahili.

A fundraising campaign aims to erect a statue of Mr. Sanders in the building’s courtyard.

Graham Architectural products (GAP) is supplying 774 historic windows for the project; an assortment of fixed and projected windows from our 6500 Series, and our popular 2200 Series Single Hung Window.

Good for the Sole

Further back in time, the building’s history shares a like spirit.

Henry Nunn was born in Bonham, Texas in 1878. After serving in Company M of the First Texas Infantry during the Spanish-American War, he returned to the States and moved to St. Louis. Working as a bookkeeper for a shoe company, he was rapidly promoted to superintendent of one of the largest shoe factories in the country.

In early 1908, Nunn was diagnosed with tuberculosis and left employment to recover. Slowly he reentered the shoe industry and partnered in 1912 with A.C. Bush and others to form the Nunn Bush Shoe Co. in Milwaukee. Several years later the building at 2821 N. 4th street was built to serve as the company’s manufacturing facility.


Five years later, Henry Nunn became president of the company and established within it a cooperative organization in which the workers and management made all company decisions inclusively. The move attracted national press at the time.

Toward the end of World War I, in 1918, Nunn worked in Europe drawing specifications for military footwear. Upon returning to the States he pushed for further reforms within the company, creating an “all-association” shop with its own constitution and by-laws. Workers were guaranteed a weekly wage based on a fixed percentage of the value of goods produced.

The company and the area prospered during Nunn’s tenure and in 1939 he was selected Milwaukee’s “outstanding citizen of the year.” He was later celebrated in a local journal as one of ten men and women who made “the most distinctive contribution to better living in the United States.”

The Nunn Bush Shoe Co. exists to this day as a subsidiary of a larger corporation.

To find out more about the Graham products used on this project, contact Bruce Croak, Graham’s marketing manager.