Hidden away amidst the Hillside housing development at North 9th and Somers, the former home and bakery of Oswald Jaeger is barely discernable from neighboring thoroughfares. Just a glimpse of the turret can be seen while traveling northbound on Interstate 43. My curiosity has long been piqued by the blue spire that can narrowly be seen from behind the Leinenkugel’s Brewery building for just a moment, shortly after the McKinley/Fond du Lac exit.
Oswald Jaeger arrived to Milwaukee in 1872 working as an apprentice baker for several years until beginning his own establishment in 1879 at North 4th and Cherry Streets.1 In 1881, Jaeger purchased the gabled building at 916 Central Avenue (now West Somers) where he continued his bakery practice.2 The building, formerly that of another baker, was constructed circa 18763 in the heart of the German-American neighborhood occupying much of Milwaukee’s northwest side. Immediately next door, the turreted corner piece of the bakery, which initially drew my attention, was constructed between 18944 to house portions of the baking operation as well as a dwelling for the Jaeger and his family. The westernmost buildings housed the offices for the Oswald Jaeger Baking Company.5
The character and context of Oswald Jaeger’s bakery buildings have been significantly altered. The facades have since been muted, painted an all-encompassing shade of white save for the bright blue roofline of the original two buildings. The neighborhood that had formerly surrounded the Austrian native’s bakery was condemned by the City of Milwaukee in the 1950s and replaced with the present labyrinth of apartment buildings.6
In 1905, Oswald’s son, Armin took over the bakery practice and continued the family owned operation as Oswald Jaeger Baking Company until his retirement in 1968 at which time Jaeger Baking was sold to Beatrice Foods in Chicago.7 The former Jaeger Baking Co. has since been purchased and merged into a number of the nations largest packaged bread and bakery manufacturers including Metz Baking Company, Earthgrains, and Sara Lee Bakery Group.8
1 , Frank Abial. History of Milwaukee, Wisconsin: from pre-historic times to the present date, embracing a summary sketch of the native tribes, and an exhaustive record of men and events for the past century; describing, the city, its commercial, religious, educational and benevolent institutions, its government, courts, press, and public affairs; and including nearly four thousand biographical sketches of pioneers and citizens. Chicago: Western Historical Company, 1881. p. 1213
2 “Real Estate Transfers, “ Milwaukee Daily Sentinel (Milwaukee, WI), September 16, 1881.
3 “Milwaukee, Wisconsin.” 1876. Rascher Fire Insurance Maps, Wisconsin. Volume 1, Sheet 94.
4 “New Stores Built, “ Milwaukee Journal (Milwaukee, WI), October 21, 1894.
5 “Milwaukee, Wisconsin.” 1910. Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, Wisconsin. Volume 3, Sheet 263.
6 “Historic Designation Study Report: St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church Complex” (City of Milwaukee, Department of City Development, Historic Preservation Commission, Fall 1990). p. 4.
7 “Deaths: Armin F. Jaeger, “ Milwaukee Journal (Milwaukee, WI), June 15, 1979.
8 “Sara Lee to Add Lots More Ovens With Deal, “ Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Milwaukee, WI), July 3, 2001.