The Trove

Milwaukee Magazine - - Culture -

THE CHUD­NOW MU­SEUM of Yes­ter­year (839 N. 11th St., Mil­wau­kee) looks out of place, fac­ing In­ter­state 43. Or is it the in­ter­state that doesn’t be­long? The mu­seum is housed in­side an or­nate Ital­ianate home built in 1869, long be­fore the high­way cut a swath through sev­eral 19th cen­tury neigh­bor­hoods in the city. The house’s last owner, Avrum Chud­now, a lawyer and busi­ness­man, used it as an of­fice for his law firm while par­tially filling it with an ex­ten­sive per­sonal col­lec­tion of the mun­dane and marvelous – a horde that touches on day-to-day life in the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s with such trea­sures as un­opened boxes of soap, bot­tles of Swamp Root (for medic­i­nal needs), and a toy builder set called Lin­coln Bricks (in­stead of Logs), which in­vited chil­dren to mix their own mor­tar us­ing wa­ter and a pow­der pro­vided in a small packet. Af­ter Chud­now’s death in 2005, his fam­ily made good on his wish to open a mu­seum by con­vert­ing the house on 11th Street into a tidy lit­tle vault that’s now open to the pub­lic Wed­nes­day through Sun­day. About a third of the col­lec­tion turns over each year with new ex­hibits, and at any one time, only about 5 per­cent of the full in­ven­tory is on dis­play. Long-run­ning ex­hibits in­clude an old-time gro­cery and drug store, where a vin­tage RenuLife Vi­o­let Ray Health Wand is fea­tured, es­sen­tially an elec­tri­fied glass wand that you wave over your dis­eased body.

A man ob­sessed with col­lect­ing left be­hind rich ev­i­dence of the city’s past.

A 1940s switch­board, in­clud­ing old-fash­ioned wires and re­ceivers.

The Chud­now Mu­seum main­tains a large col­lec­tion of vin­tage po­lit­i­cal

para­pher­na­lia.

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