Kayak plan for historic button factory floats

Town Plan Commission OKs rezoning to allow owner to operate river tour, rental business in Waubeka

Located on the bank of the Milwaukee River in Waubeka, the button factory is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Press file photo
By 
KERRY LYNCH
Ozaukee Press correspondent

Charles Sheridan’s idea of turning his historic button factory on the Milwaukee River in Waubeka into a residential property didn’t fly with Town of Fredonia officials, put his plan to make it a kayak rental business was advanced by the Plan Commission last week.

The commission, which in March rejected Sheridan’s request to have the property zoned residential, approved his request to rezone the property for business operations on Wednesday, May 2.

One residential unit is included in Sheridan’s plan, but that didn’t bother officials. Supr. Chris Janik, a member of the commission, said there are other businesses in the district that already have residential space. 

Sheridan said he plans to start a high-end kayak river tour company. He said he has worked with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on plans for a 3-foot-wide stairway with railings from the river level to the road. Kayaks would be stored in the basement of the button factory building and would be carried up the stairs and loaded onto a flatbed trailer that would take them to a launch site upstream. Customers would then paddle downstream to the property.

The residence space of the building would be on the upper level.

The building has a long history. Built after the Civil War, it is on the National Register of Historic Places as the Kendall Wood Shop/Button Factory.  

Originally, a smaller structure was built on a dry-laid flagstone foundation for the Kendall Wood Shop, a wood furnishings maker. Eventually, the wood shop was demolished and a larger building, which became the button factory, was built on the foundation.

The building’s historic designation requires Sheridan to use materials that look like the oldest part of the structure. He said his plan is to replace the foundation with a concrete one that has a stone facade similar to the original flagstone. He said he also plans to raise the building 3 feet to meet flood zone specifications.

The next step for Sheridan is to get Ozaukee County approval. No date is set for the county review.

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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