Monday, May 08, 2006

Strolling Around Lakeside Street Part 4: The South Side State Bank

The South Side Bank Building has been at 330 W. Lakeside Street, across the street from Franklin School, for a long time, but exactly how long isn't clear. Recent reports and newspaper articles about the building note that the bank closed during the Great Depression, but fail to indicate when the bank opened or the building was built.

The building's strong Central connections begin in 1939. That's when Sam Loniello -- father of Sam, Jr., George, Gary, and Nick (Class of 1967) -- began using it to house his wholesale candy business: Bob White Candy Company. "My dad named it Bob White Candy Co. for two reasons," Nick Loniello told a Wisconsin State Journal reporter in 1999. "One, he thought no one would buy Sam Loniello Candy and two, he named it after his dog who was covered like a bobwhite bird."

The Bob White Candy Company moved its operations to 208 E. Olin Avenue in 1964. I haven't found much information about who or what occupied the bank building for the more than three decades afterwards, although it reportedly housed a bait shop and a bakery during that period.

In 1997, Mark Ulrich bought the building and began restoring it. In 2003, Madison Trust for Historic Preservation bestowed a preservation award on Ulrich and building conservator Jim Erickson. At that time, the building housed the Sheer Elegance hair salon and Ulrich's ecological consulting business.

When I photographed the exterior of the building on February 8, 2006, it appeared to be empty. There wasn't much to see when I peered through the front windows. A few days later, on February 12, 2006, I drove by the building on my way to attend the annual All-Central reunion at the VFW and noticed the windows were covered by what appeared to be sheets of fabric, mounted inside. Something was afoot.

By the time I stopped by 330 W. Lakeside Street on March 22, the building had been transformed into an art gallery. SlingShot Gallery wasn't open, but there were fresh flowers in the windows and some artworks hanging on the walls. A few days later, on March 24, Isthmus writer Tom Laskin had a short feature about Slingshot Gallery in his "Arts Beat" column. Reading it, I learned that the bank's old vault had been outfitted to accomodate video pieces and the rest of the storefront space would be devoted to prints, "two-dimensional works on paper by local artists and artists from around the country."

I wasn't the only person peering into the gallery windows on that sunny Wednesday in March when I took the two close-up photos on this page. Several couples walked by and peered in the windows, too. One couple, who perhaps lived in the neighborhood and were out for a stroll, wondered aloud how long this latest tenant would occupy the historic South Side State Bank Building.

SlingShot Gallery is still there, but its opening hours are somewhat limited. If you're interested in more than a peek through a window, you may want to hie on over to Madison's South Side on Friday, May 12 to attend an opening reception for a new exhibit at the gallery (and perhaps take a peek into the old bank vault.). The exhibit features the work of David Beck called "Self-Portrait of Myself at 50 in the Corporate World." According to information in the Isthmus listings, the opening reception will run from 7 p.m. until 10 p.m. on Friday.

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