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Here is a great article about Pieter’s work by Crocker Stephenson of the “Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.”


Pieter Godfrey is a reclamation man

Posted: Dec. 21, 2005

Crocker Stephenson

Recently a man phoned Pieter Godfrey looking for what he described as “sacred wood.” He was having picture frames made for his children, the man told Godfrey, and he wanted the frames made from wood that had some soul.

Godfrey, among many things, is in the salvaging business. Reclamation might be a fancier word. It may, in Godfrey’s case, be even more precise. Godfrey doesn’t exactly think that material objects have souls - maybe they do, who’s to say - but he knew what the man was looking for. The man was looking for wood with meaning. The man was looking for wood with a history. He was looking for wood with a story.

Godfrey had just the thing. During the renovation of the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Godfrey had collected maple window frames discarded from the old high school. Not just maple. Maple reclaimed from a particular time and a particular place. Maple with context. Maple with history. Maple with a story.

Godfrey, his wife and their two daughters live in a place with a story. They live in the basement of a century-old factory on 10 acres of land east of the river near Riverside Park. It’s the old Milwaukee Worsted mill. Godfrey owns the neighboring factory as well, what was once the testing house for the National Brake & Electric Co. It’s about 47,000 square feet of space altogether. A guy like Godfrey needs that kind of space.

Not for himself. Not for his family. He needs that kind of space to store all the chunks of physical history that we have torn down, dug up, toppled, tossed aside and smashed into pieces under the unsustainable assumption that our physical resources are boundless, under the nothing less than neurotic notion that there can be no unfettered future without a vanquished past.

Photo/Tom Lynn

To sort through the debris of what is being replaced as Pieter Godfrey does and to reclaim what is of value is soulful; it is an act of civic reconciliation. It is to lay stock in memorys physical articulations.

Hope and memory

Milwaukee, we are told, is poised for a healthy surge of renewal and growth; building cranes, even during these winter months, poke into the skyline, and it’s a heartening sight. To invest in and to construct a new building is not a soulless act; it is an act of civic hope.

But to sort through the debris of what is being replaced and to reclaim what is of value is also soulful; it is an act of civic reconciliation. It is to lay stock in memory’s physical articulations.

Godfrey grew up on the east side, at the corner of Lake and Hampshire. Hampshire was one of the last streets in Milwaukee paved with creosote-soaked cedar blocks; in the late 1960s, when Godfrey was around 11 years old, workers came, tore out the cedar blocks and paved his street with sensible asphalt.

Godfrey collected 400 or so cedar blocks and stacked them in the garage.

The blocks were pieces of the street Godfrey had grown up on, and if they were useless to anyone, they were nonetheless meaningful to him.

They were not much more than hazardous waste, but waste with context. Waste with history. Waste with a story.

From the Dec. 22, 2005, editions of the Milwaukee Journal Sentine

Note: if you would like to order some of Pieter’s sacred wood…or if you would like some of his sacred wood as raw material for whatever, send an e-mail to Reclamation Man?@Milwaukee Renaissance?.com.

Earlier Post re Pieter

These are notes from meetings I have had with Peter Godfrey at his great live work recycle husband center on the east bank of the Milwaukee River, just to the West of the Urban Ecology Center, across the bike trail.

Peter has a powerful and wide ranging mind and enormous energy. My notes will not do justice to his discourse. They are intended to inspire my readers to visit Peter or attend some of the tours I hope to plan over the years, starting this January.

Some of my notes will simply be concepts for future development. Perhaps some others will help me expand upon some of the themes Peter touched upon.

Dec. 7

  • River Revilization Foundation

  • Stewardship Pledge

  • DNR Land Trust

  • Milwaukee River Valley Corridor: Conservation of and Public Access to

(clean, maintain, manage for the generations)

(for fishing, sports, recreation, nature walks, picnics, bird watching, and more)

  • Milwaukee PC Relationsihp with the River Valley Near Capital

  • Shorewood Stewardship Law Perhaps a First in the State

  • River Development North of the Dam

  • Community Linkage Park, Unique Natural Setting, River Valley as Natural Corridor

  • Ken Linebach Pioneer in Environmental Education

  • Milwaukee, “Where the Waters Meet,” Shows the World Purifying Nature in City Setting, blessed with nation’s largest concentration of River Corridor Park Lands: Menomonee, KK, and Milwaukee Rivers. Twenty five species of fish have returned.

  • River Corridors as Parks Needing Little Upkeep Expense, in the tradition of Whitnal,Olmstead, and Wahl. A place for people without privilege to get away and become part of nature. Parks that don’t need to be managed.

  • Close By Amenities for Historic Working Class Neighborhoods

  • Partnerships of Parks Department, Sewage District, Nature Center, Milwaukee River Fund and Foundation, River Revitalization Group

Letters sent about Pieter Godfrey

Last edited by TeganDowling. Based on work by g.  Page last modified on January 19, 2006

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