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Revamped Harambee building honors neighborhood philanthropists Reuben and Mildred Harpole

October 12, 2021

It’s not every day a building is named after you.

So, when Bader Philanthropies named one of its newly renovated buildings after the husband and wife known for their community service, the widower called it a great honor. But more so for his wife.

“It’s fabulous,” said Reuben Harpole, whose name, along with that of his wife, Mildred, now graces the former Merchant and Farmers State Bank at King Drive and Fifth Street.

“My wife was a great lady and this building will always remind us of that,” Harpole said. “She is the one who pushed me out of bed and told me I had to do something. So I started working with the whole community here,” Harpole said. Mildred Harpole died in 2019.

Their work in the community focused on fighting for the city’s youth and vulnerable, fair housing and quality education. Results of their efforts have had a lasting effect on the Harambee community and the Milwaukee area for decades. Their influence has led many to often refer to them as the city’s Black Mayor and First Lady.

On Tuesday, friends and community leaders attended a ribbon-cutting and grand opening celebration of the Reuben and Mildred Harpole Building at 3338 N. King Dr. In 2017, Bader Philanthropies bought the historic building, which was constructed in 1910, and began redeveloping the site.

The building’s redevelopment came a year after the Milwaukee-based philanthropic bought the building to the north at 3300 N. King Dr. The place is now its headquarters.

The Harpole Building’s $5.7 million redevelopment was heavily influenced by what Bader Philanthropies President and CEO Daniel Bader learned from Reuben Harpole – to listen.

Once the organization acquired the building, it held listening sessions to understand what residents wanted from the new development. Bader said residents want more sit-down dining options and a place focused on health and wellness.

The Harpole Building delivers on that vision. It houses Sam’s Place, which doubles as a coffee house and jazz café. Other tenants include Shalem Healing Inc., a holistic health care clinic, and Refua Medicinals, a health supplement company.