Favorite thing: Visiting the MPM - the Public Museum - is a must here.
You can enjoy its exibits and features.
One of them is the IMAX Dome Theater where we managed to see two movies.
Fondest memory: Visiting the Public Museum and walking downtown.
- Family Travel
- Budget Travel
- Business Travel
Wisconsin Gas Building (1930)
Favorite thing: Classic Art Deco Office Building on the eastern side of downtown. Influenced by the classic step pyramids of Egypt and Babylonia - not to mention New York and Chicago!
Designed by the local firm of Eschweiler & Eschweiler, the Wisconsin Gas Building is sky-lit beautifully at night. And the top of the tower serves as a nightime local weather forecast: a flashing flame means precipitation within twenty-four hours! Dark red means a warming trend, gold means a coming chill, and blue signals no temperature change. Who needs the Weather Channel!
626 E. Wisconsin Ave.
John Plankinton Sculpture in the Plankinton Arcade
Favorite thing: John Plankinton (1820-1891) is regarded as the father of the Wisconsin meat industry, and he is remembered as one of the fathers of Milwaukee as well. Originally from Delaware, he moved to Wisconsin in the 1850s and quickly became involved in the meat packing business, associating with Philip Armour and gradually creating a company with interests all over the Midwest.
The Plankinton Arcade - at 161 W. Washington - was actually created in the 1930s. It's now the centerpiece of the eastern end of the Grand Avenue Mall. It's actually quite a nice space, pleasingly proportionate and classically refined. "Meeting at the Plankinton statue" is a good idea if you have to rendez-vous with someone in downtown Milwaukee!
- Historical Travel
- Arts and Culture
101 W. Wisconsin Ave. (Borders Books) (1902)
Favorite thing: This beautiful Beaux Arts structure once housed grand downtown department stores. The monumental facade looking out over the Milwaukee River was designed by Herman Esser. Each of the thirteen Ionic columns stands over 50 feet tall!
It was originally a Gimbels, later a Marshall Fields. Now Borders occupies the ground floor - I'm not sure what (if anything) is above.
611 Building (1886)
Favorite thing: You could also call this the "Arch building," as the designer, Solon Spencer Beman, was certainly extravagantly fond with the Romanesque rounded arch - he used 72 of them on the facade of this structure!
It was originally created as the headquarters of the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, which may partially explain its decorative extravagance. Let Joseph Korom, author of the handy book "Milwaukee Architecture," describe the exuberance within: "The 611 Building has one of the most magnificent interiors in Wisconsin, featuring colorful marble walls, decorative iron newel posts (capped by spiked, polished copper finials), and two-story ionic columns. Dazzling ceramic tile patterns in the floor form a colorful nineteenth-century tapestry. A light court, surrounded by office windows and elevators, rises from the second floor to a great glass and iron canopy, a web of trusses, and more than 2000 translucent glass squares that allow sunlight into this grand space."
- Historical Travel
Grain Exchange Building (1879)
Favorite thing: Did you realize that in the 1870s, Milwaukee was the WORLD'S LARGEST port for wheat? And that Milwaukee also was home to the world's largest wheat commodity market? The Grain Exchange Building was built to house not only the offices of the merchants who presided over this world grain market, but also to be home for the octagonal trading floor where buying and selling in large quantities took place.
Local banker and railway entrepreneur Alexander Mitchell financed the construction of the Grain Exchange Building in 1879. He hired prominent local architect Edward Townsend Mix (also responsible for the nearby All Saints Cathedral and St. Paul's Episcopal Church) to create a six story Italianate structure, complete with the 175 foot bell tower which rises from its center.
Alexander Mitchell (1817-1887) was was one of the great figures from the Gilded Age of Milwaukee's industrialization. He was also President of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad, and the South Dakota town of Mitchell (home of the famous Corn Palace) was named after him. Mitchell's son John was a prominent US Senator from Wisconsin, and his grandson William (aka "Billy Mitchell") was a prominent World War I aviator - after who Milwaukee's "Mitchell International Airport" is named.
Buffalo Building (1900)
Favorite thing: Another successful rehab in the Third Ward, the Buffalo Building is a good example of creative reuse. It was built in 1900 for Phoenix Hosiery Company - they made socks here! Later, space inside was used by a variety of textile manufacturers and clothiers. lots of south-facing windows - the light must be very good.
Now space inside is divided between office, retail, and residential. I like the fact that there are a variety of different uses in a single building.
Renaissance Building - 309 N. Water
Favorite thing: The Renaissance Building is a prime example of the warehouse chic that has been transforming older cities around the world.
A local filmmaker has created a documentary about the Renaissance Building which I'd like to see sometime. Apparently the structure was first renovated by a creative and free-spirited collective of artists and crafters who used it as studio and retail space. When well-heeled suburbanites "discovered" the place, it helped make the Third Ward fashionable and chic. But before too long, rising rents and "mainstreaming" forced the artist right-brain types out, and none of the original rehabbers are still there. It's a familiar story-cycle of urban renewal: capitalism working in the same way as forest regeneration.
- Arts and Culture
Historic Third Ward
Favorite thing: Like so many cities, Milwaukee has been redeveloping its older warehouse district into condos, shops and restau-bars for the smart urban set.
Handscome six and seven story redbrick structures line broad boulevards, often backing up to the rivers which were important thoroughfares of commerce in the 19th century. The creative class has discovered the appeal of this place with a sense of Place, but there's still a great deal of untapped potential here.
Myself, I only recently "discovered" the appeal of the Third Ward - which is conveniently located just to the south of the downtown center. But I'll be back often - and I have the sense that the Third Ward neighborhood is going to be an important anchor of downtown Milwaukee for decades to come.
Pfister Hotel (1893)
Favorite thing: The Pfister is the discerning traveller's favorite Milwaukee hotel, but you don't have to be a guest here to appreciate the intricate gothic details of this rare example of a Richardsonian Romanesque hotel. Be sure to pay a visit to the gorgeous three story atrium in the center of the hotel - it beat a John Portman interior any day of the week, IMHO!
The architect of the Pfister was Milwaukee's premiere practictioner of "gothic" in the late 19th C, Hency Koch, who was also responsible for the Gesu Church on Marquette's campus, as well the spectacular City Hall.
The main entrance of the original Pfister is on Jefferson, but the official address is 424 E. Wisconsin.
Milwaukee Federal Building (1899)
Favorite thing: This classic of the Richardsonian Romanesque is regarded as one of Milwaukee's most important classic buildings. The supervising architect of the United States Treasury Department in the late 19th century, Willoughby Edbrooke, was the lead designer, and he certainly did not stint with touches of humor in his plan! If you look hard around the exterior of the building, it's said that you can find 78 human faces, 14 monster gargoyles, and 12 winged dragons!
Why can't we have architecture like this any more? Architecture that brings a smile? Oh well. (Incidentally, the English-born Edbrooke was also responsible for the main post office in Washington D.C., another classic in the "American gothic" style.)
Granite for the Federal Building was quarried in Maine. No wonder it took seven years to construct this pile!
The square tower that rises in the center stands 190 feet tall, and serves as an excellent post from which to fire flaming arrows when hostile Illinoisians invade the cream city.
It's at 517 E. Wisconsin Ave.
- Historical Travel
Cathedral Square Condos (2007)
Favorite thing: The condo boom hits Milwaukee!
This shiny steel & glass structure houses 27 units on twelve floors, all overlooking the square outside the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. John. I like the rounded "turret-esque" corner windows on each floor!
Architecture by Solomon Cordwell Buenz and Associates.
Twin Condo Towers on the Lake (2005-07)
Favorite thing: They aren't actually twins - and they're not the same building, either - although from certain angles they do look joined together! They are indeed completely separate structures, although the two towers are only 25 feet apart! Talk about competion! They are now the two tallest residential structures in Wisconsin.
The Kilbourn Tower is the one further to the north, and the shorter of the two. It was opened in 2005, and was designed by La Dallman Architectus. Kilbourn Tower has 33 floors and reaches a height of 380 feet.
To the south, the University Club Tower has 36 floors, and tops out at 446 feet. It was designed by the internationally famous firm of Skidmore Owings and Merrill. (I wonder about if those building height figures are correct - the buildings look to be very nearly the same height.)
The nearly simultaneous construction of these condo towers is a sign on the ongoing vitality of the Milwaukee lakeshore. People want to live by water, and are willing to pay top $$$$ for outstanding views.
Bishop's House - Episcopal Diocese Offices (1902)
Favorite thing: The Bishop's House - at 804 E. Juneau in the Yankee Hill neighborhood - is part of the complex of buildings belonging to the Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee. (Several church agencies are now located here.) However, originally (1902-03), the house was constructed as a residence, which explains a certain difference in style and scale from the nearby religious structures. Local architects Charles Kirchoff and Thomas Rose used a Jacobean Revival style which manages to appear complementary to the Gothic Revival of the Cathedral and Guild Hall next door.
Certainly the use of lovely "cream city" brick contributes a great deal to the successful blending of styles!
The Bishop's House is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Diederichs House (Lion House) (1855)
Favorite thing: The Diederichs House - aka the Lion House - is guards by two fierce marble cats. The fine ante-bellum mansion was originally designed by the firm of Mygatt and Schmidtner, although subsequent alterations were made by Howland Russel at the end of the 19th century.
Edward Diederichs was a German-American businessman who worked hard and prospered in this most German of midwestern cities.
With its comfortable classical facade, the Diederichs House sets a prosperous tone on the fashionable East Side. At 1241 N. Prospect, it is on the National Register of Historic Places.
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