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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014

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This tile sends four "vines" up the facade of a Moorish Revival building on 27th and Vliet Streets.
This tile sends four "vines" up the facade of a Moorish Revival building on 27th and Vliet Streets.

5 views of the tiles of Vliet Street

Some streets in Milwaukee seem to specialize in different features, though it's often subtle and surely not even really true. It's just more the things that catch our eye on our daily commute.

That's what led me to begin to notice and appreciate the relatively fancy facades on industrial buildings along State Street.

And, lately, I've been noticing how many buildings on Vliet Street have facades featuring different kinds of tile work. Here are some of my favorites.

1211 W. Vliet St.

The Wisconsin Architecture and History Inventory calls this gorgeous two-story storefront, "Probably the best preserved example in Milwaukee of the use of stock terra cotta tiles with Art Deco motifs to decorate a small store." Built in 1922, the structure long housed a furniture store and appears to be vacant at the moment. The cream-colored terra cotta is highly ornate, with yellow and rust-colored highlights, and "Wile Bldg." written is grey script. Alas, I have been unable to determine the architect responsible.

1307-11 W. Vliet St.

Martin Tullgren & Sons were the masters of glazed terra cotta in this town and you may recognize their buildings like the one 60th and North, the Downtown home of George Watts & Son and the Prospect Avenue building that was once home to the Avant Garde Coffee House and now houses Mystery One Bookstore and Allium restaurant, among others. But drive around town and you'll see that this eye catching cream colored tile, sometimes stark white, and often decorated with motifs like these, are everywhere. This example was built in 1923.

2717 W. Vliet St.

This Moorish Revival building on the southwest corner of 27th and Vliet was built in 1926 and you should drive past sometime to admire the alluring lines of the entry and a similar pattern around the second story windows in the central bay. But especially eye-catching are four vertical strips of painted tile bearing this twisting climbing vine motif, and a series horizontal panels that span the facade between the first and second floors.

3104-06 W. Vliet St.

I'm especially enamored of this 1931 Moderne gem of a facade with empire lines in emerald green and white running up to the second story lintels where the cream colored brick flares out, creating a look that feels soaring, even on a two-story building. Four courses of dark glazed terra cotta tiles run along the lower edge of the facade, giving the building weight at the bottom. The windows in the door are Deco-rative and the transoms above are leaded.

3314 W. Vliet St.

Once the hideous, hand-lettered B.A.L.A.N.C.E. sign came off this small, single-story 1947 red brick building (storefront? industrial?), this tiled sign announcing the building -- in green tile -- as the home "The Haight Co." was revealed. The curved corners of the building have always been attractive, but seeing the original sign re-appear has rendered this facade even more noticeable. The Haight Co. -- founded by Hiram Haight in 1923 and purchased in the 1970s by Baker Water Systems -- manufactures rotary gear pumps for fire protection, process manufacturing and restaurants. There's a sales office in Brookfield but the pumps are no longer made in the Milwaukee area.

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