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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014

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A guide to Milwaukee's architectural landmarks




Note: The contents of this guide were checked for accuracy when this article was updated on Jan. 21, 2004 at 5:06 a.m. We continually update the thousands of articles on OnMilwaukee.com, but it's possible some details, specials and offers may have changed. As always, we recommend you call first if you have specific questions for the businesses mentioned in the guide.


It may not be Paris or Rome or London, but Milwaukee has some wonderful buildings and there are some in particular that should not be missed. Here are just a few of the more important ones, in no special order.

The fortress-like F.C. Bogk House at 2420 N. Terrace Ave. is the only single-family residence in Milwaukee built by Frank Lloyd Wright. Executed at the time when Wright spent much of his energy on Tokyo's Imperial Hotel, the house was nonetheless built under the architect's watchful eye. Unlike many of his structures, which appear almost weightless, the Bogk House is a solid-looking brick structure trimmed with cast concrete that appears impregnable. A private residence, this house is only very rarely opened to the public, and the interior is reputed to be in as immaculate a condition as the exterior. Completed in 1916.

Santiago Calatrava's soaring addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum is already Milwaukee's lakefront jewel with its graceful lines, sailboat white tone, and astonishing organic form. The architect's first structure in the U.S. a daring work that is stunning when approached from any direction and the mast supporting the footbridge beckons all heading east on Wisconsin Ave. to come and behold its magnificence. By the way, he planned it that way, even altering plans by a few feet to ensure that the mast would align perfectly with the center of Wisconsin Avenue.

Anyone familiar with 1970s television needs no introduction to Milwaukee's soaring city hall, which featured prominently in the opening of "Laverne & Shirley." Built in the 1890s, the H.C. Koch & Company-designed building has become one of Milwaukee's most recognizable landmarks. Similar to Renaissance revival buildings constructed in northern Europe in the latter part of the 19th century, the city hall topped a black granite base with a wide layer of sandstone and capped it off with brick structure garnished with terra cotta ornamentation. The clock tower rises 393 feet and houses a 10-ton bell that was once among the world's largest. Alas, ringing such a large bell has detrimental effects on the aging structure and is therefore mostly silent. The building's interior, with a colossal atrium, is no disappointment, either.

St. Paul's Episcopal Church at 914 E. Knapp St., houses the city's oldest Episcopal parish (founded in 1838) and was designed by hometown boy Edward Townsend Mix, who was responsible for a number of well-known buildings in Milwaukee. The Romanesque church, constructed of rustic Lake Superior sandstone has huge arches and battlemented parapets that lend the church an almost castle-like quality. New York's Tiffany Studios contributed many of the stained-glass windows. According to one source, the building closely resembles an unbuilt church designed by Henry Hobson Richardson, the plans for which had been published in the Architectural Sketch Book in the 1870s. Completed in 1884.

The Prairie Style house at 2430 E. Newberry Blvd. on the East Side was designed by Wright apostle Russell Barr Williamson. A Milwaukee native, Williamson designed a number of Prairie Style residences in the city that closely adhered to Wright's style. This house, for example, has the same strong horizontals and leaded glass windows with gold-mirror squares that mark Wright's work. Notice the horizontal band of windows beneath the wide eaves and (in summer) the sympathetic landscaping. Completed in 1921. Williamson also designed the recently-shuttered Avalon Theatre in Bay View.

Frank Lloyd Wright was extremely interested in low-cost housing and experimented with pre-fab structures. Four experiments in his American System Built Homes line the north side of West Burnham Street (2714-2732). These duplexes are of nearly identical floor plans (one is reversed). However, Wright was not involved in the construction of these homes and the materials used were not top quality. A pair of four-unit apartment buildings built in a different System Built plan on North 27th Street have been demolished. Some System Built bungalows remain in the Milwaukee area.

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