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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Aug. 29, 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.


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The last remaining Federal style commercial building in Milwaukee is also the oldest brewery building in the city. The Gipfel Union Brewery has been threatened with demolition for many years and that war has intensified due to pressures exerted by crowds generated by southern neighbor the Bradley Center. Built in 1853, the Gipfel Union Brewery, 423 W. Juneau Ave., functioned as a brewery until 1890.

Eero Saarinen's War Memorial building, which gazes out over the lake from its perch at the foot of East Mason Street, was one of the city's most unusual buildings when it was completed in 1957 as a paean to the fallen veterans of World War II and the Korean War. A large, abstract mosaic by native artist Edmund D. Lewandowski welcomes visits from the west, as does a tempting glimpse of the lake thanks to Saarinen's elevated design. Though the cross-shaped building has some practicality issues, as anyone who has spent any time inside can readily confirm, the building offers great views from all sides and has a captivating exterior. Alas, a 1970s addition to make more room for the Milwaukee Art Museum, housed here, is a boxy eyesore.

It appears that aliens have landed at North 92nd Street and Congress Avenue on Milwaukee's northwest side, but don't panic, it's simply Frank Lloyd Wright's Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church building. When the congregation outgrew its downtown building in the early 1950s, its forward-looking community approached Frank Lloyd Wright, who came up with this design based on his investigations into Greek Orthodox traditions. Wright took two elements of that tradition -- the dome and the Greek cross -- and merged them in this unusual building with lovely stained glass windows (not by Wright, but rather by a New Berlin-based studio) and a circular balcony. Wright died two months before construction began and when the church was completed in 1961, it came in at three times the estimated cost. Tours are available. Call (414) 461-9400.

Other notables:

U.S. Bank Center, 777 E. Wisconsin Ave., Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill, 1973.

MGIC Plaza, 250 E. Kilbourn Ave., Skidmore, Owings , & Merrill with Fitzhugh Scott Architects, 1971-'72.

Bank One Plaza, 111 E. Wisconsin Ave., Harrison & Abramovitz, 1960-'61, the first glass skyscraper in Milwaukee.

Mitchell & Chamber of Commerce buildings, Edward Townsend Mix, 1876 & 1879-'80, the Grain Exchange Room in the latter is exquisite.

Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Building, S.S. Beman, 1885, has one of the best-preserved 19th century commercial interiors with ornamental iron, lovely tile floors, and marble wainscoting.

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