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Allen-Bradley Clock Tower

The Allen-Bradley clock, also known as Milwaukee's Polish Moon, glows in this photograph from the summer of 1963.
The Allen-Bradley Clock Tower is a four-sided clock that sits on top of the ALLEN-BRADLEY Building (now Rockwell Automation) on the South Side of Milwaukee. Local ARCHITECT Fitzhugh Scott designed the tower. The clockworks were built by Allen-Bradley, which specialized in electrical controls, while the clock faces were created by Super Sky Products in MEQUON.… Read More


Architects employed by the firm of Ferry & Clas work in their Milwaukee office.
Milwaukee’s built environment reflects the ideas of the architects and builders who designed and constructed the area’s commercial, industrial, and residential buildings. The roots of the profession began in the city’s first decade and flourished in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. A proliferation of architectural firms in the twentieth century accounts for Milwaukee’s… Read More


This 1871 plan of Forest Home Cemetery shows it as small, separate city whose curvilinear design provided a counterpoint to the urban grid.
Like all urban areas, early Milwaukee faced many issues when it came to burying the dead. There were concerns with sanitation and the threat of disease, the competition for space with businesses and housing, and the need to properly memorialize those who died. Milwaukee’s early cemeteries had neither the permanence nor the grandeur of its… Read More

City Hall

City Hall from the south, with a message advertising Festa Italiana on the upper stories.
The Milwaukee City Hall is located on the site of the previous “Market Hall” on the triangular parcel of land between Market Street, Water Street, Wells Street, and Kilbourn Avenue. In 1891 an architectural contest was held to replace the “Market Hall” with a new headquarters for city government. Chicago architect Henry Ives Cobb submitted… Read More

Commercial Landscapes

Taken in the 1880s, this block of Water Street between Wisconsin and Mason Streets features a wide variety of businesses, including a furniture store, saloon, tailor, printer and bindery, and bookstore.
The exchange of goods is fundamental to city life, and the shape of commercial activity in Milwaukee reflects the geographic expansion of the city and the economic, technological, and social patterns framing the city’s development over time. Modern Milwaukee began as a series of competing settlements on the Milwaukee River and grew into a major… Read More

Conservation and Environmentalism

People prepare to enter the Wisconsin Conservation Department exhibit at the State Fair in 1960.
The modern movement toward environmental protection in Milwaukee was rooted in the frontier settlement’s first efforts to control water pollution to protect public health. From this beginning, the dynamic interplay of time, technology, science, commerce, and population growth resulted in a gradual expansion of this narrow focus to the conservation of natural resources, starting with… Read More


The second Milwaukee County Courthouse, pictured around 1900.
Historically courthouses were places for resolving legal and political matters. As community social spaces, they also demonstrated civic pride, serving as symbols of the ideal of American justice. As such the architecture of courthouses reflected their important role in community life. However, over time, courthouses, and later “justice centers,” became more specialized. Modern courthouses tend… Read More

Cream City Brick

Photograph featuring a Milwaukee structure built with Cream City brick.
Milwaukee’s nineteenth-century brick-makers fired the local red lacustrine clay, which contains a high content of calcium and magnesium, to produce distinctive, soft golden-yellow bricks. “The Cream City” nickname that attached to Milwaukee in the nineteenth and early-twentieth century suggests the dominance of this creamy-yellow colored brick during the city’s first seven decades. As early as… Read More


Photograph featuring a typical duplex home in Milwaukee.
The duplex, an apartment house with two units, became a popular housing choice in Milwaukee during the late-nineteenth-century period of rapid industrial growth and residential development. By 1911, a study of Milwaukee conducted by the United Kingdom Board of Trade, described it as the city’s most common house-type. Although a few are found in wealthier… Read More

Effigy Mounds

A survey by 19th century scientist Increase Lapham showed "ancient works" in the Milwaukee area, including effigy mounds.
Milwaukee was Native American land until the 1830s. The Potawatomi lived in the area in the early 19th century but lost their lands as a result of coerced treaties that forced them to cede the territory to the United States for American settlers. Most of these people were removed west to a reservation in Kansas,… Read More

Eschweiler Buildings

The Eschweiler Buildings on the Milwaukee County Grounds, such as this abandoned Milwaukee County School of Agriculture and Domestic Economy building, have been the focus of historic preservation efforts.
The Eschweiler & Eschweiler architectural firm was one of the most prolific in Milwaukee’s history, designing everything from community spaces, private homes, and places of worship, to industrial factories and commercial buildings. Some of their most notable buildings include the MILWAUKEE GAS LIGHT BUILDING, the MILWAUKEE ARENA, the Wisconsin Telephone Co. Building, the Milwaukee County… Read More

Gas Company Flame

The bright blue flame in this photograph predicts the same weather tomorrow.
The iconic Gas Company Flame was added on top of the ESCHWEILER-designed WISCONSIN GAS BUILDING in 1956. Standing 21 feet and weighing 4 tons, the beacon provides navigational light for Lake Michigan vessels and indicates the local weather forecast by its color. The flame contained neon and argon tubing, but by spring 2014 was replaced… Read More

Grand Avenue

Before constructing a mansion for his daughter, John Plankinton established his own residence on Grand Avenue in 1864, pictured here in 1885. It was razed in 1975.
Grand Avenue was an officially designated Milwaukee street from 1876 to 1926. It first developed in the 1850s as Spring Street, where wealthy residents built large estates on the outskirts of the city. Over the successive decades, their mansions emerged as a suburban “gold coast.” By the 1920s, however, that suburban character dissipated as downtown… Read More

Helene Zelazo Center for the Performing Arts

The Helene Zelazo Center was designed by the prominent Milwaukee architectural firm of Robert A. Messmer & Bros. in 1923 for Congregation Emanu El.
  The Helene Zelazo Center is a UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MILWAUKEE (UWM) venue for performing arts. The building was dedicated in 1923 as the second home of Congregation Emanu El (which became CONGREGATION EMANU EL B’NE JESHURUN in 1927), a Jewish synagogue. The building was designed by Robert A. Messmer & Bros., a firm also responsible… Read More

Historic Preservation

Historic preservation activists protest the planned demolition of the Elizabeth Plankinton mansion.
As the city developed, Milwaukeeans razed, transformed, and replaced outmoded buildings, infrastructure, and other elements of the landscape. Some groups expressed concern that these changes destroyed history and a “sense of place.” They worked to mark, preserve, restore, and repurpose historically significant sites and structures. Milwaukee’s first historic preservation efforts emerged in the late-nineteenth century.… Read More

Kettle Moraine

A view of part of the Kettle Moraine State Forest from an observation tower at Lapham Peak in Waukesha County.
The greater Kettle Moraine stretches from Kewanee County south through Walworth County. It was created when the Green Bay and Lake Michigan “lobes” of the Wisconsin Glacier (it had six lobes all together) retreated some 10,000 years ago. The retreating glacier left behind geological indentations, known as kettles, and deposited debris—silt, rocks, and boulders—that produced… Read More

Milwaukee Bungalow

Photograph featuring typical bungalows of the Milwaukee area.
From approximately 1900 to 1930, the bungalow was a popular house type throughout the United States. The term “bungalow” was borrowed from nineteenth century English usage and the form from the British Indian colonial adaption of a Bengali house. Within America, regional variations of the one- to one-and-a-half story house with a large porch developed… Read More

Milwaukee Exposition and Convention Center and Arena (MECCA)

The MECCA, pictured here in the foreground, opened in 1974 and served as Milwaukee's main convention center until it was replaced in 1998. The arena to the right of the convention center is still in use and currently known as the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena.
The Milwaukee Exposition and Convention Center and Arena (MECCA) stood in Milwaukee’s Civic Center district on West Kilbourn Avenue for 24 years. It opened in 1974 adjoining the Auditorium/Arena complex and was replaced with the larger, more modern Midwest Express Center (now the WISCONSIN CENTER) in 1998. The efforts to construct the convention center began… Read More

Milwaukee Exposition Building

The Milwaukee Exposition Building, shown here around 1885, hosted events until it was destroyed in a fire in 1905.
Preceded by the city’s oldest skating rink, the Milwaukee Exposition Building opened at what is now 500 W. Kilbourn Ave. in 1881. Walter Holbrook of E.T. Mix Co. Architects designed the building, which was constructed with Milwaukee brick in the modified Queen Anne style. It was constructed entirely with private funds—when a worker’s strike stalled… Read More

Milwaukee Mile

The Milwaukee Mile continues to be a popular venue for racing enthusiasts. This photograph from 2009 captures the Mile hosting the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Built as a horse track in 1876, the Milwaukee Mile hosted its first automobile race in 1903. Known as the oldest continuously operated motor speedway in the world, the Milwaukee Mile is on the grounds of the Wisconsin State Fair Park, located in West Allis since 1891. The track held open wheel championship races under… Read More
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