Building No. 2 (T. Heggland photo, 2000)
Building No. 1 (T. Heggland photo, 2000)
Building No. 10 (T. Heggland photo, 2000)
Building No. 12 (T. Heggland photo, 2000)
Kohler Company Factory Complex
444 Highland Drive, Kohler, Sheboygan County
Architect: Richard W. Phillip
Dates of significance: 1901-1960
The Kohler Company Factory is a multi-building industrial complex developed from farmland purchased by the company for this specific purpose. The Kohler Company, founded in 1873 by John Michael Kohler, has remained the leading manufacturer of plumbing fixtures and related products in North America since the 1920s.
His son, Walter J. Kohler Sr., was the driving force behind the creation of the planned community built to support the factory complex. He studied similar communities, traveling to garden cities in the U.S. and Europe, to create a more beautiful model. He met Milwaukee architect Richard W. Phillip, his lead designer, on an early study trip to Europe. The factory complex contains a collection of simple, early twentieth century, utilitarian industrial buildings. There are two types of buildings in the complex, one story tall steel frame "production sheds" and reinforced concrete multi-story "industrial lofts." They consisted of open workspaces defined solely by external and internal walls, floors and roofs.
Only a few buildings were built before 1919. In 1920 the company diversified their product line for off-season demand and created new facilities. The majority of the buildings in the complex were constructed by 1930. Nearly all subsequent growth and expansion took place in these existing structures. The Kohler complex is one of Wisconsin's largest and oldest industrial enterprises defining the term "Wisconsin Industry."
The buildings continue to be used for industrial manufacture and are not open to the public, except for guided tours offered by the Kohler Company.