626 E WISCONSIN AVE | Property Record | Wisconsin Historical Society

Property Record


Architecture and History Inventory
626 E WISCONSIN AVE | Property Record | Wisconsin Historical Society
Historic Name:Milwaukee Gas Light Co.
Other Name:Wisconsin Gas Co.
Reference Number:16199
Location (Address):626 E WISCONSIN AVE
Unincorporated Community:
Quarter Section:
Quarter/Quarter Section:
Year Built:1930
Additions: 1956
Survey Date:19842017
Historic Use:large office building
Architectural Style:Art Deco
Structural System:
Wall Material:Brick
Architect:Eschweiler and Eschweiler
Other Buildings On Site:
Demolished Date:
Additional Information:A 'site file' exists for this property. It contains additional information such as correspondence, newspaper clippings, or historical information. It is a public record and may be viewed in person at the State Historical Society, Division of Historic Preservation.

Excellent example of an Art Moderne office building. Note bronze panels in spandrels. The flame-shaped light was added in the 1950s.

Sunburst copper panels in spandrels.

Its U-shape enables daylight to reach desks because contemporary lighting innovation could not, and insufficient air conditioning meant windows provided summertime ventilation. Architects of the 1920s and 1930s used stepping to break up the claustrophobic "canyon effect"—the long rows of tall, slab-fronted buildings that lined many narrow downtown streets, and to allow daylight into business districts. The architects emphasized their skyscrapers’ height; some hoped the setbacks would make their buildings appear to ascend into the sky. Besides setbacks, here were other tricks Art Deco architects could use to enhance their buildings’ verticality. Here, pilasters soar uninterrupted between columns of windows, enhancing the verticality. The brick color gradually changes from deep red brick in the lower courses to pink and finally buff at the structure's apex.

The large flame-shaped beacon, added to the top of the building in 1956, is a Milwaukee landmark that signals imminent changes in the weather. Red denotes warm weather ahead, a flickering flame warns of snow or rain, gold means cold, and blue indicates no change in the weather.

2017 - This 20-story Art Deco-style skyscraper was constructed in 1930. It has a tiered design, purportedly inspired by the ancient Mayan temples. The bottom tier of the building is eight stories in height with an H-shaped plan. From there the building incrementally steps inward, before a 12-story tower rises from the building’s center to its apex.

The foundation and lower two stories of the building are clad in polished granite, while the remainder of the building is red brick with stone accents. Each of the building’s tiers is topped by a parapet with patterned brick and stonework characteristic of the Art Deco style. The most ornate parapets are on the upper stories of the central tower, which include zigzags and repeated geometric motifs. The skyscraper is surmounted by a metal platform roof and a light fixture installed in 1956 that resembles a gas flame and changes color based on the weather forecast.

Fenestration is consistent throughout. From the third story to the top of the building, singe-light replacement windows are spaced at regular intervals across each elevation. The bottom two stories of the building have larger window openings, between which are copper sunburst spandrels. The main entrance is within a two-story entry pavilion centered on the south-facing façade. Pairs of two-story fluted granite pilasters flank the entryway. The entrance itself consists of a pair of glazed, bronze-framed doors. Above the doors is a polished bronze sunburst, with a three-light window centered above.

"This is an excellent example of cubical architectural forms, ornamented with stylized, geometrical motifs popular in America during the 1920's and 1930's. The weather flame atop the Milwaukee Gas Light Company is visible for several miles after dark. For passersby on the street, the company has placed an identical flame in the lobby. A gold flame forecasts cold or cooler weather; red means hot or warmer; blue indicates no change; flashing forecasts precipitation." Pagel, Mary Ellen & Virginia Palmer for the University of Wisconsin Extension Division, Guides to Historic Milwaukee: Juneautown Walking Tour, 1965.
Bibliographic References:BUILT IN MILWAUKEE, LANDSCAPE RESEARCH, P. 91. MILWAUKEE HISTORIC BUILDINGS TOUR: JUNEAUTOWN, CITY OF MILWAUKEE DEPARTMENT OF CITY DEVELOPMENT, 1994. Perrin, Milwaukee Landmarks, pp. 68-69. Davis, 50 years of Architecture. Milwaukee Writer's Project, 438. Buildings of Wisconsin manuscript. Pagel, Mary Ellen & Virginia Palmer for the University of Wisconsin Extension Division, Guides to Historic Milwaukee: Juneautown Walking Tour, 1965.
Wisconsin Architecture and History Inventory, State Historic Preservation Office, Wisconsin Historical Society, Madison, Wisconsin

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