Marker Logo HMdb.org THE HISTORICAL
MARKER DATABASE
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Milwaukee in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)
 

Historic Milwaukee

East Wisconsin Avenue

 
 
Historic Milwaukee Marker image. Click for full size.
By Paul Fehrenbach, June 7, 2012
1. Historic Milwaukee Marker
Inscription. In this east-of-the-river locale then known as Juneautown, the first stage of development transformed a wilderness into a village—in less that a decade. The area was still swampy, rugged forest in the early 1830s. Solomon Juneau, Milwaukee’s first settler and one of Milwaukee’s first developers, surveyed and platted the land. In 1836, he hired New York native Nelson Olin to grade Wisconsin Avenue from the river to the lake for $3,000. After a trip back to New York for oxen, scrapers, shovels and pickaxes, Olin went to work. He recalled the project as a challenge: “A harder job never was done in Milwaukee for the same money. There was a hollow midway between East Water and Main (now Broadway) streets four feet deep that took nearly two weeks of hard work to fill up…”

By the late 1830s, the roadway was graded. Before the grading was complete, buildings were already springing up. Shops were built west of Broadway, primarily along Water Street with its river access, and homes began to dot the area east of Broadway. Among the earliest residential structures were log cabins and “claim shanties,” built by driving stakes into the ground and surrounding them with basswood lumber. Most were modest structures, little more than flimsy wood shells. Between 1834 and 1840, Milwaukee’s population expanded from
Historic Milwaukee Marker image. Click for full size.
By Paul Fehrenbach, June 7, 2012
2. Historic Milwaukee Marker
reverse side with area map
125 to 1,692.

Juneautown gave rise to an architecturally and historically significant collection of commercial and residential buildings between 1856 and 1939. After fires in the 1860s, East Wisconsin Avenue became a major commercial street. Substantial buildings for retail shops and professional offices were erected in the 1860s. Some, including the Curry Pierce building, are still extant today.

James Curry, a confectioner, and Amos Pierce, a grocer, built the two halves of the cream city brick Curry Pierce building at 400 East Wisconsin and 700 North Milwaukee Street in 1866. The flat-roofed Italianate style structure was built as two separate but identical three-bay-wide, three-story-tall buildings. By the time the fourth floor and mansard roof were added in 1879, both structures were owned by Amos Pierce. The west elevation facing Milwaukee Street was originally the building’s façade. It was renovated in 1993.

A landmark Milwaukee Department store, Chapman’s stood on the southeast corner of Wisconsin and Milwaukee for over a century. T.A. Chapman moved his department store from East Water to Milwaukee Street in 1877. After the store burned in 1884, a larger building constructed to take its place remained in operation until 1981. The department store was part of the land acquired for the 1985 construction of the post modern 411 Building designed
Close Up of Photo Lower Left: image. Click for full size.
By Paul Fehrenbach, June 7, 2012
3. Close Up of Photo Lower Left:
This 1900 photo shows construction of the Wells Building at 324 East Wisconsin in the foreground, with the Curry Pierce building’s Milwaukee Street façade in the background. A portion of the “Carpets” sign on the Chapman’s Department Store building can be seen on the right. Historic Photo Collection / Milwaukee Public Library
by Harry Weese & Associates of Chicago.

In 1882, leather tanning magnate Guido Pfister announced his intention to build a grand hotel on the corner of Wisconsin and Jefferson, just south of his Jefferson Street home. Pfister had formed a consortium of businessmen to finance the hotel by 1888, but his 1889 death prevented the project from going forward. Pfister’s son, Charles, revived the project and ground was broken in November of 1890. One of the city’s finest examples of Romanesque Revival architecture, the Pfister Hotel was designed by master architect Henry C. Koch. The building opened its doors on May 1, 1893, and immediately became known as one of the city’s premier hotels, a reputation it maintains to this day. Its Hall of Presidents meeting rooms are named for Presidents Roosevelt, Taft, McKinley and Kennedy, in recognition of those honored guests.
 
Location. 43° 2.336′ N, 87° 54.335′ W. Marker is in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in Milwaukee County. Marker is at the intersection of East Wisconsin Avenue and North Jefferson Street, on the right when traveling west on East Wisconsin Avenue. Touch for map. Marker is located in front of the Pfister Hotel. Marker is at or near this postal address: 424 East Wisconsin Avenue, Milwaukee WI 53202, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking
Close up of upper right photo: image. Click for full size.
By Paul Fehrenbach, June 7, 2012
4. Close up of upper right photo:
T.A. Chapman's
distance of this marker. Federal Building - U.S. Courthouse (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); a different marker also named Historic Milwaukee (about 300 feet away); Northwestern National Insurance Company (about 400 feet away); Automatic Temperature Control System (about 500 feet away); Matthew Keenan House (about 600 feet away); a different marker also named Historic Milwaukee (approx. 0.2 miles away); Milwaukee News Bldg. & Milwaukee Abstract Assn. Bldg. (approx. 0.2 miles away); Iron Block (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Milwaukee.
 
Categories. Notable Buildings
 
Close Up of Photo Lower Right: image. Click for full size.
By Paul Fehrenbach, June 7, 2012
5. Close Up of Photo Lower Right:
Above, a home that was located at Jefferson and Wisconsin is shown in this 1889 photo; Historic Photo Collection / Milwaukee Public Library. The location is now the site of the Pfister Hotel (left); photo courtesy of the Milwaukee County Historical Society. The Pfister has been in a National Register historic district since 1986.
Historic Milwaukee Marker image. Click for full size.
By Paul Fehrenbach, June 7, 2012
6. Historic Milwaukee Marker
looking west down East Wisconsin Avenue
Wells Building today image. Click for full size.
By Paul Fehrenbach, June 13, 2012
7. Wells Building today
Pfister Hotel today image. Click for full size.
By Paul Fehrenbach, June 7, 2012
8. Pfister Hotel today
Curry Pierce Building today image. Click for full size.
By Paul Fehrenbach, June 13, 2012
9. Curry Pierce Building today
Curry Pierce Building image. Click for full size.
By Paul Fehrenbach, June 13, 2012
10. Curry Pierce Building
400 East Wisconsin Avenue, transom above door
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on June 15, 2012, by Paul Fehrenbach of Germantown, Wisconsin. This page has been viewed 380 times since then and 34 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. submitted on June 15, 2012, by Paul Fehrenbach of Germantown, Wisconsin. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.
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