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

North Plankinton Avenue

 
 
Historic Milwaukee Marker image. Click for full size.
By Paul Fehrenbach, June 8, 2012
1. Historic Milwaukee Marker
Inscription. Picture Milwaukee in 1835. Potawatomi and Menomonee tribal lands had been ceded by treaty to the federal government in 1831 and 1833, and the land made available for sale. By 1835 there were 125 hardy settlers living in log cabins and claim shanties clustered along the riverbank at East Wisconsin Avenue and at 3rd Street and Juneau Avenue. By 1840, the population had grown to 1,692—mostly Yankees from New York State and New England. Development on West Wisconsin Avenue (then Spring Street) started shortly thereafter—when the marsh was drained and filled, a bridge was built across the river, and Spring Street was widened and graded.

In 1887, the Gimbel family selected Milwaukee as the location for their flagship department store. They built their 30’ x 100’, four-story Gimbel’s store (they used an apostrophe then) at the site of its present building (101 West Wisconsin Avenue). Gimbel’s soon embarked on an expansion program that continued until the turn of the century and encompassed the entire block.

Know to Milwaukeeans for near 100 years as Gimbels Department Store, the building is an eight-story classicized Commercial Style building in white glazed brick and terra-cotta. Built in stages, the first part of the complex rose on Wisconsin Avenue from plans from the well-known Chicago firm of Daniel H.
Historic Milwaukee Marker image. Click for full size.
By Paul Fehrenbach, June 8, 2012
2. Historic Milwaukee Marker
Reverse side showing area map
Burnham and Co. Alterations of the original structure, plus additions on Michigan Street, were made in 1919. The striking colonnaded riverfront section dates from 1923-25 and was reputedly modeled after Selfridges Department Store in London.

The Empire Building, 116 West Wisconsin Avenue, built in 1927, is one of Milwaukee’s most visible Roaring Twenties skyscrapers. It houses the Riverside Theater, Milwaukee’s last great vaudeville show house. The principal architectural feature of the building is the theater’s interior—French Baroque in style, with marble walls and floors, gold leaf moldings, and five huge chandeliers.

The Plankinton Arcade, at 161 West Wisconsin Avenue, was originally built as a two-story shopping arcade in 1915 and was enlarged in 1925 when five floors of offices were added. The arcade was the forerunner of today’s enclosed shopping mall with one structure housing numerous independent shops focused on an interior circulation area. It originally included a basement level with a first class dining salon, a 60-table billiard hall, a 41-lane bowling alley and a Turkish bath. The terra-cotta cladding of the original first two floors has Gothic detailing, while the later upper stories are clad in terra-cotta with a Renaissance motif. It was Milwaukee’s first shopping center, providing room for nearly 130 small shops. The centerpiece of
Historic Milwaukee Marker image. Click for full size.
By Paul Fehrenbach, June 8, 2012
3. Historic Milwaukee Marker
Photos Upper Left: Left – During the summer of 1951 Milwaukeeans celebrated completion of a construction project on Wisconsin Avenue, billed the Magnificent Mile. Right – Looking west at the Wisconsin Avenue bridge, with Gimbels on the left and the Riverside on the right, in 1938. Photos courtesy of the Milwaukee Historic Photo Collection of the Milwaukee Public Library
the arcade is a spectacular skylit central rotunda with four circular staircases and a bronze statue of John Plankinton, Milwaukee’s meat packing magnate.
 
Location. 43° 2.336′ N, 87° 54.708′ W. Marker is in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in Milwaukee County. Marker is at the intersection of West Wisconsin Avenue and North Plankinton Avenue, on the right when traveling west on West Wisconsin Avenue. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 152 W Wisconsin Ave, Milwaukee WI 53203, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Wisconsin Soldiers’ Home (within shouting distance of this marker); Milwaukee's Bridge War (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Milwaukee's Miraculous Mallard (about 300 feet away); Gertie (about 400 feet away); The First House on the East Side of Milwaukee (about 500 feet away); Wisconsin's Oldest Newspaper (about 500 feet away); Nearly a Century of Planning (about 500 feet away); Architectural Gems on the Riverfront (about 500 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Milwaukee.
 
Categories. Industry & CommerceSettlements & Settlers
 
Historic Milwaukee Marker image. Click for full size.
By Paul Fehrenbach, June 8, 2012
4. Historic Milwaukee Marker
Photo Lower Left: The original Gimbel’s department store, during the 1890s. Photo courtesy of the Milwaukee Historic Photo Collection of the Milwaukee Public Library
Historic Milwaukee Marker image. Click for full size.
By Paul Fehrenbach, June 8, 2012
5. Historic Milwaukee Marker
Photo Upper Right: The Plankinton Arcade, adding five floors, during construction, in 1924. Photo courtesy of the Milwaukee Historic Photo Collection of the Milwaukee Public Library
Historic Milwaukee Marker image. Click for full size.
By Paul Fehrenbach, June 8, 2012
6. Historic Milwaukee Marker
Photo Lower Right: The Plankinton Arcade rotunda with the statue of John Plankinton, in 1939. Photo courtesy of the Milwaukee Historic Photo Collection of the Milwaukee Public Library
Gimbels Building today image. Click for full size.
By Paul Fehrenbach, June 8, 2012
7. Gimbels Building today
Home of a Residence Inn, ASQ headquarters and other businesses.
Riverside Theater today image. Click for full size.
By Paul Fehrenbach, August 10, 2012
8. Riverside Theater today
<i>West Wisconsin Avenue, Milwaukee, Wis.</i> image. Click for full size.
circa 1930
9. West Wisconsin Avenue, Milwaukee, Wis.
The Plankinton Arcade is on the left, and the Empire Building (The Riverside Theater, staging a "Gay Girly Revue" when this image was taken) on the right.
Plankinton Building today. image. Click for full size.
By Paul Fehrenbach, June 8, 2012
10. Plankinton Building today.
<i>Plankinton Arcade, Milwaukee, Wis.</i> image. Click for full size.
circa 1935
11. Plankinton Arcade, Milwaukee, Wis.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on August 8, 2012, by Paul Fehrenbach of Germantown, Wisconsin. This page has been viewed 497 times since then and 51 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. submitted on August 8, 2012, by Paul Fehrenbach of Germantown, Wisconsin.   8. submitted on August 10, 2012, by Paul Fehrenbach of Germantown, Wisconsin.   9. submitted on November 16, 2014.   10. submitted on August 8, 2012, by Paul Fehrenbach of Germantown, Wisconsin.   11. submitted on November 16, 2014. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.
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