Milwaukee City Hall
The building you see in front of you, Milwaukee City Hall, has been a primary feature of the city’s skyline since the 1890s. Consisting of over 8 million bricks, 47,000 square feet of mosaic and marble flooring, and 107,000 square feet of office and meeting space, City Hall is a monumental symbol of Milwaukee and a national historic landmark.
Before the current City Hall was erected, the triangular parcel of land it sits on was home to a much more modest structure. Market Hall, a two-story brick building, occupied the space starting in 1853. The building housed German theater groups until 1860 when it was converted to the City Hall of Milwaukee. City Government operations were dispersed between Market Hall and other locations throughout the city until 1890 when the Common Council passed a resolution to build a brand-new building.
On August 29, 1891, a design contest for the new City Hall began, drawing eleven participants from across the United States. Chicago based architect Henry Cobb Ives submitted the winning design, but a political controversy led to a different final selection. Henry C. Koch, an architect based out of Milwaukee, became the contest winner and construction of his Flemish Renaissance design began in 1892.
When the building was completed and occupied in 1895, it was considered the tallest building in the United States at 393 feet from base to flagpole. “Solomon Juneau”, the City Hall bell, was christened and placed within the structure’s lofty bell tower in November of 1896.
By the mid-2000s, City Hall was showing signs of age. Decaying terra cotta had to be replaced and renovations took eight years to complete. In 2015, wood pilings supporting the weight of the building showed signs of advanced decay, leading to the structure sinking more than two inches on its north end. The installation of a new foundation using passive load transfer design began the same year.
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