Milwaukee Riverwalk at Marcus Center
The viewer shows the Milwaukee River as it looked in 1929, shortly after the Kilbourn Avenue Bridge was constructed. The bridge is significant as it is one of the few remaining pre-1950 bridges in Milwaukee.
The bridge is what is known as a ‘bascule bridge’ in that it opens in the center and the two sides rise away from each other. The Kilbourn Avenue Bridge is one of the more opulent bridges in Milwaukee using limestone and Neo-classical decorative features. City planners wanted to make a statement with the bridge as it was the main thoroughfare to City Hall at the time.
The riverfront remained unused or industrial until 1988 when Mayor John Norquist moved forward with the Milwaukee Riverwalk project that transformed the riverfront into a place of leisure and recreation.
Another significant building in the historic photo is one that is still distinct today in the Milwaukee skyline, the Germania Building. Easy to spot because of the spiked globes that adorn its upper corners (meant to replicate German soldier helmets of the era), the Germania was built in 1896 to house operations for George Brumder’s weekly Germania newspaper. At the time it was thought that Germania was the world’s largest German language newspaper. In response to anti-German sentiment during World War One, the building was renamed the Brumder Building, a name it held until it was changed back to Germania in 1981.
Brumder also engaged in other business in the Germania Building, such as the Concordia Fire Insurance Company and the Germania National Bank. Brumder operated out of the building until his death in 1910, when his family took over operations. In 1946, the Brumder family sold the building to the Plankinton and Wells Company. It served as an office building before being converted into apartment space in 2014.
Other significant uses of the Germania Building include the offices of socialist mayor Daniel Hoan from 1946-1948 and nine Milwaukee draft boards during the Vietnam War. Protesters in 1968 stormed the building, removed draft files, and burned them across the street.