Lately, I’ve been looking into the history of Milwaukee, and one fascinating element of the city itself are the different styles of architecture we have – much of our architecture here looks quite similar to what you’d find on the east coast, but generally a bit more simplified, some parts of this city make me miss Boston so much…spent more time in New Hampshire, but Milwaukee doesn’t quite have the hill quotient.
Why does Milwaukee look like the East Coast? We started to boom industrially around 1840, so between then and the early 1900’s, a lot of wealthy people moved here, started businesses, and built houses.
If you want a deeper look into the architecture of Milwaukee – Milwaukee’s Early Architecture by Megan E. Daniels is a nice start. Architecture is kind of new interest for me, it was pretty easy to follow along with, really could have explained the styles themselves a bit more, but also that wasn’t quite the focus of the book, either. Quick read at 186 pages, goes into the history of different houses, a overview of Milwaukee’s population and founders.
One style of architecture we have here is Italianate. It became popular starting in the 1840s, and was still common after the civil war. Key features of this type of a more rectangular appearance and simple floor plan, columns, tall windows, eaves, and ornate detailing.
Also these “cornice” things, which are generally decorative moldings around wall toward the ceiling.
The style is really an English take on Italian villa architecture, but gained popularity in America because it was pretty popular with the middle class. It was easily adapatable to different types of material, smaller budgets, and many parts of these houses could be pre-made in factories. These houses were somewhat of a predecessor to the concept of a house in the suburbs, although in terms of placement they didn’t always end up being outside of the city, and were sometimes on narrow lots.