Building Description City Hall, Milwaukee Wisconsin

The structure is an asymmetrical, wedge-shaped building, eight stories high. The front width at the base of the tower is 57 feet 6 inches. It measures 315 feet 4 1/2 inches (nineteen bays including tower) on the short or North Market Street side and 327 feet 9 inches (nineteen bays including tower) on the long or North Water Street side. At the widest point of the back it is 112 feet 1 1/2 inches (six-bays). The northwest corner is rounded -- an unusual feature.

Above the foundation of limestone a 20-foot band of black granite projects a few feet above grade. From this point to the string course of the third-floor window sills, a height of 43 feet, the wall is constructed of Berea sandstone -- now almost black. Above this point the walls of the building and those of the tower are of the St. Louis Hydraulic Pressed Brick Company's No. 509 brick. Originally described as pink, the brick has weathered to a black-red. The decorative trim is terra cotta.

At the base of the tower are three large stone arches, 31 feet 6 inches wide at the springing line of the arches and rising to a height of 17 feet 6 inches above this point, forming a protective entryway. Each face of the tower has three bays, while the sides of the building (now including the tower) have sixteen bays, with an unusual convex bulge to the last three bays on the west facade (northwest corner). The back (north) of the building has six bays. A fire escape was added to the east wall in 1914.


The building consists of eight floors above the ground level, which is partially below grade. Basically all floor areas, as far as the public spaces are concerned, are similar. Each floor has an innerring corridor, running along the building's north-south axis. This corridor encircles and overlooks the central light shaft that extends the full height of the building, from ground level to the skylight above the eighth floor. Today many of these corridors on the upper floors have been converted into office space.

The north end of the first floor corridor has been taken over by the City Treasurer's office and access to this floor by the north entrance is sealed off.

The light shaft, an elongated hexagon, dominates the interior of the building. Cast-iron columns are spaced along the wall and the balcony edge. The balcony columns are placed on all floors from the second through the eighth and are actually hung from the structure in the attic. On each floor, a heavy wire screen encloses the space between the balcony railings and the floor above -- a safety feature, not original. The light shaft has a flat structural glass ceiling at the attic level. At each of the outside corners of the corridors is a large marble column with a pseudo-Ionic capital and accompanying ornate decorative features.

It is important to note that many remodellings have altered the offices considerably. In the early 1960's ceilings were lowered, and new lighting, flooring, partitions, etc. were installed. Also, some functions once housed here have either gone out of existence (for example, the fire alarm telegraph department and its battery room, once located in the basement), or have been moved elsewhere. A new Municipal Building, equally as tall as the City Hall, is located across the street. A tunnel now connects the two buildings, thus altering the basement area.

The mayor's office is still on the second floor in the tower area, but it has been extensively remodelled. Of note is the two-story Common Council Chambers occupying the north end of the third floor. The room has undergone some changes. The gallery above (fourth floor) has been enclosed and gallery space expanded on the east side of the Council Chambers. A beautifully carved-wood railing separates the galleries and the council floor.

The original two-story chamber for the school board, located on the fifth and sixth floors above the Common Council Chambers, no longer exists, nor are the offices of the school board now in this building.

At the time of construction, part of the sixth floor, most of the seventh floor, and almost all of the eighth floor were left unfinished.