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Milwaukee's lone skyscraper

US Bank Center dominates the Milwaukee skyline
US Bank Center dominates the Milwaukee skyline
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Have you heard the joke where someone flips you the bird and asks, “What is this?”

When you say you don't know, they respond, “The Milwaukee skyline!”

Not much of a joke, really, but it does point out that our skyline consists of one dominant skyscraper surrounded by several mid-rise buildings.

That lone tower is, of course, the US Bank Center, which stands 601 feet tall. It is a 42-story building that has an area of 1.3 million square feet and more than 5,000 windows. It features a steel frame with a white aluminum skin.

Originally named the First Wisconsin Center, because it was constructed for the First Wisconsin National Bank, which moved from it's headquarters at 735 E. Water Street. It was designed by Bruce Graham and James DeStefano of Skidmore Owings, & Merrill and engineered by Fazlur Khan, who was also the structural engineer for the Hancock Center and the Sears Tower..

Formerly the site was occupied by the Hotel Martin, which was built in 1889, a six-story brick building that was claimed to be almost fire-proof. Originally an apartment building, it became a hotel in 1914. It was razed in 1958.

The US Bank Center was topped off on August 29, 1972 and celebrated it's official opening on October 6, 1973. It's height surpassed that of City Hall, which had been the tallest building in the state prior to that time.

In 1988, First Wisconsin changed it's name to Firstar and the building became the Firstar Center in 1992. In 2000, Firstar Corporation announced it had purchased US Bancorp and it would take on the US Bank name. The merger of Firstar-US Bancorp led to the renaming of the tower to the US Bank Center in 2002.

As part of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Peregrine Recovery Plan, a hacking box was installed on the 41st floor to help in the recovery of peregrine falcons, which had been killed off in the state, and nearly wiped out in the entire Midwest and East Coast, because of the use of DDT after WWII. Since 1987, over 60 peregrines have been fledged from the US Bank Center site.

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