Can you name the tallest habitable building in the United States in 1895? At the time, it was also the second tallest structure in the nation after the Washington Monument.
This building was actually the tallest building in the state of Wisconsin, until 1973 when the First Wisconsin Center was opened.
Give up? It was City Hall. With it's bell tower, the building stood 353 feet tall (and the flag pole pushes it to 393 feet). Some sources claim it was the tallest skyscraper in America (although other sources list the Philadelphia City Hall, built a year earlier, as taller), and one of the tallest in the world.
Designed by architect Henry C. Koch, a German-American architect based in the city. Milwaukee's City Hall was the tallest building in America until 1899 when New York City's Park Row Building was completed. City Hall is an asymmetrical, wedge-shaped building with an exterior made of St. Louis pressed brick. terra cotta, carved Berea sandstone, copper and slate, built in the German Renaissance Revival style. The brick had a pink tinge to it when City Hall was first erected that has since faded to it's more familiar maroon.
City Hall's construction at the time was a pioneering achievement using load-bearing masonry and a structural steel frame. It was made with 2,584 white pine piles, which were driven into the marshy land on the eastern bank of the Milwaukee River.
Inside, the building features a coffin-shaped nine-story atrium with an immense glass skylight and four passenger elevators.
The bell weighs 20,505 pounds and in 1895 was the third largest bell in the world. It was produced by G. Campbell and Sons, a local firm, and is named Solomon Juneau, after the city's first mayor and one of it's founders.
On October 9, 1929, disaster struck as a fire partially destroyed the bell tower. At the time, Milwaukee didn't own any fire equipment that could reach that high. It was repaired using the architect's original blueprints.
In 1973, City Hall was put on the National Register of Historic Places and in 2005 it was declared a National Historic Landmark.
After three years and $76 million, a massive renovation, which included dismantling and reassembly the clock tower, was finished in December of 2008. Unfortunately, despite those efforts, City Hall's terra cotta began to crumble again and $1.3 million has been approved to investigate the cause.
The past two decades have seen a growth in the city's sky-scape, and yet even today, Milwaukee's iconic City Hall is still the eight tallest building in the city.