Postcard: Bird’s-Eye View from Railway Exchange Building, Milwaukee, Wis.

This undated and unpostmarked postcard shows the lovely old Pabst building. The view is facing west from Railway Exchange Building on the corner of Wisconsin and Broadway.

It seems this shot was taken around 1910. Gimbel’s original four-story building can be seen across the river, and that was built in 1902 and replaced in 1923. In the distance, the tall white building is the Majestic Building, which wasn’t complete until 1908. And the second building north of the Pabst Building, on the other side of the ornate building with the cupola, would be replaced by the distinctive Grecian-Ionic Marshal & Ilsley Bank in 1913.

The Pabst Building sat on the northwest corner of Water and Wisconsin, the site where Milwaukee founder Solomon Juneau‘s original cabin stood. In 1851, the four-story Ludington Block building was built here. It was replaced by this 14-story building, Milwaukee’s first skyscraper, in 1892. And this spectacular building came down in 1981.

About that ornate building to the right of the Pabst–that’s the Matthews Bros. furniture store. It sits on what had been Juneau’s trading-house or store. The Matthews brothers built one of the most prominent furniture manufacturing businesses in the US in the 19th Century. They worked with Frank Lloyd Wright on at least one of his homes, providing the interior trim, cabinet work, and furniture for the Martin House built between 1903 and 1905 in Buffalo, NY. And most of the interiors and furnishings at the Pabst Mansion were designed by the Matthews Brothers Company. This building, erected in 1878, would later be the home of Waldheim’s Furniture before it moved, in 1916, to a ten-story building across the river on what is today called Plankinton Ave.

On the street, you can see a horse-drawn carriage. Horses weren’t banned on Milwaukee streets until 1948, but their numbers started to dwindle in the early decades of the 20th Century.



PLUS Code: 23QR+CQ Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Approximate Google Earth View today:,-87.90932885,213.41284498a,122.55334129d,35y,-66.68816987h,76.68096155t,0r

Postcard: Wisconsin Avenue East from the River

This undated postcard from the 1960s shows the view from the Gimbel’s building looking east down Wisconsin Avenue.

On the left in the foreground is the Pabst Building, Milwaukee’s first skyscraper, which was razed to make room for the 100 East Building. Demolition began in December 1980 and was done at night and on weekends to protect passersby.

By February 1981, much of the building was gone except for the beautiful entry archway you can see in this postcard. In a February 17, 1981 editorial entitled “Beauty vs. the Wrecking Ball,” the Milwaukee Journal made an appeal for donations to save and relocate the arch. Preservationists unsuccessfully attempted to raise enough money to salvage the arch, and eventually, the demolition company offered to remove it at no cost if it could be toppled without seriously damaging the historic archway. Unfortunately, on April 2, 1981, eighty-nine years after the Pabst Building’s archway first welcomed guests, it was destroyed when the salvage crew was unable to bring it down unharmed. “When the archway slammed down, it shook the whole East Side,” said the preservationist working with the wrecking crew.

Directly across the street from the Pabst Building, in the foreground on the right, is what was then the Marine Bank Building, now known as Chase Tower. It opened in 1961.

Behind the Marine, on the southeast corner of Wisconsin and Water Streets, is the Iron Block Building. Over the years, it was known as the Martin’s Block (after James Baynard Martin who built it) and the Excelsior Block or Masonic Hall (since the Excelsior Masonic Lodge had its meeting rooms on the top floor). It was built in 1861 and is Milwaukee’s only remaining cast-iron façade building. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

Behind the iron block on the south side of Wisconsin Ave, you can see the 12-story Railway Exchange Building, which also still stands today. It was built in 1901 and served as the headquarters of the Chicago and Northwestern Railway from 1901–1945. It was the work of William LeBaron Jenney, known worldwide as the “father of the skyscraper,” and is his only Milwaukee building.



PLUS Code: 23QQ+CR Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Approximate Google Earth view today:,-87.90895732,176.12857143a,110.73004225d,35y,84.60775985h,76.7466551t,0r/data=CiUaIxIdCgAZDi2yne-ERUAhVOOlm0T6VcAqBzIzUVErQ1IYASAB