Milwaukee, WI 53203
The Pritzlaff Building
143 W. St. Paul Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53203
(corner of St. Paul and Plankinton Ave)
The 15 bus that runs north and southbound on Water St, just a short block East of the venue.
Street parking is available - unmetered on Plankinton and metered on St. Paul. There is no street parking directly in front of the building on St. Paul.
There is also a paid lot in front of the post office, as well as the Public Market parking and other paid lots across the river.
Please DO NOT park in the Post Office lot just West of the building or in the Pritzlaff Building courtyard.
The building originally held a hardware company that, in time, became Milwaukee's largest. The enterprise was begun by John Pritzlaff, a Prussian immigrant who arrived in Milwaukee in 1841. In 1850 he started his hardware company, which would eventually become one of the largest in the Midwest, employing some 400 persons at its peak.
Leaving its original home on 3rd Street (still extant today), the company moved south to a site with railroad and river access. The new building was designed by John Rugee. The center portion of the east facade, dated 1875, came first; the corner portion to the north was likely the next addition. Overall the building was expanded at least three times, in 1916 among others, into a 300,000 square foot complex.
Pritzlaff's son Fredrick would continue as president of the company until 1951; Frederick's son and grandson also entered the business. However, by then the company was in decline; it closed its doors in 1958.
The buildings then became home to Hack's Furniture, who applied their own painted signs to its vast walls of Cream City brick. Hack's closed in 1984, but a family-owned storage business moved into the building.
The buildings were most recently occupied as a furniture store (The Mattress Store) and for storage, but have been largely vacant and underutilized for years. By 2000, the building was under consideration for conversion into a residential space, but no developers were willing to step forward, daunted perhaps by its considerable size.
Six years later, however, Sunset Investors got the ball got rolling on a massive renovation, cleanup, and remodeling. The building is now being converted to a mixed-use project, including 86 condominiums, retail, office space, and a new parking garage that has yet to be built. The project is being overseen by Brookfield design firm Cityscape Architecture.
The renovation has cleaned the public faces of the building, washing away heavy layers of grime and soot accumulated in its 130-year history. The change is remarkable, letting the building's architectural beauty shine through unblemished.