Mackie Building - Milwaukee, WI
N 43° 02.240 W 087° 54.475
16T E 426041 N 4765360
Quick Description: The Mackie Building was originally the Chamber of Commerce building. It is an impressive building and dominates the East Side Commercial Historic District. It was built in 1879 and is located at 225 E. Michigan St. in Milwaukee, WI.
Location: Wisconsin, United States
Date Posted: 12/27/2008 10:58:15 AM
Waymark Code: WM5EAB
The Milwaukee City Department of City of Development web site has a copy of the Historic Preservation Report (visit link
) for the East Side Historic District (the Mackie Building is listed individually on the National Register.) The report describes the Mackie Building as follows:
"The former Chamber of Commerce Building, now called the Mackie Building, lies directly east of the Mitchell Building. It was built to accommodate the grain exchange (a commodity trading room) and the offices of the Chamber of Commerce. It compliments the Mitchell Building in scale, mass, materials and architectural grandeur. The five-story edifice is constructed of granite, limestone and trimmed with sandstone. The facades are richly carved and incised in the rectilinear High Italianate commercial style. The fifth floor is enclosed with a low pitch mansard roof with dormers. From the center of the Michigan Street façade rises a soaring clock tower topped by a cupola. Edward Townsend Mix was also commissioned to design this building for Alexander Mitchell, who built this as an investment property and leased it to the Chamber of Commerce.
The exterior of the building has remained largely intact with few alterations. The interior contains the sumptuous, three-story, grain exchange trading room that contained a sunken, tiered trading pit modeled after the one in the previous Chamber of Commerce Building. This original pit was presumed to have been the first one ever constructed. The trading room remained intact until after World War II when it was subdivided for office use. From 1981 to 1983 an intensive restoration of the trading room was undertaken by the owners to recreate one of the Midwest's most magnificent historic interiors. The ceiling and walls were originally adorned with frescoes, murals and wall paintings commissioned by local artists. Built for grain trading purposes, this early stock exchange room is divided into three sections by a series of colossal fauxmarble columns with gilded Corinthian-like capitals incorporating steamship and locomotive motifs. The themes of industry, agriculture, transportation, trade and commerce were repeated throughout the room's décor. At the center of the ceiling is a skylight surrounded by frescoes of wheat sheave medallions encircled by Wisconsin wild flowers. These were done by the Chicago fresco artist "Armini" who did the remaining ceiling treatments including the allegorical four seasons paintings at the corners and depictions of the Milwaukee Water Works, the Bay View Rollings Mills and the Wisconsin State Seal at the east and west ends of the room. The Canvas mural above the room's entrance was commissioned from local artist, John S. Conway. It depicts an allegorical scene of industry, agriculture and commerce with mythological figures harvesting grain, forging iron and gathered around a stock-ticker. The mural is the largest single piece of artwork in the room measuring 24 feet long by 10 feet wide. Below this, flanking the main entrance are two large wall paintings. The one to the east of the door depicts shipping and the one to the west depicts agriculture.
When grain trading ceased at this site in 1935, the room was little used. After World War II, the room was extensively altered when the lower part was subdivided into offices. The two-story space above the false ceilings that were erected was allowed to severely deteriorate. The room was accurately restored in 1982-83 and all of the missing architectural features were reproduced except for the long-vanished trading pit. The Conrad Schmitt Studios of New Berlin, Wisconsin recreated the new ceiling frescoes. Because the tie wires of the suspended ceiling had caused irreparable damage to them, photographs were taken, tracings made and over 140 colors recorded. The ceilings were replastered and spray-painted with a base coat and the tracings repainted in the original colors. The original wall paintings flanking the main entrance were unsalvageable and Sheboygan artist, Father Richard Fale, was commissioned to copy them. He also reproduced a third painting of a group of American Indians camped at the edge of a cornfield. The only original artwork to survive intact was Conway's mural. It required only cleaning and touch-up painting.
With the recreation of missing plasterwork, woodwork, faux-marbling and other features, the Grain Exchange Room has been restored to nearly its original appearance as ascertained from period photographs. It is one of the outstanding mural-ornamented Victorian commercial interiors in America. (NRHP - 04/03/73)."