A Simple Plain Style

It’s worth noting that architecture is a creative field and therefore an attempt to categorize it will have outliers. Any number of architectural historians have discussed a Chicago School of architecture starting as early as the 1880s, and specifically one that has less ornamentation than the frankly historicist (and historicist pastiche) styles popular elsewhere.

The photo above shows the 1892 Pabst Building – the headquarters of the brewery – in Milwaukee, taken around 1900. I first came across this building in my research on early skyscrapers, as it is one of three buildings ten stories or taller built in Milwaukee by the end of 1900. I’m no expert on that city, but I have to assume it was a local landmark until is 1980s demolition..

The architect was Solon S. Beman of Chicago, an architect of some real prominence and the designer of five buildings in my research project. It also, rather notably, has an exuberantly decorated facade supported by its steel skeleton, more so than his other tall buildings. That may well have been the client’s decision, but Beman was obviously comfortable with it, as that is not a tentative stab at ornament. I love over-the-top buildings like this; a city full of them would be too much, but having one every so often livens things.

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