E. Townsend Mix with Peter B. Wight, Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce Building (the Mackey Building), Milwaukee, southwest corner of E. Michigan and N. Broadway Streets, 1879. Immediately to its right is the earlier Mitchell Building. (Online)

In the Spring of 1879, Milwaukee architect E. Townsend Mix and Wight produced a second totally fire-proofed building in Milwaukee for Alexander Mitchell, the Milwaukee of Commerce at the southwest corner of E. Michigan and N. Broadway, adjacent to the Mitchell Building.  Mix reflected the mood of the period in wanting something other than the Second Empire with an eclectic design that included a central tower, á la what Post and Hunt had recently produced in New York, that seems to have taken much of its inspiration from the towers in Siena’s Palazzo Pubblico and Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio.  

Left: Tower, Palazzo Pubblico, Siena; Right: Tower, Palazzo Vecchio, Florence. (Online)

Mitchell’s Chicago, Milwaukee, & St. Paul had succeeded in making Milwaukee an early grain-trading center.  A major activity of the Chamber of Commerce was the grain exchange that the new building was to house.  Its three-story Exchange room contained an octagonal trading pit, so configured to give better access and vision to the traders.

E. Townsend Mix, Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce Building, Plan. (American Architect, Jan. 1, 1881)

The columns in the Chamber of Commerce were similar to those used two years earlier in the Mitchell Building, except that they either had six flanges or were five-flanged Phoenix columns.

Peter B. Wight, Fireproofed Iron Columns for Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce Building, Milwaukee, 1879. Left: A system similar to that used with four-sided Phoenix columns. (Brickbuilder, August 1897); Right: The system used in the Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce. (American Architect, July 6, 1878)

In addition to the columns and floors, Wight, also for the first time, encased the iron roof trusses in Loring’s porous terra cotta tiles.

Sanford E. Loring, Terra Cotta Tile Fireproofing, Chicago, 1874-79. This was similar to the tiles Wight used to protect the iron trusses in the MIlwaukee Chamber of Commerce. (Building, December 17, 1887)

(If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to eMail me at: thearchitectureprofessor@gmail.com)

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