Well preserved Depression Era box with remarkable Art Deco decor with bas relief panels
Constructed at the end of the Art Deco era, it displays signs of Moderne, as well. The building was designed by Herbert W. Tullgren, a noted Milwaukee architect known for large commercial buildings incorporating Art Deco and Moderne details.
This was the central office of the Milwaukee Western Fuel Company, formed by the merger of several coal companies. It proclaimed itself the largest wholesale and retail fuel supplier in Milwaukee. In 1934, the company built this amazing structure on Milwaukee's east side.
The two story building is clad in two colors of buff bricks and is highlighted by orange and black terra cotta trim. Bas relief terra cotta spandrels are placed between the first and second floors. (Ford affectionados will be interested to learn that a five story building across the street was built by Ford as a Model T assembly plant.)
A simple cornice is highlighted with two colors of orange terra cotta blocks. Separating the windows are orange and black terra cotta engaged columns. There are 23 such columns on the north, west and south faces of the building. Black stripes highlight ground level terra cotta spandrels between the columns with the stripes continuing across the columns.
Separating the lights between the first and second floors, and set between the columns, are a series of terra cotta spandrels with bas relief sculptures depicting the mining, delivery, and use of coal. The three panels repeat around the building. Although Milwaukee Western Fuel Co. did not mine coal, the process is highlighted on the panels.
At the north and south ends of the building on the west façade are public entries that are also orange. The entries are sheltered by a circular aluminum canopy. A flag pole and curved metal oriel are located above each canopy. These oriel windows echo the curving profile of the engaged columns and are divided into twelve lights by steel mullions. Above each oriel window is the company trademark, a black diamond bisected with an orange stripe, also made with terra cotta.
As the coal business became more competitive for a dwindling market, Milwaukee Western Fuel Company merged with or was acquired by other operations. The company, or what was left of it, departed the building and sold it in 1965. It housed a computer time-share company, eventually acquired by EDS, and now houses a Japanese restaurant with other space available.
No matter the tenant, it remains a striking example of both the Art Deco and Moderne building styles.