Iron Horse Hotel

Also known as: Wm. Berger Company, Molitor Box Company
500 West Florida Street Milwaukee WI

Six story, brick factory building now a hotel

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Overview Looking Northwest

The building was home to the Wm. Berger Company, manufacturers of bedding. After 1927, it was the Molitor Box Company. The hotel takes its name from the colloquial term for steam engines, in honor of the railroad that runs on the north side of the building. The double entendre also refers to motorcycle, with the Harley-Davidson Museum located to the north, just across the canal.

Photo taken by J.R. Manning September 2018

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Description 

The Berger Bedding Company at 500 West Florida Street was designed by the architectural firm of (Herman W.) Buemming and (Gustave) Dick, and erected in 1907. It rises six stories in height. The West Florida and South Fifth street fašades are veneered with dark red brick, and trimmed with white stone. The first floor displays rusticated and smooth-faced brick pilasters. The entrance is found on the West Florida Street (south-facing) fašade, in a reduced opening in the westernmost bay. Originally, another entrance appeared in the easternmost bay, but this has been bricked in. On both street fašades, several courses of brick and a broad stone belt-course create a continuous stone sill for the second-story windows, and provide a base for the tall pilasters that articulate each fašade and frame a group of windows at each floor. Three, 1/1, double-hung sash windows with continuous stone sills comprise each group; a brick panel separates the floors. The stone capitals recall the Prairie School, a style that Herman Buemming skillfully employed in his many fine residential designs. Most of the pilasters stop short of the sixth story, and the sixth story is different from the lower floors, conforming to the three-part composition of the Chicago Commercial style. At the sixth story, the openings are segmental-arched, and surmounted by brick dentil hood moldings. At the top of the building, a brick cornice elaborated with courses of brick dentil moldings appears. The West Florida Street fašade also reflects the two different functions of the Berger Bedding Company: factory and warehouse. The western end of the building, two bays wide, projects slightly. This section housed the bedding factory. The eastern six bays of the building constituted the warehouse section. Interestingly, the pilaster separating the easternmost bays on the West Florida Street fašade rises higher than its neighbors, and there is less decorative brickwork at the cornice. This detail is matched in the southernmost bays on the east-facing fašade. The original plans for the Berger Bedding Company called for a taller parapet at this end of the building, creating the impression of a corner tower, and a wrought iron flagpole was to be centered above the capital. For whatever reason, this part of the building was not constructed as planned.

Adapted from the National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form prepared by Elizabeth L. Miller, September 30, 2007. A link to the document is listed below under "Sources."

Update Log 

  • October 1, 2018: Added by J.R. Manning

Sources