Yesterday’s Milwaukee

Plankinton Arcade, 1925

The Plankinton Arcade sits on the site of the former Plankinton House Hotel.

By - Sep 26th, 2014 11:26 am
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Plankinton Arcade, 1925

Plankinton Arcade, 1925

In 1915 the Plankinton House hotel, located at what is now the corner of Wisconsin and Plankinton avenues, was razed and moved to a new location just to the south. It would remain in business for many years until it was demolished to be replaced by a parking garage for the Grand Avenue complex.

The original hotel site would be replaced by the Plankinton Arcade which would open in the same year. The first phase was a mere two stories of retail space with entertainment facilities below street level. In its prime Fred Smith’s Recreation Parlor was dubbed as the largest one-floor recreation parlor in the world. Besides a cafe and grill the recreation was centered around bowling and pool. A larger version of today’s Landmark Lanes.

A two-story structure would prove too modest for this piece of prime real estate. In 1924 a five-story addition of offices would be constructed above the arcade. The architects were the legendary Chicago firm of Holabird & Roche and the exterior would be of the same glazed white terracotta. This 1925 photograph shows the addition in its final construction phase. The Plankinton remains a fine example of downtown architecture complete with a statue of John Plankinton in the heart of the rotunda.

Jeff Beutner is a collector of photographs, postcards and stereoviews of old Milwaukee. This column features these images, with historical commentary by Beutner.

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