Is Iron Block the Finest Historic Restoration Ever Done?
City officials are wowed at ribbon cutting ceremony.
“This is a first for me!” Mayor Tom Barrett chuckled as he helped snip the giant strand of ceremonial dental floss yesterday afternoon in the atrium of the newly restored Iron Block Building, at 205 E. Wisconsin Ave. The man-sized dental floss package and “ribbon” cutting ceremony marked the end of the 154-year-old building’s completed restoration process. Most of the 50 or so ceremony goers were employees, friends, and family members of Iron Block’s new tenant, Dental Associates. Dental Associates purchased the building in 2012 and immediately started the extensive, historically accurate restoration of the interior and exterior. The building is now the company’s headquarters and downtown clinic.
“The quality of the work was extraordinary, not only was the facade restored, but the actual cast-iron pieces were put back which over the years were moved for various reasons. It is probably one of finest restorations I have seen in the city of Milwaukee,” Alderman Robert Bauman rhapsodized.
The interior spaces have been completely reworked to create Dental Associate’s new corporate headquarters and dental clinic. The new clinic boasts recently furnished office and waiting room areas as well as newly installed, top-of-the-line dental equipment. The atrium, which historically separated the 1860s completed side from the 1890s completed side, is lined with polished marble and a huge glass skylight which streams sunlight from overhead. One Dental Associate’s employee jokingly said, “I might have to wear sunglasses to work with all this light coming through!”
Both Barrett and Bauman’s speeches harkened but to 1860. President Lincoln had just replaced then President James Buchanan, interestingly the only President to have served as a bachelor. Back then, the 50,000 square foot Italianate-style building’s intricate design and metalwork served as a testament to Milwaukee’s blossoming financial district. Over the years however the buildings pre-fabricated cast iron pieces and interior spaces fell in disrepair, despite the space being placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.
Barrett mentioned that when he graduated from college in the 1980s, Downtown simply did not have the foot traffic and activity it does today. The Iron Block restoration is part of what Barrett called Milwaukee’s downtown “renaissance.”
“The fact that is renovation not only creates new jobs in downtown Milwaukee but protects historic architecture in the city is something that I’m very grateful (for),” he said. “If you haven’t worked downtown I think you’re going to like it.
Dental Associates operates 11 clinics throughout eastern Wisconsin with 850 employees and is adding an additional 17 new jobs with the opening of the new clinic and headquarters. As of July 1, 41 corporate employees will start work in Iron Block’s updated office spaces.