Jeramey Jannene

Symposium Is All About Milwaukee’s Iconic Bricks

Milwaukee Preservation Alliance event aims to preserve Cream City's heritage.

By - Aug 28th, 2023 04:13 pm
Cream City brick buildings at The Brewery District. Photos by Jeramey Jannene.

Cream City brick buildings at The Brewery District. Photos by Jeramey Jannene.

Milwaukee is known as the Cream City, but no, it’s not about the beer.

The name is a reference to the cream-colored bricks that clad many of the city’s 19th-century buildings. Made with Menomonee Valley clay, the distinctive brick became a defining architectural feature for the city and served as a regional export for decades. But you won’t find any new Cream City brick being made today, a result of a shift to mass production and easier-to-produce competitors.

A symposium from the Milwaukee Preservation Alliance (MPA) and AIA Milwaukee will focus on how to preserve, clean and revitalize the remaining brick for the next century.

The one-day event is being held Sept. 8 at Best Place at the Historic Pabst Brewery, 917 W. Juneau Ave.

Should you sandblast or chemically clean the brick, which, due to its porous nature, becomes discolored when exposed to pollutants? The morning sessions will focus on preservation, restoration and maintenance strategies as well as discussions on the brick’s role in the city’s development and historic preservation’s current role.

The afternoon will include an in-depth tour of the Best Place complex with owner Jim Haertel. Once a Pabst Brewing Company office building and tour center, they were rescued from an uncertain future by Haertel, who redeveloped the buildings as an event venue and coffee shop.

The day will conclude with a 10th-anniversary plaque presentation to the neighboring Brewhouse Inn & Suites, 1215 N. 10th St., one of several neighboring Cream City brick Pabst buildings saved after Joseph Zilber unveiled a plan in 2006 to turn the abandoned brewery into a mixed-use neighborhood.

“MPA is celebrating our 20th anniversary this year and we wanted to curate events to showcase how far we’ve come as an organization. We felt that an educational symposium is the perfect way to highlight our expertise and passion for Milwaukee preservation,” said board member Shannon Winterhalter via email.

Speakers include John Padberg, a project executive with Berglund Construction, InSite Consulting Architects president Stephen Mar-Pohl, organ builder Ryan Mueller and new Historic Preservation Commission senior planner Andrew Stern.

“Our board and MPA partners are full of experts in preservation and related fields, and we are always exploring ideas about how to share this knowledge through workshops, webinars, etc. Naturally, a common theme that kept emerging was Cream City Brick,” said Winterhalter. “We know many folks who have their own niche area of expertise about the topic – from its origin story and rise to popularity, how to care for it and restore it properly, to documenting examples and placing where it fits into our culture today. One can certainly glean bits of information about these topics from different sources, but MPA’s symposium is an opportunity to learn about all of these things in one place and in one day.”

Registration for the event is available on the MPA website.

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Categories: Real Estate

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