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Northern Trust (Northwestern National Insurance Company Building)

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1906, Ferry and Clas. 526 E. Wisconsin Ave.
  • (Photograph by Andrew Hope)

Alexander Mitchell, one of Milwaukee’s leading politicians and businessmen, established the Northwestern National Insurance Company in 1869. As one of the first insurance companies to employ independent agents and issue tornado insurance, Northwestern National became one of Milwaukee’s most prominent companies. From offices in the Mitchell Building (MI23), Northwestern weathered claims from the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Its move to a third home, this Beaux-Arts classical building, coincided with the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. Although the resulting fire in San Francisco obliged Northwestern to pay nearly one-half million dollars in damages, company profits paid for Milwaukee’s finest carved stonework, elegant architectural design, and ornate craftsmanship. Paired two-story, engaged Ionic columns with delicate curved ornament, cartouche spandrel panels, and curved stone garlands framing the second-story windows set the pattern here. Ferry and Clas added such French design elements as Baroque-style wrought-bronze railings by Cyril Colnik trimming the first-story windows and the mansard roof. Bronze Baroque-style curved muntins and oval lights trim the first-story windows. The copper-trimmed clay tile roof embellished by a superbly carved limestone balustrade with ornate urn finials completes this exuberant design.

Writing Credits

Marsha Weisiger et al.


What's Nearby


Marsha Weisiger et al., "Northern Trust (Northwestern National Insurance Company Building)", [Milwaukee, Wisconsin], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Wisconsin

Buildings of Wisconsin, Marsha Weisiger and contributors. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2017, 77-77.

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