Where the Pabst Theater celebrates the cultural achievements of German immigrants in Milwaukee, the Germania Building reflects their prosperity and political clout. The building housed the business of George Brumder, a highly successful German-born publisher, who opened a small German-language book-store and publishing firm in 1858. In 1874 he and two partners bought Die Germania, a conservative German Lutheran daily newspaper. Over the next twenty years, Brumder bought out his partners and launched a complementary weekly Die Germania.
By the 1890s, the Germania Publishing Company was a leading producer of German books and newspapers with influence well beyond Milwaukee. Brumder needed a new headquarters and hired German-born and German-trained architect Eugene Liebert to design a five-sided, eight-story Beaux-Arts classical edifice borrowing from contemporary German and American design. One inspiration was Manhattan’s twenty-six-story New York World Building of 1889–1890, the world’s tallest skyscraper when it opened. Liebert modulated the three main facades with repeating bay windows. Its heavy classical detail featured a grand pedimented entrance pavilion on Wells Street and boldly sculpted ornament on its pedimented parapet. Milwaukeeans call the bulbous copper domes at the building’s four main corners “Kaiser’s helmets.”
Brumder died in 1910. His publishing empire declined as second-generation German immigrants favored English-language publications. Anti-German sentiment after President Woodrow Wilson declared war on Germany prompted a temporary name change to the Brumder Building, and workers permanently removed the ten-foot-tall bronze statue Germania from the main entrance.