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Wisconsin Electric Power Company (Public Service Building)

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1903–1905, Herman J. Esser. 231 W. Michigan St.
  • (HABS)
  • (HABS)
  • (HABS)

This block-long neoclassical building was once the hub of Milwaukee’s interurban rail network. The electric trains, operated by the Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light (TMER&L) Company, connected downtown Milwaukee with suburbs and nearby cities. When the interurban line ceased in 1951, this building became a bus terminal until 1965. The Wisconsin Electric Power Company, successor to TMER&L, operates the building. Esser anchored the symmetrical facade on either end with projecting pavilions, and a central pavilion shelters the main entrance. The tall exterior piers, quoins, and keystoned windows compensate in monumentality for what the facade loses by repetition. Commuters entered through the grand arched limestone portal to meet their trains at thirteen tracks leading north to Sheboygan, west to Watertown, and south to Kenosha and Chicago. Italian marble covers the lobby floor, main staircase, and balustrades. Elevator cars have bronze doors and interior mahogany paneling, and gold leaf trims the multicolored plaster ceiling. Carved medallions in the entrance arch’s spandrels depict a horse-drawn streetcar in one and an electric trolley in the other. All these materials and details were meticulously restored in 1995–1997.

Writing Credits

Marsha Weisiger et al.


What's Nearby


Marsha Weisiger et al., "Wisconsin Electric Power Company (Public Service 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, 98-99.

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