John Pritzlaff came from Germany to Milwaukee in 1841 during the first wave of German immigration, founded his hardware company in 1850 on N. 3rd Street, and moved it to this riverside complex in 1875. After the business closed in 1948, the buildings have been used primarily for retailing and warehousing. Occupying almost an entire city block, the Pritzlaff Hardware complex is the largest and best-preserved remnant of Milwaukee’s nineteenth-century wholesale industry. Two seven-story buildings, erected c. 1900, anchor the complex at its northwest and southeast corners. Between them are two older, more richly ornamented edifices. The oldest is the splendidly preserved four-story Italianate structure at 325 N. Plankinton Avenue, built in 1875. The building’s most distinctive features are the rows of arched windows separated by grand pilasters, the dramatic brackets, and the crescent-shaped sheet-metal cornice.
The four-story addition at 333 N. Plankinton, constructed in the 1880s, harmonizes with the older, adjacent building. It repeats the round-arched windows but accelerates the rhythm by pairing the windows. At the street level, these two older buildings present a rare row of intact turn-of-the-century store-fronts. Between the display windows carved limestone capitals top clustered stone colonnettes.