Built as a combination town hall and water tower for the Town of Lake (annexed by the City of Milwaukee in the 1950s), this massive structure is one of the area’s most unusual and innovative public works projects. The base of the tower originally housed offices for the former town’s municipal government. The decision to combine two vital services of municipal government under one roof was seen in the late 1930s as a shrewd austerity measure during the Great Depression. The money-saving decision also ensured that Lake’s town hall would rank among the most monumental and imposing government structures in Wisconsin.
The nine-story Moderne building consists of an octagonal tower rising from a two-story, flat-roofed office block. The tower shaft encloses a steel structure supporting a one-million-gallon water tank, designed to stabilize the pressure in South Side’s water mains. The building was one of the first major structures in the Milwaukee metropolitan area to feature exposed poured concrete exterior walls. The building’s largely intact interior features ornamental plasterwork and iron railings, executed in an Art Deco–influenced style. Square terra-cotta tiles are employed extensively for wainscoting. Today various Milwaukee social service departments occupy these offices. The water tower remains part of the city’s water distribution system.