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Gibson Company Building

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1931, C. R. Meyer, builder. 211 W. College Ave.
  • (Photograph by Mark Fay, courtesy of the Wisconsin Historical Society)

An extraordinary expression of the Art Deco in Wisconsin, this building was constructed after a fire destroyed a former tire store in 1929. Alenor Gibson Jr. turned disaster into opportunity by expanding into automobile sales. The building’s sleek geometry and shiny chrome details articulated the vocabulary of the Machine Age, so it was the ideal style for a business associated with the machine of the 1920s and 1930s: the automobile. Gleaming black structural glass covers the facade, which terminates with a stepped parapet outlined by a stripe of white glass. Chrome pilasters in the form of speed lines (drawn from motifs found on locomotives and machines of this era) frame the sides. At the ground level, a central tripartite display window is flanked by an entrance on one side and a garage door with a glazed-lattice pattern on the other. Above this, three display windows are beautifully detailed with a stepped profile around the sidelights filled with casement windows, all executed in chrome. Dividing the two stories is a spandrel of crazed black glass, ornamented at center with the owner’s name “Gibson” spelled out in geometric lettering and bordered in pink glass. On either side of the name, white-glass panels display a stylized geometrical motif, a pattern echoed in various forms in three frieze panels along the parapet wall. This remarkably intact building has been rehabilitated as an auto-themed restaurant.

Writing Credits

Marsha Weisiger et al.


What's Nearby


Marsha Weisiger et al., "Gibson Company Building", [Appleton, 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, 221-221.

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