29: Dr. D. J. Brown Building and the Italianate Style
The 700 block of North Milwaukee Street stands as a testament of Milwaukee’s central business district just following the Civil War with an incredible assemblage of small-scale Italianate commercial buildings. Beginning at the northeast corner of Milwaukee and Wisconsin, the street tells the tale of Victorian architectural progression containing adjacent blocks built chronologically from 1866 to 1877. The building currently housing Saki Tumi is the last constructed in the progression to evidence the Italianate style on the block. Erected in 1874, the masonry block embodies the development of the Italianate style with pronounced window framing and detailed brackets. The building’s round arched windows are pierced with carved keystones particular to Italianate architecture in the mid-1870s. The progression is evident when compared to its southern neighbor constructed by the same gentleman in 1866. 712-14 North Milwaukee was Dr. D.J. Brown’s second masonry block constructed as an income property adjacent to his initial building at 710 North Milwaukee previously constructed to house offices and space for his practice.
These sorts of buildings generally only appear in commercial districts that came to fruition between the 1860s and the mid 1870s. Only the street side façade is treated with architectural detail and composition. The two walls perpendicular to the façade are intended to abut a neighboring building and the rear wall is generally utilitarian in nature. Walker’s Point and Old World Third Street are the only other two districts containing buildings of this nature outside of downtown. Similarly, buildings such as these are commonly found in the “main street” commercial districts of Wisconsin’s smaller towns. Watertown, for instance, is one that has an impressive collection of small-scale Italianate blocks.
The 700 block of North Milwaukee Street has seen rejuvenation in the last decade or so as a hospitality, restaurant, and nightlife district utilizing Milwaukee’s historic fabric to break away from the 9 to 5 downtown and create a center for evening and weekend patronage.