Milwaukee in Stereo(scope): Part II

Jul. 11, 2016
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Back in January, I presented some Milwaukee examples from the New York Public Library’s stereoscope card collection. Recently posted online as a part of a massive 180,000 digital image collection – all free for high-resolution downloading – the cards feature side-by-side photos taken from slightly different angles that give an 3-D illusion when viewed through a special viewing device. Since the first round of images proved to be popular, I thought I’d head back into the archives this week and find some more 3-D images of long-ago Milwaukee. Click on the link above each image to visit the NYPL site, where you can download your own copy or learn more about their collections.

 

“View of the Court House”

The second Milwaukee County Courthouse, seen here in 1875, opened in 1872 on the grounds now know as Cathedral Square. The courthouse seen here replaced the original courthouse, which was build on the same block in 1836. This building was used as the county seat of justice until 1931, when the present-day courthouse was completed. It remained standing, however, until 1939 as, in the words of the Milwaukee Journal, a “hiding place” for the “ghosts of the shoddy.” In a requiem for the building printed the day before demolition word began, the Journal recalled the building as the one “where Milwaukeeans of three generations fought out their bitterest quarrels – where murders sat to hear judgments pronounced – where grafting politicians had their wrongdoings brought to light – where the city’s proudest families revealed their darkest secrets.”

 

“West from Mitchell Block”

This image looks west from the roof of the Mitchell Building on East Michigan Street. The Michigan Street Bridge would not be built for another two decades at the time this image was made and street at the center of the view was still known as Sycamore Street. In the bottom left quarter of the frame, the Milwaukee passenger docks of the Goodrich Transportation Company are seen – a place presently home to the Milwaukee Boat Line’s dock. Just to the north of Sycamore Street, the stern of the OCONTO is seen, one of the Goodrich line’s passenger steamships. Built in 1872 in Manitowoc, the OCONTO was taken out of service in 1883, although this card is dated 1885.

 

 “North Point Water Tower”

This image is dated 1875, the year after this 175-foot tall tower was completed. The water tower never actually held water, but rather was intended to protect a four-foot diameter cast-iron pipe that was needed to relieve the city’s waterworks from the pressure built up by the early pumping engines. By the 1930s, the pipe system was no longer really needed, and the structure acting merely as an air vent for the water works until it was retired altogether in 1963. The building in the background is an early St. Mary’s Hospital building. The area seen here was the site of St. John’s Infirmary, the city’s first hospital, which was established in the 1840s as a “pest house” for those afflicted with cholera.

 

“Plankinton House”

When the Plankinton House opened in 1868, it surpassed the Newhall House (which had aged badly in its 11 years of existence) as Milwaukee’s premier first-class hotel. Located at the corner of what is now Plankinton and Wiscosnin, the hotel housed a grand second-story ballroom and a dining room that was said to the largest room in the world without supporting columns. This image was made just before the first of two major expansions to the hotel, which eventually ran the building the entire length of the block. The hotel was razed and relocated in 1915 to make way for Plankinton Arcade, itself an entire block long. The arcade housed a basement level of amusements and two stories of retail space. In 1924, five additional stories of office were added. The arcade building still stands today as a part of the Shops at Grand Avenue.

“National Asylum”

Also known as the Old Soldier’s Home and now part of the Zablocki VA Medical Center grounds, the complex here was originally known as the Northwestern Branch of the National Asylum for Disabled Volunteer soldiers. It was part of a series of such homes created by President Lincoln to care for veterans of the Union Army. Construction on the Milwaukee facility began in 1867 and the main administration building, seen here, was completed in 1869. The building, done in the Second Empire style, was designed by E. Townsend Mix, whose other Milwaukee works include the Mitchell and Chamber of Commerce Buildings on Michigan Street, and the mansion of Alexander Mitchell (see below).


“Mitchell Residence and Fountain”

Now know as the Wisconsin Club, the mansion of Milwaukee banking and railroad tycoon Alexander Mitchell is seen here after an extensive expansion was added, designed by the above-mentioned Mix. The lush gardens and trees seen in the image were all carefully planned and designed to fit with Mix’s elegant Second-Empire trimmings. Mitchell died in 1887 and, after his son briefly lived in the home, it was shuttered by the Mitchell family in 1892. in 1895, after their headquarters in the Old Opera House were gutted by a fire, the German-American Deutscher Club took a lease on the old mansion. The club – now known as the Wisconsin Club – continues to operate the building to this day. 

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