The Mackie Building was built in 1880 in downtown Milwaukee to house the city's Chamber of Commerce. The impressive structure, which dominates the east side commercial historic district has an Italianate architectural style designed by architect Edward Townsend Mix and financed by Alexander Mitchell, a leading financier and railroad magnate. The building housed Milwaukee's Grain Exchange from 1880-1935, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places on April 3, 1973.
Backstory and Context
The large five-story building known as the Mackie Building was built in 1880 as the Milwaukee agriculture industry's center, with a three floor massive Grain Exchange, one of the largest areas intended for the exporting, trading and inspecting of grains. Its size was intended to demonstrate Milwaukee's leading position as the world's largest grain producer in the mid to late 1800s.
The building is constructed of sandstone in the neoclassical, Italianate style, with granite and limestone accents. The Grain Exchange was designed "in a free expression of the late Renaissance style,"1 with elaborate frescoes of wheat sheave medallions encircled by Wisconsin's wildflowers, designed by artist P.M. Armini of Chicago. The elevation is richly carved and incised in the rectilinear style. The fifth floor is surrounded by a low pitched mansard roof with dormers. At the main entrance, there is a large clock tower which is flanked by polished granite and embellished with the sculpted image of the great seal of Wisconsin and the bull and bear of the trading pit.
Restoration work on the trading floor and surrounding building began in the early 1980s after decades of deterioration. Architectural features that were lost, with the exception of the trading pit, were rebuilt. The suspended ceiling was removed and new frescoes were added to replace it by Conrad Schmitt Studios of New Berlin, Wisconsin. The original canvas mural, located above the room's entrance and created by local artist John S. Conway, was the only piece of artwork that was completely intact in the 1980s. It only needed light cleaning.
In 2016, Joshua Jeffers bought the Mackie Building, and a large portion of the offices were converted to apartments and commercial spaces. The new Mackie building now has six floors and is half residential and half commercial property, with the Grain Exchange room available for special event rental. Renovation work has maintained the historical integrity of the original architecture.
1 Mackie Building. Wisconsin Historical Society. . Accessed July 14, 2019. https://www.wisconsinhistory.org/Records/Property/HI16295.
Mackie Building. Waymarking.com. December 27, 2008. Accessed December 07, 2018. http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM5EAB_Mackie_Building_Milwaukee_WI.
Mackie Flat apartment listing. Apartments.com. August 09, 2012. Accessed December 06, 2018. https://www.apartments.com/mackie-flats-milwaukee-wi/gdb3d5z/.
Ryan, Sean. Milwaukee support for downtown Mackie Building apartment conversion OK'd. Milwaukee Business Journal. June 15, 2015. Accessed December 06, 2016. https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/blog/real_estate/2015/06/milwaukee-support-for-downtown-mackie-building.html.