West Wisconsin Avenue
During the mid 1800s, one of Milwaukee's founding fathers, Byron Kilbourn, lived on the northwest corner of 4th Street and Spring Street (now Wisconsin Avenue). Kilbourn developed the area west of the Milwaukee River, then known as Kilbourntown, and served as Milwaukee's mayor in 1848 and 1854.
Between 1880 and 1898, Milwaukee's first public library was housed on the second floor of a building on the same corner. Built by meatpacking magnate John Plankinton, the building later housed the Espenhain Department Store, which opened for business there in 1906. Like many other businesses at the time, Espenhain's was forced to close in 1932 by the Great Depression. The building had been demolished by 1935 and J.C. Penney Company occupied a new building on the site until the early 1980s.
In 1928, Walter Schroeder built Milwaukee's largest hotel as the flagship of his statewide hotel chain. The Schroeder Hotel, later called the Marc Plaza and now the Milwaukee Hilton, is a sophisticated example of the Art Deco style of architecture fashionable in the late 1920s and 1930s. The building exterior is faced with pink Minnesota granite. Bas-relief carved limestone panels embellish the corners, spandrels and cornices on its three exterior elevations. Its elegant lobby is lavishly decorated with crystal chandeliers and ornamented ceilings, walls
The Mariner Tower (now the Wisconsin Tower) was also built in 1928. Named after its builder, real estate developer John Mariner, the 22-story building was Milwaukee's tallest 1920s-era skyscraper. The Moderne-style building, with its stepped-back upper stories, features polished granite ornamental Art Decco grilles with peacocks and entrance carvings against its stark stone-sheathed exterior. The tower is wrapped in Bedford limestone, while the first two floors are clad in polished marble and ornamented with bas-relief Art Deco style metal castings. The entrance, with its handsome grilles and the marble lobby, is a fine example of Art Deco design.