Mention Art Deco and Miami’s Ocean Drive might come to mind. But Art Deco in Milwaukee? Fortunately, and perhaps surprisingly, Art Deco aficionados here don’t have to travel far to find great local examples of this vivid style, whether in architecture or painting. The massive Wisconsin Gas Company building, built in 1930, is a fine example of Art Deco that’s impossible to miss if you’re downtown.
Take a stroll downtown and you’re sure to find other examples of Art Deco and Art Moderne. Both styles represent a conspicuous early-twentieth century break from the more traditional and classical European-inspired forms of architecture you’ll see in our older buildings. As Megan Daniels observes in Images of America: Milwaukee’s Early Architecture,
Milwaukee’s residents grew tired of older establishments of the past and began to yearn for new and untainted. Architecture followed, as it moved away from historicism and looked to new forms related to the industrial and automobile. … By the mid-1920s, architecture was looking forward, making a break from the past and embracing the modern age in the form of America’s first modernistic styles: art deco and art moderne.
One of the last places you’d expect to find examples of Art Deco is in a late-nineteenth century Catholic church. But if you visit Saint Stanislaus on the South Side, that’s just what you’ll find. This historic church blends Eastern European Romanesque architecture on the outside with hints of Baroque on the interior, with painted stucco, scrolled foliage and Saints and angels peering down from on high. In the early half of the twentieth century, during the height of the Art Deco movement in the United States, the ceiling of Saint Stanislaus was embellished with ten large blue and gold depictions of Saint Michael and the Virgin Mary, under her various titles (Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Grace and Our Lady of Lepanto). Images of the Eucharist, symbols of the Holy Trinity and doves are also featured.