Thursday, September 15, 2016

See our historic headquarters during Doors Open Milwaukee

Few buildings are still standing from the early 20th century, and even fewer have the history and grandeur of our Public Service Building (PSB) in downtown Milwaukee. This weekend, you can get a rare glimpse inside our historic headquarters during Doors Open Milwaukee. 

The PSB was built in 1902 as a central station for The Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Company (TMER&L), a predecessor of We Energies. Milwaukee’s original streetcars operated out of the building. Trains entered from Second Street, picked up their passengers, and then exited onto Third Street. At one point, the building was the largest interurban railway terminal in the United States.

The PSB was designed in a neoclassical, Beaux-Arts style which was very popular in the early 20th century. The four-story building is an architectural treasure, both outside and within. In the early days of the building, the second floor featured facilities for entertainment including an auditorium, bowling alley, library, billiard room and barber shop. The auditorium still is used today as a corporate meeting space. 

As visitors approach the PSB, they usually take note of the operating clock above the main entrance. Inside, attention is drawn to the marble lobby walls that came from an Italian quarry and include a curious architectural detail: a stained-glass window depicting a swarm of bees buzzing around a hive.

“When people first walk in the door, their mouths drop open at the sight of the lobby,” said Tim Brown, We Energies’ coordinator for the event. “We have received positive feedback every year since we started participating in Doors Open Milwaukee. We are happy to show this architectural gem to the community, which would not normally have access to it.”

The PSB was remodeled many times over the years to accommodate the needs of its occupants, but in 1996, the company completed a grand effort to restore the building to its original glory while also expanding and modernizing office space. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The PSB will open its doors from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 17 and Sunday, Sept. 18. Visitors are invited to tour the lobby and auditorium, and also can attend a presentation about the building and company history.

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