The Most Underrated Building in Milwaukee Is in Need of Renovation

The A.O. Smith Research Tower was the first of its kind.

Architect Keith Stachowiak Jr., who works for the Third Ward design firm SmithGroup, appreciates the lines and curves of a well-designed building the same way that many among us appreciate the sleek utility of the latest smartphone release. We asked him to tell us a bit about a local landmark that doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves.

“One of my favorite buildings in the city is one that I’ve never stepped foot in,” he says. “But to be fair, few others have in the last couple decades.”

The A.O. Smith Research Tower (3533 N. 27th St.) has been a fixture of the Franklin Heights neighborhood since 1930. The country’s first multi-story glass and aluminum curtain wall building, it’s considered an architectural marvel of its time period.

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“It has massive glass panels set at angles across the facades, allowing an abundance of natural light to the offices inside,” Stachowiak explains. “The building bridges a period of extreme innovation in architecture, while there was still an emphasis on detail and craft in construction.”

Originally designed by the Chicago firm Holabird and Root, the tower has remained vacant for well over a decade.

And it’s in need of renovation.

“My hope is that the right developer steps in to rehabilitate the building before it is too late,” Stachowiak says.


This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine‘s March issue.

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Lindsey Anderson covers culture for Milwaukee Magazine. Before joining the MilMag team she worked as an editor at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and wrote freelance articles for ArtSlant and Eater.