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Past meets present

By Justin Kern

Engberg Anderson Inc. and J.P. Cullen & Sons Inc. looked to the past to preserve the future of .

Charles Engberg, partner in charge for project architects of record, Engberg Anderson, Milwaukee, said the city conducted research and held a symposium to explore ways to restore the exterior of the German Renaissance Revival-style building.

Engberg, who chairs a state historic preservation committee, said architects pored over original blueprints that “should be put in a museum” because of their historical value.

Work crews discovered a bit of history behind the cracked brick, water-damaged bell tower and stained clock face, he said.

“We knew some materials looked like they were crumbling,” Engberg said, “but then something else behind it or connected was also deteriorating.”

Larry Rocole, vice president of the Milwaukee division of J.P. Cullen & Sons, the project’s general contractor, said a historic effort was needed to give Milwaukee’s City Hall a facelift.

To encourage dedication to the project, construction managers gave an award to a tradesman for work on the century-old civic center each month.

The award included an embroidered jacket commemorating efforts toward revamping the downtown copper- and terra cotta-adorned building. When one of the tradesmen picked for his work on the building was later injured in a fire at another job site, one of his first priorities was to make sure his jacket was intact.

Roche said the worker’s concern for the jacket illustrates the dedication of the architects, engineers and crews on the three-and-a-half year project.

“People really took pride because they knew it was a once-in-a-lifetime job,” Rocole said.

With the comprehensive approach and personal pride from the hundreds of people involved in overhauling City Hall — constructed in 1895 and last touched up in the 1970s — its iconic presence has been invigorated and its “past is secured for the future,” Engberg said.

“Now the building has its integrity back, the right colors back,” he said. “It’s difficult to tell what is new and what is old.”

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