When the producers of the fledgling Amazon series “Patriot” wanted to film scenes supposedly set in Milwaukee, they chose to do the shooting in Chicagoland.
But for an apparent plot twist that brings the show’s characters to Luxembourg, cameras and crews found themselves decamping to Milwaukee, of all places — at least for some exterior shots of buildings.
Michelle Doyle, property manager for the Mitchell and Mackie buildings – which stand next to each other on Michigan Street in downtown Milwaukee — said crews plan to set up Saturday near the corner of Michigan and Broadway and film from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Their work will have Michigan Street closed off for a good part of the day.
The alleyway running between the Mitchell and Mackie buildings is meanwhile being blocked off for a special purpose. It’s to be the landing spot for a safe the producers plan to have dropped from one of the Mitchell Building’s second-floor windows, Doyle said.
She said the interior shots for that scene have apparently already been filmed in Chicago. The only missing ingredients were exterior scenes that could help create the illusion of being in Luxembourg.
Milwaukee’s Mitchell Building, which dates to 1876 and has the same Second French Empire design that is found in many European cities, apparently fit the bill better than anything in Chicago, Doyle said. Doyle, who works for the owner of the Mackie and Mitchell buildings — J. Jeffers & Co. — said this isn’t the first time the historic properties have caught the entertainment industry’s eye.
“It’s actually the third call I’ve gotten about filming the Mackie or Mitchell Building in the last year,” she said. “It’s very cool to see the buildings finally get recognized.”
Attempts to reach the publicist for “Patriot” were unsuccessful. Online reviews of the show’s pilot episode — which can now be watched by subscribers to Amazon’s Prime service — describe it as a zany mixture of a spy thriller and a dark comedy similar to the movie “Fargo” and its spin-off TV series.
The show is about a secret agent named John Tavner who, on a mission to defuse Iran’s nuclear ambitions, goes undercover at a Milwaukee piping company that conducts business in the Middle East. The online descriptions did not make it clear what sort of plot twists eventually land the characters in Luxembourg.
Although the Mitchell Building’s exterior will be used for the safe-dropping scene, the building most likely to be recognized in some future episode is the Grand Avenue Club, which stands across the street from the Mitchell Building. Doyle said the crewmembers she has spoken to showed the most enthusiasm for that building — now a place where various services are provided to the mentally ill.
Still, the producers’ interest in the Mitchell Building is a sign that J. Jeffers & Co’s investments in that property and the Mackie Building are paying off. The development company has been busy in recent years renovating the two buildings.
Both the Mackie and Mitchell buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places.
J. Jeffers bought the Mitchell building in early 2011 and oversaw a $1.68 million renovation project that mostly wrapped up in February 2015, although some work is ongoing now on the structure’s fifth story. The work was subsidized in part with $240,000 worth of state historic tax credits.
The Mackie Building, meanwhile, is in the midst of an even more extensive, $9 million renovation that is being subsidized in part with up to $2.3 million in state tax credits. The building’s fourth, fifth and sixth stories are being gutted to make room for apartments. The Daily Reporter Publishing Co. – which once had its offices on the top floor of the six-story building – has moved to the third floor, while space on the ground level remains occupied by various businesses. They include the Swinging Door Exchange restaurant, Bartolotta’s catering service, a dentist office and a print shop.Follow @TDR_WLJDan