Architect: Kahler Slater
Owner: First Hospitality Group
Contractor: Stevens Construction
Built in the heart of downtown Milwaukee in 1886 and listed on the National Historic Register of Historic Places, this landmark office building has been restored and transformed into a 127-room hotel. The Richardsonian Romanesque structure, with its solid granite and limestone exterior and soaring atrium, is one the best remaining examples of this building type in the Midwest. The project respects and recaptures the original design features while rejuvenating the building to meet the needs of modern hotel guests. On the exterior, paint and black soot were carefully removed from the stone façade. Most of the ground and first floor is dedicated to public spaces, including a restaurant, lounge areas and meeting space. The upper floors feature unique guest rooms, with 14-foot ceilings and large windows, positioned around the atrium. The historic details were preserved and restored throughout the building, including the original multi-colored floor tiles, bank vault doors, wood paneling and trim, ornamental plaster ceilings, marble and bronze staircases, windows, and the breathtaking atrium. With great collaboration, the Liberty Building has been beautifully restored, both inside and out, and repurposed for an active future.
Jury Comment: “You can’t help but love this old building. Looking at the before and after images, this restoration involved great care, collaboration and thoughtfulness. The atrium is really beautiful. This is a technical exercise, requiring significant research and problem-solving skills. The architect heightened the history of a place through the restoration. It demonstrates that a building like this can be put to very efficient use and that this kind of restoration project offers a sustainable business model.”
Photos: People Places & Things Photographics, Kevin Beswick