Friday, May 10, 2013


When we moved to Milwaukee in 1975, the city boasted three national beer brands, Schlitz, Pabst, and Miller.  Although there are still any number of microbreweries in the city, Miller is now the only major brewery left.  (And it is owned by a UK-based SABMiller.)  Schlitz closed in the early 1980s, and Pabst ended its operations in 1996.  Like Schlitz, Pabst left a large campus of slowly deteriorating buildings northwest of Milwaukee's downtown area.  And like Schlitz, there have been efforts to revitalize the area, taking advantage of the architecturally distinctive buildings that were left behind.  Both campuses are still works in progress.

The latest sign of revitalization on the Pabst campus was the opening at the end of April of a boutique hotel in what had formerly been Pabst's brewhouse, the Brewhouse Inn & Suites.  On my first visit to the campus, I was expecting to find numerous examples of deteriorating architecture, and there was plenty of that.  But there were also encouraging signs of restoration, as exemplified by the Brewhouse Inn & Suites.

Here is another exterior shot of the hotel's entrance.

Like most of the other buildings on the Pabst campus, the building is clad in cream city brick.  More porous than most, this brick absorbs soot and other pollutants over the years, turning much of it a dark color.  It is apparent that this building's exterior has been cleaned to bring back the brick's iconic cream color.

I also took a few shots of a pleasant courtyard behind the hotel.

This area is a little puzzling as no one would want to gather there in inclement weather (which seems to have been much of the time this spring).  But on the right day it could be a pleasant place to relax.

I especially liked the composition of this second shot.  It seems to evoke an Old World feel, which I'm sure the hotel is striving for.

I came back a second day and asked the hotel if I could take a few interior shots.  They were very gracious in letting me take as many shots as I wanted and wherever I wanted.

As stated, this was originally the site of the brewhouse that included a half a dozen large copper vats where the beer was brewed.  Hotel personnel showed me photos that reflected the building's interior appearance before restoration work began.  The vats were all in place, but the interior in general was a shambles.  The great thing that the hotel did was to retain portions of the vats and use them as the hotel's centerpiece.  The vats, topped with curving funnel-shaped exhaust vents, were quite large, standing perhaps 20 feet high. To create the lobby area, the bottom portions of the vats were cut off, making room for the main foyer and lounge areas.  But the upper portions of the vats were retained in place on what is now the second floor.  Most clever was that the ceiling of the ground floor was left open to show the interiors of some of the upper portions of the vats.  The vats' interiors as well as their exteriors have been restored to their original bright, polished copper surfaces  Here is a shot of the ground floor showing one of the vat interiors, which are lit to reflect the copper color.

And here is a shot taken on the second floor showing the tops of the vats.

The hotel has done a terrific job of restoring the vats.  The area forms a central atrium with several floors of rooms and suites extending up on either side.  In the photo the space seems crowded with the vats in place, but that is not the feeling one gets when there.  There is ample room to walk around the vats.

The space leads to a very nicely preserved stained glass window at the rear of Gambrinus, a legendary king of Flanders that was an unofficial patron saint of beer and brewing.

I was happy with this shot as it combines a clear shot of the Gambrinus window as well as a nicely restored copper vat.  Here is another shot of the atrium that I took from an upper floor.

The stairway leading from the second floor to the third in the photo is original to the building.  It adds to the industrial feel that the hotel is seeking.

Another of the original features of the building that the hotel retained is a spiral staircase in the lobby area.  The staircase, while visually interesting, is nonfunctional, as there is no opening at the top.  And there is a sign at the base cautioning visitors not to use it.  In that sense, this feature doesn't quite work.

Here is another shot that I took from the second floor balcony.  A little better.

There is also a nicely fashioned staircase in the entrance leading to the second floor (that is functional) that I took a few shots of.  Not sure if this staircase is original or not.

Finally, I included a couple of photos of an interior stairway that make interesting abstracts.

Even though such stairway shots are a little cliched, I did like this one because everything was new and relatively unblemished.  I tried this as a black & white, but the concrete is so monochromatic as it is that I thought what color there was added something to the shot.

And here is a second shot of the same stairway.

There is a problem with this shot.  While the prior shot gives a good sense of direction, I found this second shot to be disorienting.  Rotating it 90 degrees counterclockwise helps but doesn't fully resolve the issue.  I decided that I liked the tension that this shot creates, particularly with this orientation.

I was happy with the resolution for both of these shots.  As with most stairways, the light was adequate but not ample.  I took these shot at f/8 and at an ISO of 500 and 800, respectively.  The shutter speed was very slow at 1/4th and 1/6th seconds, respectively.  However, because I was able to brace the camera, movement was not an issue.


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