Monday, May 6, 2013

SCHLITZ PARK

Schlitz Park is neither the brewery for "The Beer that Made Milwaukee Famous" nor a park in the usual sense of that word.  It is the site of the Schlitz Brewery operation that was closed down following the sale of the company in 1982.  The "office park" consists of a large cluster of buildings laid out over a two-three block area just north of downtown Milwaukee on the west bank of the Milwaukee River.

At its peak, the brewery employed over 3000 workers; now some 4300 people work in the same area.  In that sense, its transformation over the past 30 years has been a success.  On the other hand, while a number of the structures have been converted into office and other multi-purpose buildings, others remain unoccupied, continuing to molder away while awaiting redevelopment--an ideal setting for me to do some architectural photography, while at the same time satisfying my penchant for taking photos of decay.  So Saturday morning, May 5th, I headed down there to get some shots.  Generally speaking I was happy with what I got.

The developers have erected signs over the side streets leading into the park.


This photo was trickier than it may look.  I wanted to ensure that all of the name was clearly visible against the overcast sky, so I had to work to position the camera so that both the "S" and the "K" in the name would fall in the space between buildings in the background.  I only wish the name had been been cast in darker metal.  Maybe it would work better against a clear blue sky.

Most of the buildings are clad in cream city brick, a popular 19th century and early 20th century Milwaukee building material.  The elevated levels of lime and sulphur in the clay used to make the bricks gave them their name, and their popularity in Milwaukee gave the city one of its nicknames: the Cream City.  The problem with this brick is that it is especially porous, causing the bricks to absorb dirt and other pollutants which turn the brick a dark color over time.  This is apparent in the bricks of one of the first buildings to catch my attention, a relatively small structure that may have been a chapel located on the campus.  Here is a shot of that building that illustrates  the architectural complexity that the buildings in general exhibit.



The darkening of many of the bricks has obscured to some extent the building's architectural detail.  But I did like the following shot of a door to the building.


I particularly liked the small circular detail in the upper right.  Here is a close-up of the door that shows its general deterioration.  Note, though, that the door's structural detail remains relatively intact.


Inspection reveals that the cast iron slot was for letters.

Here is the "flagship" spire for the company's original office building.


I wasn't real happy with this shot because I had to position the camera essentially underneath the tower to avoid numerous utility wires running in front of the building, and even then I still caught a wire in the lower right of the shot.

Parts of the office park were fenced off, presumably for construction.


It was apparent, though, that this fence had been there a very long time.


Another decaying feature that caught my attention was a pair of vents that were rusting away.


I'm still trying to figure out why I am so attracted to decay, but I did enjoy taking some close-ups of the rusting panels.


Nice, eh?

Many of the buildings were named, such as the Stock-House.


Not sure what went on in this building, perhaps storage of grain, etc. pending its conversion to brew?  I thought the light pole helped to balance this simple shot.

One of named buildings that has been successfully converted to office space was the stables.


This shot posed some technical issues.  If I took the shot from street level, I would have a significant perspective problem, since the top of the building would be farther away, making the building appear to be smaller at the top.  Not the worst thing, but I noticed that there was multi-story parking ramp directly across the street from the stables and eventually found a way to the top of the ramp, allowing me to get a relatively straight shot, and I could complete the rectification of the shot with post processing software.

It was apparent that the exterior of this building had been cleaned and generally restored.  In fact, it appeared to be in excellent shape.  Here is a detail of the sign at the building's top.


Although I took some photos from the ramp of the horse heads projecting from the building, the photos I liked the best were taken from below.



Kind of scary, actually.

Perhaps the most impressive building that has not seen any significant restoration is the Brewhouse.  This very large building was situated across from the parking ramp, again allowing me to get some relatively direct-on shots.


The building features some impressive arched windows, including those below.



It might be interesting to see what remains inside this building.  

While I was in the parking ramp, I took a couple of novelty shots, of a stairway and of some sort of valve, that worked out OK.



Because of how close the camera was to the valve wheel, even though this was taken at f/8, the background (part of the Brewhouse) is nicely blurred but still recognizable.

One of the most impressive restored buildings was the following, the perspective for which I was able to "rectify" in post processing.


The original photo included some space above the top of the structure, but for some reason I felt the image gained strength by cutting off the very top.  The overcast made a nice uniform white backdrop.  Again, I was able to rectify the perspective in post processing, giving the image the feel of an architectural drawing.  One can almost see the elevation appearing in the original blueprints.

Here is another version of this image that I have cropped into a square to emphasize the structure's symmetry.


I like this shot quite a lot, but in retrospect I wish I had included a bit more of the lower portion of the building in the original photo--the windows appear to be cut off.  I am going to have to go back another time--and get it right.

John

1 comment: