MILWAUKEE -- With the 32-story Northwestern Mutual tower under construction and the 44-story Coture project in the works, the Milwaukee skyline is undergoing a dramatic reshaping.

But once upon a time, a 13-story building was far and away the tallest structure in the city of Milwaukee. The Pabst Building stood 235 feet tall when it was completed in 1891, but it was quickly dwarfed by Milwaukee City Hall just four years later. Milwaukee historian John Gurda says City Hall was an incredible accomplishment at the time.

"That was the first million dollar building in Milwaukee, and that was really a landmark achievement," he said.

The 350 foot building stood as Milwaukee's tallest until what's now called the U.S. Bank Center was constructed in the 1970's, its modern lines standing in stark contrast to the old style City Hall. Gurda believes the contrast is one of the more unique features of Milwaukee.

"The new buildings are a lot less huggable than those really ornate buildings from the 19th century," he said.

But the contrast is actually a selling point, too. Gurda says noting the difference between the old and the new is a great way to appreciate the changing times in Milwaukee, and nowhere is that more evident near the intersection of Michigan and Water Street downtown. On the one hand, you a have the Mitchell Building and on the other, the Chase Tower, built almost a century apart.

"One is as ornate as a wedding cake, and the Chase Tower is attractive, but it's very a stripped down, streamlined, green curtain wall glass structure," he said.

The difference between old and new makes Milwaukee's downtown special, and as the new buildings continue to come, that special difference will become even more prominent on the city's ever-changing skyline.

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