Iron Block Building Officially Unveiled in Downtown Milwaukee

Iron Block Building Unveiling CeremonyOn June 17, 2013 the Iron Block Building in downtown Milwaukee was officially unveiled to the public. At the southwest corner of East Wisconsin Avenue and Water Street in downtown Milwaukee, members of local government, Dental Associates, and the local press gathered under the warm Milwaukee sun to reveal the final piece of the exterior renovation: the cast iron building’s newly-cast pediment. Reading “Iron Block” and facing west, this pediment (along with the northerly-facing “Dental Associates Iron Block”) was the final piece of the building that hadn’t been uncovered when the restoration process ended and the scaffolding came down over the past couple weeks. Continue reading

Sandblasted cast iron building façade

Up to this point, we’ve shown plenty of photos of specific cast iron architectural details that are being restored for the Iron Block Building. This time, we’re going to show larger portions of the cast iron façade that have been sandblasted and await zinc primer.

Raw cast iron waiting for an application of zinc primer.

Raw cast iron waiting for an application of zinc primer.

In the photo to the left, an area of raw cast iron is waiting for an application of zinc primer. On the left side of the photo, the shadow of the vermiculated panels, attached to the building for 152 years, can be seen inside the picture frames on the face of the pilaster. If you enlarge the image you can clearly see that the original screws used to secure the vermiculated iron panels on the pilasters have been placed back into the mounting holes to protect the threads while work progresses. You can also see the screw attachments at the joint between two cast iron panels at the centerline of the arched window surround. Continue reading

Restoring cast iron window screen interiors

Our last post showed the work being done to the exterior of the cast iron window screens on the Iron Block Building. As we mentioned, the back sides of those screens are also exposed and need to be restored, but from inside the building. Below are a few photos to show you that process.

Cast iron window screen backside

The backside of the cast iron window screens prior to sandblasting.

From inside the Iron Block Building, you can see the backside of the cast iron window screens with grape vine motif. This photo was taken prior to sandblasting. Fortunately, we’re able to pull the double-hung window sashes down from the top, providing access to restore these cast iron building elements in place.

This picture also shows the scaffolding and wrap on the outside of the building. Continue reading

Restoring cast iron window screen exteriors

Before we show the progress made on the exterior of the cast iron window screens on the Iron Block Building, we want to take you back a few months to when we first introduced our project in downtown Milwaukee.

Cast iron arched window surround before restoration.

Before sandblasting and priming, rust pervaded the cast iron panels and details.

 

The photo to the left was first shown in our post Ornate cast iron building details back in September 2012. As much as any other, this photo shows the level of rust that had permeated the cast iron façade of the Iron Block Building prior to Dental Associates purchasing the building. (Learn more about the Dental Associates Iron Block plans.) The enormous cast iron panels of the Iron Block have undergone months of sandblasting, priming, and painting in order to bring the building’s fascia back to its glory. Continue reading

Restoring Cast Iron Vermiculated Blocks

In a previous post we told the story about the vermiculated blocks that are found throughout the facade of the Iron Block Building and how their unique design became the inspiration for our logo.

Vermiculated iron block panels from the Iron Block Building.

Stacks of vermiculated iron block panels ready for restoration.

Here, stacks of vermiculated iron block panels are ready to be shipped to the shop for sandblasting and powder coating. (Read the post mentioned above to see how they were removed from the building!) Each piece was numbered as it was removed from the building, but even so, we have a feeling it will be difficult to put all of the sizes and patterns back in the right spots on the facades when that time comes. The various levels of deterioration are obvious by looking at multiple pieces side by side. Continue reading

More Cast Iron Facade Details

In this post we’ll share some additional details from the Iron Block Building’s facade prior to restoration.

The Iron Block Building's cast iron facade

A up-close look at the cast iron facade prior to restoration.

The photo above shows the beauty of the cast iron facade, even through the rust and grime. This photo will be a perfect sample to show in a “before and after” photo series once the restoration process is complete and the Iron Block Building’s facade is restored to its glory. The dull facade from years of weatherization will be replaced with a gleaming new exterior that should make downtown Milwaukee proud. Continue reading

Restoring Cast Iron Columns

In this post we’ll show the restoration progress of the cast iron columns found throughout the facade of the Iron Block Building.

Cast iron fluted column on the Iron Block Building downtown Milwaukee

Cast iron fluted column on Wisconsin Avenue entrance of the Iron Block Building.

The photo to the right is looking upward at an original fluted column. The original major order of fluted columns and pilasters flank the Wisconsin Avenue entrance of the Iron Block Building in downtown Milwaukee. This entry was originally for a banking house on the mezzanine level, although it has become the main entrance to the building over time. The feel of the two story arch will be restored since the floor and transom at the mezzanine level here will be removed. Continue reading

Restoring Cast Iron Scroll Detailing

As we continue to make our way toward the unveiling of our freshly-painted façade, we’d like to use the next few updates to cover the restoration of various cast iron details on the Iron Block Building.

Cast iron scrollwork vines and flowers

Cast iron scrollwork featuring vines and flowers.

The heavy cast iron scrollwork at the frieze level of the cornice continues the “agricultural” theme of most of the ornament. Here, vines and flowers form a cornucopia shape as they interlock. Unfortunately most people will never get to appreciate this detail, as it is 70 feet above the sidewalks of downtown Milwaukee. In this photo, layers of paint and primer are being removed down to bare cast iron.

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Vermiculated blocks: the inspiration behind our logo

If you’ve ever looked at the odd shape that’s a part of the logo for the Dental Associates Iron Block and wondered what that is, this post should help shed some light on the mystery.

Cast iron vermiculated blocks on the Iron Block Building.

These are called “vermiculated blocks” and are an abstracted version of a textured cut stone block.  Each panel consists of a cast element that is attached with machine screws to the face of the cast iron pilaster and integral picture frame. To achieve the best sandblasting results, we decided to remove all 600+ castings on the building, refinish them in the shop, and reattach them to the pilaster which will be field blasted.  Each of the screws needed to be heated and coaxed out with penetrating oil. Keep in mind, when these were originally installed, the Civil War was getting under way, but they all came out fairly clean. This is a lot of work considering each panel has 4 or 5 attachment points.

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Sandblasting the Iron Block Building

A common question we’ve heard from Dental Associates employees and friends around Milwaukee over the past several weeks is, “What’s going on behind the scaffolding wrap on the Iron Block?

The Iron Block Building wrapped for sandblasting.

The Iron Block Building wrapped for sandblasting in downtown Milwaukee.

In this post we’ll share some photos of what’s happening behind the wrap. If you haven’t seen it, the photo to the right shows the Iron Block Building looking southeast at Water Street and Wisconsin Avenue in downtown Milwaukee. Included on the wrap is a promotion for this website, including a QR code that smartphone users can scan to visit here.

 

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