John Pritzlaff Hardware Company
305-333 North Plankinton Avenue (odd only), 143 and 155 West St. Paul Avenue, Milwaukee, Milwaukee County
Architects: John Rugee, Ferry & Clas, Klug & Smith
Dates of contributing buildings: 1875-1919
The John Pritzlaff Hardware Company facility was the location of the wholesale hardware firm’s operations and offices from 1875 to 1958. Advertising itself as "The Oldest Hardware House in the Northwest," the business was established by immigrant John Pritzlaff, a native of Pomerania, Prussia, who settled in Milwaukee in 1841. Pritzlaff initially opened a small retail hardware store on Third Street with August Suelflohn in 1850. Having bought out his partner in 1866, John Pritzlaff moved to the subject location in 1875 where he established his wholesale hardware business. No other hardware concern in Milwaukee compared with the John Pritzlaff Hardware Company in terms of volume of business. The success of the firm was reflected in both its number of employees, which increased from 52 in 1881 to 250 in 1900 and 450 in 1931, and the growth of the subject facility where building additions constructed in 1879, 1887, 1895, 1903, 1912, 1915, and 1919 resulted in its existing composition. Three generations of the Pritzlaff family served as president of the firm prior to its dissolution in 1958.
Architecturally, its original 1875 building is an excellent and highly intact example of Italianate style commercial architecture. Possessing characteristic features including a bracketed cornice and impressive brick window surrounds, the building is further embellished with a segmental, open bed pediment with date, dentils, carved stone trim, ornamental cast iron urns and company name in raised lettering. Constructed over a period of 44 years, the facility is also notable for its unique collection of storefront design with examples of decorative cast iron and carved stone columns.