21.3.10

ADAPTIVE REUSE. The retort house of the old Milwaukee Gas Light Company offers all sorts of open space for offices.

Like other former industrial buildings from the early 20th century, its features include brick construction, high ceilings and dozens of large windows.

But unlike many of those buildings, this one isn't marked by support columns, which tie up usable space. Instead, the building's roof is supported by steel arches that rise 50 feet above the floor. Those arches made room for a huge industrial oven where coal was baked to produce gas for streetlights, factories and homes until being replaced by electricity and cheaper natural gas. The building, constructed in 1902 and 1903, had its gas-making oven shut down in the 1950s, and most of the gas company complex is now used for storage.

Apparently, despite the retort producing byproduct coke and coal chemicals as well as the coal gas stored in the now-demolished telescoping gasholders, the building is not toxic.

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