The Bertelson Building: A Story in Terra Cotta

The Bertelson Building: A Story in Terra Cotta

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Author: Ben Tyjeski

Publisher: Tyjeski Tile Co.

The Bertelson Building in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is one of the state's most impressive and artistic sites with architectural terra cotta. The façade, fully clad in polychromatic terra cotta manufactured by the American Terra Cotta & Ceramic Co. of Crystal Lake, Illinois, was one of the many projects the manufacturers created with Milwaukee architectural firm Martin Tullgren & Sons. Their design for the building brings the imagination to life with relief sculptures of portraits, children at play, and fantastic creatures. Whether it's a fairy tale or a love story, there is a romantic charm to the building that continues to allure those who take notice of it.  

This structure would not exist if it were not for the original owners, Helen Bertelson and her son, Ben, who erected this building with the fruits of their labor in the photography field. Their high-quality, artistic photographs allowed them the opportunity to construct a place to live and work, all the while, create spaces for small businesses and support a culture of neighborhood shops in Milwaukee's East Side.

The author, Ben Tyjeski, generously uses colored photographs to illustrate the many unique, decorative features in the architectural terra cotta of the Bertelson Building. He compares the Spanish Colonial / Mediterranean Revival to other buildings designed by the Tullgren architects and other sites manufactured by ATC&CCo., accompanied by historic photographs from the American Terra Cotta Collection in the Northwest Architectural Archives at the University of Minnesota, especially of buildings that are non-extant. He also tells how the Bertelson Studio is represented in the building's architecture and documents the current tenants.