618-620 South Fifth Street West
McCormick Neighborhood Historic District
Arrival of the Milwaukee Railroad in 1908 created a new demand for housing. Now a four-plex but originally a duplex, this flat-roofed, two-story rental property was undoubtedly built to help fill the market for appropriate, middle-class housing. Eminently modern and respectable, the circa 1910 building features an eclectic mix of architectural elements. The flat roof and rooftop parapet references the Mission Revival style. The large wood-shingled second-story dormer echoes the Queen Anne style, but the dentils beneath the dormer cornice, the doubled porch columns, and the symmetrical façade reflect the Colonial Revival style. The building’s most distinctive—and modern—feature is the choice of concrete block, molded in a traditional stone finish—except for the decorative curlicue pattern chosen to accent the cornice. Practically unknown before 1900, concrete block became wildly popular shortly thereafter thanks to improvements in Portland cement and the invention of a machine that allowed for mass production. Modern consumers welcomed the new technology, which provided a fireproof, durable, ornamental, and economical alternative to stone.