Deck Built in Milwaukee’s Historic District- Milwaukee Deck Builder

by / Tuesday, 11 February 2014 / Published in Decks, Featured Projects, Remodeling, Top Rated Post
Milwaukee Deck Builder

Milwaukee Deck Built with Old World Charm and Character in Historic Brewer’s Hill District

The Bowles Group, LLC recently built a deck in Milwaukee’s Brewers’ Hill Historic District.  The neighborhood gets its name from the large number of brewery workers and owners that once inhabited the area.  Brewers’ Hill contains a rich architectural mix of Greek Revival, Italianate, Queen Anne, and Colonial Revival homes.  Most of these structures date from the 1800’s.

Since this Milwaukee neighborhood is listed on the National Register of Historic Places,  there were strict guidelines for the construction of this deck.  The deck had to be constructed in a style that was consistent with deck building techniques of the 1800’s.  Let’s explore the details of what makes this Milwaukee deck unique.

Milwaukee Deck- History and Significance of Decks & Porches

When preserving historic buildings, it is essential to understand the history and evolution of a particular structure. This includes examining what features contribute to its historic character.  Decks and porches are prominent features of historically preserved neighborhoods. Visual integrity starts on the exterior of the home. Decks and porches are the first thing that people notice from the street.

Milwaukee Deck- Milwaukee Historic Preservation Commission

There was plenty of red tape to maneuver around before any work could begin on this deck project.  It started with research to find the right style deck to match the period that the home was built.  Then I had a meeting with the Milwaukee Historic Preservation Commission to submit my deck plan.  And finally we received the Certificate of Appropriateness, which is needed for any construction in historic neighborhoods.  Although going through this extensive process was time consuming, it is very necessary for historic preservation.

Most contractors and homeowners are unaware of historic aesthetics and architecture. So unintentionally they may build a deck that is inaccurate for the era of the home. This could detract from the home’s historic character. The Milwaukee Historic Preservation Commission ensures that the historical integrity of the neighborhood is accurately preserved.

Milwaukee Deck- Deck’s Custom Handrail Detail

Decks that were built in the 1800’s have long since deteriorated.  But according to old deck pictures and historical research this Milwaukee deck is built in the historical Italianate style.  Decks of this period had lots of handrail detail that is rarely seen in today’s decks.

You obviously can’t purchase a historical style handrail at your local Home Depot. Everything for this deck was custom made onsite.  The top-rail was built from a 2” X 6” that we beveled on the top and then added router detail on the bottom.  We also ran the apron below the top-rail though the router table.  Another nice feature that enhanced the look is having only a few visible screws in the handrail.

Milwaukee Deck- Large Posts & Balusters

What immediately jumps out to me on this historic decks is the large post. Most modern decks use 4×4 post. Historic decks have a more substantial look by using a 6×6 deck post. The post caps also add to the visual interest.

The baluster placement is a lot tighter than modern decks. Building code allows for a 4″ gap between balusters. So naturally most modern decks have this spacing. This historic deck has baluster spacing of only 1.5″ which also adds to the substantial look of the deck.

Milwaukee Deck- Brewers’ Hill Neighborhood Deck

There were no composite decks in the 1800’s, so you won’t find any composite decks in Milwaukee’s Historic Districts. All the decks must be built with pressure treated pine or cedar like they were back in the day.

All the beauty and character of a historic deck comes with a greater cost. But this style deck tells the story that represents its historic neighborhood. Residence of Milwaukee’s Brewers Hill truly have an appreciation for historic preservation. It was a fun challenge to build this historic deck.

Milwaukee Deck- Bring the Old to the New

Even if you have a newer home, you may choose to incorporate some of the historic deck building style.  The historic influence may give you the perfect deck idea or deck upgrade option.  For example, I think that the thicker deck post look better on any deck regardless of when your home was built. Check out some of our other deck projects.  Please leave your comments below and thanks for reading my weekly blog post.

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