You’ll find as much history in the building’s construction as you will in its past tenants. Built of functional Douglas fir timber, Chicago pink brick and hand-forged steel beams, the building was once home to the Milwaukee Gas Light Company, Spencerian Business College and even the Great Circus Parade.
The 600 EAST building was designed by renowned local architects Schnetzky & Sons for the Milwaukee Gas Light Company and built in 1912.
By 1929, the Milwaukee Gas Light Company had outgrown the space and built a much larger building next door at 626 East Wisconsin Avenue, now known as the Gas Light Building.
In 1931, the upper two stories of the building became the home of the Spencerian Business College, one of the first business schools in the nation.
By 1951, the Spencerian Business College had moved out and was replaced by several tenants, including the Ambition Shoe Repair Shop and Lyon Drug Company.
Many small businesses would call the building home between 1951 and 2006, including Ben Barkin, founder of the Great Circus Parade, in 1988. Barkin’s public relations firm occupied parts of the building, while the lower level housed the Great Circus Parade’s Big Toppe Shoppe.
In 2006, Dan Nelson purchased the building and immediately began the renovation process. Preserving the building’s historic architecture was crucial, and an emphasis was placed on restoring the brick walls and wooden rafters. In May 2014, the 600 EAST Café & Business Center opened to the public.