The author, Charlene Roise, is President of the historical consultants Hess Roise.

The laundry building, con't.
A preservation historian on the architecture

more Commercial Laundries: Operation and Design

Clearly, the industry at that time was becoming more mature both in Milwaukee and the United States, and it was increasingly dominated by large, well-capitalized companies operating facilities designed specifically for that use.

So what kind of facilities did these emerging laundry titans build?

Since the form of industrial buildings is primarily dictated by function, it is not surprising that a newly developing industry would appropriate a building type from a related industry. Commercial laundries adapted both machinery and building design from the textile industry.

You can see by the title page of "The Manual of Modern Steam Laundry Work", published in 1912, that its author's credentials are largely related to the textile industry.

The prototype for washing machines were the dying vats used by the textile industry. Textile mills, laundries, and other industrial facilities drove equipment with belts connected to an overhead shaft into the first decades of the twentieth century. As in the laundry industry, light and ventilation had been critically important to the operation of textile mills.

This influenced the appearance of the mills. In the early to mid-nineteenth century, when large New England mills came to dominate the textile industry, the facilities were readily identifiable by their massive size and regular pattern of fenestration.

By the late nineteenth century, technological improvements in the production of steel, concrete, and glass provided new alternatives for structural design, permitting broader window openings for industrial plants.

The Northwestern Knitting Factory in Minneapolis, better known as the Munsingwear Plant, illustrates the evolution of industrial construction within less than a decade; its earliest building, Number 1, dates from 1906; the latest, Building 7-7A, from 1914-1915. Since architectural ornamentation on industrial buildings is usually minimal, the pattern of fenestration is often key to a building's visual identity. In the Munsingwear complex, much of the original sash was replaced by glass blocks during the mid-1960s.

Sash replacement is quite common in industrial properties as owners seek to reduce energy costs, increase security, and cope with aging building components. Despite the glass-block windows, however, Munsingwear's fenestration pattern remains essentially unchanged today. The complex was listed in the National Register in 1983 because of its significance to commerce, industry, and invention as one of the nation's largest manufacturers of underwear. Which, of course, brings us back to the subject of laundry.