Now & Then: Madison’s Steel Structures

Trachte buildings are common across the Madison area. Vintage Trachtes are easily identified corrugated steel buildings with vertical walls and an arched roof* that are used as garages, utility sheds, gas stations, boathouse or commercial buildings.

They are plentiful here because Trachte was founded in Madison in 1901. The business began with brothers George and Arthur Trachte opening a sheet-metal shop. In 1912 they patented a machine to simplify making steel livestock tanks and in 1917 erected their first steel building to house Arthur’s new car. Today, Trachte Building Systems is headquartered in Sun Prairie where it manufactures metal self-storage buildings.

The company takes pride in its history. There’s a helpful timeline on the company website and a nicely done nine-minute video on YouTube and Vimeo; just search for “Trachte Inc history documentary.”

Old Trachte buildings may be common in their hometown, but they can be hard to spot in our neighborhood. You’re more likely to see them on foot or bicycle than from a car. Focus on residential areas and be sure to look down driveways and other spaces between buildings.

I’ve gone on my own quest and located five Trachte buildings—all garages—in Capitol Neighborhoods. Take a walk of your own and you may find more.

* Don’t confuse Trachtes with Quonset huts which have curved roofs that go all the way to the ground on their long sides.

Posted in Newsletter.