Sign in | Register now | Like us on FacebookLike Us | Follow us on TwitterFollow Us

Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, July 25, 2014

Hi: 79
Lo: 66
Hi: 85
Lo: 69
Hi: 80
Lo: 61
Advertise on
Take a quick tour up through the Milwaukee Public Library dome.
Take a quick tour up through the Milwaukee Public Library dome.

9 pictures of the Central Library dome: inside and out

Today, I visited the Milwaukee Public Library's beautiful Central Library to do research for a couple upcoming stories. While I was there, I asked to see the dome.

The stately and ornate library building, 814 W. Wisconsin Ave., was built between 1893 and 1897 and was designed by architects Ferry & Clas. It's made of Bedford (Indiana) limestone and the interior has incredible tile work, marble and many other eye-catching details. 

At the top of the Classical Revival gem is a low, wide dome flanked by eagles. Follow me...

This is what the dome looks like on the outside and from the roof to the east:

There's one of the eagles, with one of Downtown's ubiquitous gulls perched atop its head:

This is what the dome looks like if you're in the lobby:

Everything's more fun if you circle up to it:

First, they decorated the ceiling, then they bashed a hole through it for the staircase:

The inside of the dome:

It's quite spacious:

There appears to be another spiral staircase in pieces:

Watch your step on the way down:

Want to see it for yourself? The dome is open during Doors Open MKE, Sept. 20-21.

The junkpile (lower left) was a popular feature in "The Urban Habitat," spearhaeded by Nancy Lurie (right).
The junkpile (lower left) was a popular feature in "The Urban Habitat," spearhaeded by Nancy Lurie (right).

Do you remember the museum's Urban Habitat and junkpile?

This one’s for reader Mark Zimmerman, who asks, "Do you remember the junk pile exhibit at the Milwaukee Public Museum? It was like a found objects art sculpture with old rusty shopping carts and TV antennas, etc., in it, and it even had water running through it with the floor painted orange to resemble rust. It was pretty cool, and I've missed it since they removed it many years ago."

I asked the museum’s Carrie Trousil Becker, who said, "This exhibit, called ‘Urban Habitat,’ is the exhibit that we get asked about most frequently via social media, and people particularly reminisce about the giant trash pile."

"The Urban Habitat: The City and Beyond" opened in October 1976 on the museum’s second floor in a 5,000-square foot area in the southwest corner (now the special exhibitions gallery, I believe) and was a hit. It was part of the museum’s program to celebrate the American bicentennial.

Upon the exhibit’s opening, the Sentinel talked to the museum’s curator of anthropology Nancy Oestreich Lurie, who was instrumental in creating "The Urban Habitat."

"Originally," the paper wrote, "the exhibit was to have been of Wisconsin resources, (Lurie) said. But since resources have already been explored in the museum’s Hall of Life and the biology exhibits, the decision was made to turn the new section into an environmental hall.

"Museums in other parts of the country have attempted to design urban and environmental exhibits, she said, and may of them have failed. So Mrs. Lurie and other members of a museum subcommittee decided that Milwaukee should offer something unique and innvoative."

What the museum built was a survey of urban development, from hunters and gatherers living in rock shelters to the (then-) present, represented by "Where Do I Plug It In?" -- a wall of electric appliances. In between were the Godspeed -- a reproduction of Capt. John Smith’s vessel, representing the European settlement of the New World -- machines and water wheels that…

Carl Barkhausen's Highland Avenue Methodist Church, built in 1891.
Carl Barkhausen's Highland Avenue Methodist Church, built in 1891.
Check out the unusual steeple.
Check out the unusual steeple.
A wider view of the church. (Photo: Freekee, Wikimedia Commons)
A wider view of the church. (Photo: Freekee, Wikimedia Commons)
An interior view. (Photo: Rehoboth New Life Center, Facebook)
An interior view. (Photo: Rehoboth New Life Center, Facebook)

Don't blink or you could miss this Barkhausen gem

Every week I drive past this place on 21st and Highland and it catches my eye. Though I haven't stopped and knocked on the door yet, I've been doing a little digging to see what I can find about the church at 1102 N. 21st St.

The small, but attractive orange pressed brick church -- which seems to also go by the address 2026 W. Highland Ave. -- is currently home to Rehoboth New Life Center, an apostolic congregation led by Pastor Mike Brownie, who according to the church's website is licensed by the United Pentecostal Church International's Wisconsin district.

But this gothic revival gem with terra cotta trim was designed by Carl Barkhausen and built in 1891 for the First German Methodist Congregation, which had left its digs 10 blocks east in what is now best known as the Forst Keller building, 1037 W. Highland Ave., on the former Pabst Brewery site.

Barkhausen is best-known for his work in partnership with Charles Crane: the German-English Academy, Schuster House on 32nd and Wells, the Button Block (the building occupied by Joey Buona's) on Water and Clybourn.

The Forst Keller building was actually the second building occupied by the congregation, which was organized in 1846. Its first home was also on Highland, near 5th Street.

Though the quirky steeple on the 21st and Highland building -- which Russell Zimmermann points out in his "Heritage Guidebook," "makes the transition from square to octagonal by splitting into one large and four small spires" -- is perhaps the most interesting element of the building, my eye has always been drawn to the row of four arched windows directly below it.

The church, which has also been home to the Solomon Community Temple, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.

This tile sends four "vines" up the facade of a Moorish Revival building on 27th and Vliet Streets.
This tile sends four "vines" up the facade of a Moorish Revival building on 27th and Vliet Streets.

5 views of the tiles of Vliet Street

Some streets in Milwaukee seem to specialize in different features, though it's often subtle and surely not even really true. It's just more the things that catch our eye on our daily commute.

That's what led me to begin to notice and appreciate the relatively fancy facades on industrial buildings along State Street.

And, lately, I've been noticing how many buildings on Vliet Street have facades featuring different kinds of tile work. Here are some of my favorites.

1211 W. Vliet St.

The Wisconsin Architecture and History Inventory calls this gorgeous two-story storefront, "Probably the best preserved example in Milwaukee of the use of stock terra cotta tiles with Art Deco motifs to decorate a small store." Built in 1922, the structure long housed a furniture store and appears to be vacant at the moment. The cream-colored terra cotta is highly ornate, with yellow and rust-colored highlights, and "Wile Bldg." written is grey script. Alas, I have been unable to determine the architect responsible.

1307-11 W. Vliet St.

Martin Tullgren & Sons were the masters of glazed terra cotta in this town and you may recognize their buildings like the one 60th and North, the Downtown home of George Watts & Son and the Prospect Avenue building that was once home to the Avant Garde Coffee House and now houses Mystery One Bookstore and Allium restaurant, among others. But drive around town and you'll see that this eye catching cream colored tile, sometimes stark white, and often decorated with motifs like these, are everywhere. This example was built in 1923.

2717 W. Vliet St.

This Moorish Revival building on the southwest corner of 27th and Vliet was built in 1926 and you should drive past sometime to admire the alluring lines of the entry and a similar pattern around the second story windows in the central bay. But especially eye-catching are four vertical strips of painted tile bearing this twisting climbing vine motif, and a series horizontal panels that span the faca…