As I gear up to go spelunking in the historic home of the Milwaukee Rep, which occupies a complex of former utility buildings, the Rep announced that it has received a one-time half-million-dollar grant from the The Herzfeld Foundation to fund immediate repairs caused by significant settling that has occurred over recent years.
With that money, the Rep has commitments covering more than half the $1.75 million required to make all the necessary repairs. The Rep has already received a $250,000 grant from the United Performing Arts Fund and $75,000 from the Bert L and Patricia Steigleder Charitable Trust, along with a number of donors from individuals.
The complex of buildings â€“ the oldest of which was built in 1897 â€“ houses the Rep's theaters, offices and production shops. Part of the building was constructed atop wooden pilings that are deteriorating due to a drop in Milwaukee's water table, a phenomenon that was recently covered by national media.
According to a statement released today by the theater company, "At this time, the settling poses no threat to the public or Rep employees; however a permanent fix must occur in the near future."
The Rep plans to begin the repair work this summer.
Among the complex of buildings is the old Milwaukee Electric Railway & Light Co.'s Oneida Street Station, where, according to a historical marker on the building, "pulverized coal was first successfully burned continuously and at high efficiencies in furnaces of stationary steam boilers" in 1919.
"For many years, The Herzfeld Foundation has been a tremendous supporter of our work at The Rep," said Milwaukee Repertory Theaterâ€™s Managing Director Chad Bauman, in the statement.
"Recognizing that any non-profit organization is only as good as the foundation on which it is built, this extraordinary grant from The Herzfeld Foundation will provide much needed resources toward the costs to repair our buildingâ€™s foundation ensuring that our award-winning education programs and inspiring productions will continue for decades to come."
"The Rep is a critical part of our vibrant cultural community," added Herzfeld President Bill Haberman. "We need to preserve and sustain it."
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