Milwaukee has a rich history and, fortunately, a passion for preserving it, too. Take, for example the Wisconsin Architectural Archive, housed at the Milwaukee Public Library.
Founded in 1975 by Thomas L. Eschweiler – yes, of THAT Eschweiler family – and a few others, the collection, housed within the Central Library's Art & Music department, archives more than 20,000 architectural drawings by nearly 500 Wisconsin architects.
Recently, I heard about the collection and decided to check it out. Today, I went over to meet Gayle Ecklund, an archives technician at MPL, who told me a bit about the collection and showed me some stunning original plans, drawn by Hugo Schnetzky, of Walnut Street School, which burned and was razed in 1978.
The collection got started, Ecklund told me, when Eschweiler was trying to find a home for the drawings made by his family's famous Milwaukee firm, Eschweiler and Eschweiler.
That sparked Eschweiler and his cohorts to actively seek out items for the collection. "They'd drive around in a station wagon to pick up plans," Ecklund said.
Now, folks approach the archive with donations, too.
Sadly, and perhaps ironically since they designed the stunning Central Library building itself, there are few works by George Ferry & Alfred Clas, because, says Ecklund, the story (perhaps apocryphal?) goes that after a balcony collapsed in one of their buildings, the architects feared liability issues and burned all their drawings.
I was pleased to see that Henry Koch, who designed many prominent Milwaukee buildings, is fairly well represented. The collection holds Koch's plans for City Hall, Turner Hall, Gesu Church, the old South Division High School and a few other works.
There is a searchable, computerized index to the collection, however, it is not yet accessible online. To use the collection, call the Frank P. Zeidler Humanities Room at (414) 286-3061 to see if the archives has what you're looking for. If so, she can pull the drawings and make an appointment for you to look at them.
Ecklund says the archive gets anywhere from 150 to 300 requests annually. Many are from folks searching for plans for or more information on their homes. Copies of drawings are available for a fee.
The WAA is a great historical archive housed in the heart of Milwaukee; we're lucky to have it.
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Bobby Tanzilo
Published May 22, 2015
Back in 1996, some folks saw the closing of West Allis-West Milwaukee School District's Roosevelt School, 932 S. 60th St., as "inevitable" and that prediction came true later that year. Now, it seems that the demolition of the building might also be inevitable, though nothing has yet been officially decided.
Published May 20, 2015
It's that time of year again. The time when I'm thrilled that my kids are thrilled to sign up for Milwaukee Public Library's Super Reader summer reading program.
Published May 19, 2015
Standing amid the surviving buildings of the old Concordia College, it's easy to imagine what an inviting campus this was back in the day. Low-rise buildings - most of them in that collegiate gothic style that shouts "university" - surrounded the quad on all four sides, creating an intimate, protective environment. These days, most of the buildings survive and they're owned by the Forest County Potawatomi, which has plans to renovate the entire campus.
Published May 18, 2015
Leo Minor is a relatively faint constellation up in the northern sky that comprises an array of 37 distant stars. Closer to home Leo Minor is a nom de bass of local veteran musician Jason Todd. Though this Leo Minor is just one star, it draws on a vast array of musical influences. The latest result of the ongoing project is a white label vinyl 7" 45.
Published May 15, 2015
This morning the folks in the facilities department of the West Allis-West Milwaukee School District were kind enough to give me a tour of a closed school building. As an added bonus, my tour guide offered to show me an interesting school nearby, too. The contrast was striking.
Published May 14, 2015
Adventure Rock will host a groundbreaking next Wednesday for its new East Side location on the corner of Commerce and North.
Published May 13, 2015
I'm enjoying watching the progress of some vintage Milwaukee buildings being prepared for the future.
Published May 13, 2015
If you're champing at the bit for the next Doors Open MKE, you'll have to wait until September. But you can get your hometown exploration fix thanks to DOMKE's elder Historic Milwaukee Inc. sibling, Spaces and Traces, which is back for its 34th year this weekend.
Published May 11, 2015
A while back I had the pleasure of exploring the 1876 cream city brick house at 1363 N. Prospect Ave. Designed by architect James Douglas, for grain broker Gilbert Collins, the house has since been converted to office space, but it retains many of of fabulous details. The other day, Cobalt Glassworks' Jon Schroder sent me some photos of newly restored vintage windows from Collins House.
Published May 11, 2015
We're lucky in Milwaukee, because we have an array of bakeries that keep life here sweet. Here are seven of my favorites, for very specific reasons.