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 Nov. 20, 2014
Thanksgiving is on the horizon and you're hosting (or attending) a family dinner. What to do about wine? How to find something that pairs well with both turkey and cranberries? How to find a wine that appeals to you, your parents and Aunt Millie? It can be challenging, but experts say a few simple rules can help guide the way...
Published Nov. 18, 2014
One of the most recent building "booms" at Milwaukee Public Schools added a handful of new schools to the city's landscape, but at least one planned project -- and perhaps more -- never saw the light of day.
Published Nov. 14, 2014
Serious music fans will relate. Though a lot of music enters my ears, very few make the kind of impression that Lucy Wainwright Roche's 2013 record, "There's A Last Time For Everything," made on me. A year later I can tell you exactly where I was when I first popped it into the CD player and sat transfixed, unable to move. Lucy Wainwright Roche comes to Milwaukee next week, and we talked to her about it.
Published Nov. 12, 2014
Today, I got an email from my friends at Artists Working in Education (A.W.E.) about a project the group did this autumn with kids at MPS' South Side Anna F. Doerfler Community School in conjunction with Layton Boulevard West Neighbors (LBWN) and the COA CLC program. What's it all about? Read on.
Published Nov. 12, 2014
After three years in the dark, the Brown Bottle Pub, which opened in 1938 as the Schlitz tasting room, has returned. We got a little advance look.
Published Nov. 11, 2014
I've been a record store rat since I was about 9 (no, I won't tell you how many years ago that was), but I've whiled away countless hours in the dens of wonder, from sea to shining sea and even beyond. Luckily, there are still some great record shops in town, but not nearly as many as there used to be. Here are six lost Milwaukee places that I wish were still here ...
Published Nov. 11, 2014
The building that houses the Charles Allis Art Museum, 1630 E. Royall Pl., on Milwaukee's East Side was designed and built as a home, but in a sense it's also always served as an art museum. Built by a captain of industry, Charles Allis, the house -- designed by Alexander Eschweiler and built in 1909 -- was planned as more than a home for Eschweiler and his wife, Sarah. It was meant to be a showplace for their ever-growing collection of art.
Published Nov. 10, 2014
Despite a few half-finished walls and the shell, there was little to see but drawings and a few nascent details. A quick peek last month showed quite a bit of progress, but nothing quite like how the place looked when we got a tour last week from branch manager Rachel Collins.
Published Nov. 8, 2014
Though we all remember the 2010 "once in a lifetime" storm that caused terrible flooding around the Milwaukee area, few of us have seen anything like the dramatic 1913 Great Lakes hurricane, which toppled ships, killed hundreds sailors - and folks on shore, too - from Lake Superior and Lake Michigan to Lake Huron. Thanks to Milwaukee author Michael Schumacher we can learn more about the four-day storm that raged through the Great Lakes, including Milwaukee, in November 1913.
Published Nov. 7, 2014
The 10th annual "Kneel to Neil" gig -- staged each year to benefit WMSE and The Bridge School -- is set for Friday, Nov. 14 at 7:30 p.m., at Linneman's Riverwest Inn, 1001 E. Locust St.