Even though people have accused me of being one, I am normally not in favor of the preservation of relics.
I am in favor of progress and generally speaking I think that Milwaukee has done a good job of preserving our history while not standing in the way of development of timely and modern facilities.
I am, however, very concerned about one of our defining architectural gems – The War Memorial Center.
A recent audit conducted for the County Board showed that millions of dollars in repairs were needed just to fix things that needed fixing. Anyone touring the building can see the need for fixes, but there are also questions about the commitment we have to allow the building to flourish.
The building was designed by the Eero Saarinen, an architect with a huge worldwide reputation (he designed St. Louis' Gateway Arch and the landmark TWA terminal at New York's JFK Airport), much like that of Santiago Calatrava, who designed the marvelous building adjacent to the war memorial.
The facility, which was intended to honor veterans and those who died in World War II, was also expected to be a major visual arts center. The Milwaukee Art Institute and Layton Art Gallery merged to form the Milwaukee Art Center and the Milwaukee Art Museum opened its doors in 1957.
In a way I can understand the neglect of the War Memorial. It's as if there are two sisters. One is young and vibrant and enjoys universal acclaim, while the other is old and stodgy and is an afterthought. The Calatrava deserves all the accolades, but the War Memorial is a part of the architecture that defines Milwaukee.
I know these are tough economic times and politicians, like the County Executive, are especially leery of anything that even smells like a tax, but if we don't spend the $5-6 million it would take now it will become $10 pretty soon.
This building is worth saving so it must also be worth fixing up.
I agree on your take about the War Memorial. I moved to Milwaukee from the plains of Kansas when I was 8 and I remember that the War Memorial along with the Calling (the orange sculpture at the beginning of Wisconsin Ave) were the two structures besides the Domes that I distinctly remember being awed by as a kid. They were so unlike anything I had ever seen in my young life on a Kansas farm and gave me the notion that I was now living in a city that was operating in the big leagues. I had no idea at the time that it was designed by Saarinen or would have even cared. Now, though, I very much care because Milwaukee is fast gaining a reputation for taking chances with our civil art works (the Quadracci Pavilion being the most glaring example) and I'd like to see that reputation grow.
I also care because as an Army veteran, it warms my heart that we have a World War II memorial and did have one long before many other cities. Washington, D.C. itself didn't even have one until 2004. This structure is one of the buildings that makes Milwaukee special. We should be taking care of it both in terms of architectural history and in terms of respecting people like both of my grandfathers who fought during the war.
1 comment about 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 Dave Begel
Published April 19, 2015
"The Pillowman" at Soulstice Theatre is a powerful play, full of gruesome tales of the abuse and murder of children. But behind all the shock is the enlightenment of how powerful and precious stories are to all of us.
Published April 18, 2015
The adaptation of the P. G. Wodehouse books about the stiff upper lip butler and his boss, Bertie Wooster, comes alive at Milwaukee Chamber Theatre. It's a night filled with laughter and more laughter.
Published April 16, 2015
Nobody expected the Milwaukee Bucks to be in the playoffs this year, but they surprised the world by being the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. The Bucks open the playoffs against the Chicago Bulls Saturday night.
Published April 16, 2015
Sheriff David Clarke is the darling of the far right and he is a favorite of the Fox News Network. But amidst all the bluster there are some truths to be discovered when he talks about the epidemic of black violence in Milwaukee.
Published April 15, 2015
I recently began walking with a cane. And I had to park near the Milwaukee Public Market. I parked at one end of the block and had to drag myself all the way to the other end.
Published April 14, 2015
Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy are set to take over the big rivalry that the PGA Tour needs to keep interest up. The two are likely to become the next Tiger vs, Phil or the next Jack vs. Arnie. And it will be god for golf.
Published April 13, 2015
"Luchadora" is a production commissioned by First Stage, and it's an amazing production - full of joys and important messages to young women. Written by UWM professor Alvaro Saar Rios, it's a production that every young woman, aunt, uncle and parent should see.
Published April 12, 2015
A frothy comedy by Peter Schaffer is a delight at Renaissance Theaterworks. For two hours it's a great character study filled with laughs. But a contrived ending makes the evening end on a note that is far less funny.
Published April 11, 2015
The question of evolution versus creationism is at the heart of "Ten Questions to Ask Your Biology Teacher About Evolution" at Next Act. The most refreshing part of this production is that it values each side of the argument.
Published April 9, 2015
Just one string of shootings last weekend raises a whole bunch of questions about what's happening in the black community in Milwaukee. It also raises questions about what the rest of the city thinks about the violence.