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 May 4, 2017
There are many people in Milwaukee who lead very public lives. One of them, surely, is David Stearns, the general manager of the Milwaukee Brewers. We sat down with him to see what makes him tick.
Published May 2, 2017
With a May 8 deadline looming, the war of words over a proposed strip club Downtown is escalating. A coalition of powerful business interests remain opposed, with the mayor and members of the Common Council on the other side, using Minneapolis as an example.
Published April 30, 2017
Let us all agree about what Junie B. Jones is not. She is not a crook. She is not a nutball. She is not in love with Handsome Warren. What she is, though, is the center of a wonderfully funny story, "Junie B. Jones Is Not a Crook."
Published April 29, 2017
Theater can make you feel a lot of things, most of them wondrous, but on rare occasion it can make me feel like a dummy. And that's what I felt like after seeing "Jane Eyre," the final show of the season at The Rep, which opened Friday night.
Published April 27, 2017
It's impossible to stop thinking about the production of "Carnival" currently being staged at In Tandem Theatre, which I reviewed on opening night last week and is a fascinating example of what can happen when you stretch yourself and dream big dreams.
Published April 25, 2017
Start with a girl, beautiful and rich. Then add in her uncle and guardian who wants to marry her so he can get the money and toss in a high-born stranger who also wants the girl's hand in marriage. What you have is Florentine's "Barber of Seville."
Published April 22, 2017
For 15 years, under the guidance of art therapist Lori Vance, ExYoMKE has gone one-on-one with some of the most disaffected children in Milwaukee, children of all races and genders, and tried to help them see the world through the eyes of an artist.
Published April 22, 2017
One of the most wonderful evenings at a theater is when the show starts on a high note and just keeps getting better and better until you get to an ending where your heart is lying on the floor and your eyes are clouded with tears. That's "Carnival."
Published April 21, 2017
"The Fantasticks" is a simple little musical, the longest running in history, about a boy and a girl and being in love. The problem in the Off the Wall Theatre production is that the boy can't hold up his end of the deal, and the whole production suffers.
Published April 20, 2017
When I'm moved, I write, and fortunately, with OnMilwaukee, I have a place for that writing. The series of Uber tales from the road have run intermittently, but this story, more than anything else, proved that words and social media have the power to spark action, to make a real difference.