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 Jan. 17, 2017
It could hardly be more appropriate to our times that The Milwaukee Rep unveils a Pulitzer Prize-winning play about Muslims in America the very week that we are getting a new president who has made Muslims a target of his vitriolic political campaign.
Published Jan. 14, 2017
"Welcome to Bronzeville" is a world premiere at First Stage about the vibrant and exciting neighborhood that existed in Milwaukee. The play can't capture that vibrancy and delivers a performance that is without any excitement.
Published Jan. 13, 2017
When I was a young man in the U.S. Navy, stationed far from my home, I had to borrow $300 from my father in order to pay for an abortion. It's stayed with me since then and I now find myself thinking of it again as new abortion attacks are underway,.
Published Jan. 10, 2017
It's clear that the Milwaukee theater community faces challenges of young artists leaving town in order to find work. How to keep them here is a question that deserves attention and consideration of a variety of ideas that could step that tide.
Published Jan. 5, 2017
Republicans in the Senate and Assembly celebrated their increased stranglehold on Wisconsin politics by smiling with glee over the prospect of being able to do just about anything they want without any real regard for people who might think differently.
Published Jan. 4, 2017
"Sexual chemistry" is not a phrase normally associated with the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical "The Sound of Music," but the production at the Marcus Center creates a fully realized Maria, a woman perplexed by her feelings of love.
Published Jan. 3, 2017
There has been no formal announcement yet, but it appears as if another theater company that provides work for young actors and directors in Milwaukee, is about to fold its tent. Soulstice Theatre looks like it's shutting down after 15 years.
Published Dec. 29, 2016
The angle that most columnists take when it comes to their annual New Year's column is to write fanciful resolutions for a variety of celebrities. This year, however, I'm taking the whole thing seriously. My resolutions mean something - and I hope I can stick to them.
Published Dec. 27, 2016
The new year is a time for thanks for the past and a time for hopes and wishes for the brand new time in our life and nowhere is it more profound than in the world of the performing arts. The new year is also a time for wishes for a number of different arts groups.
Published Dec. 26, 2016
The day after Christmas, Dave Begel was looking for an Uber fare, but instead ran across Leander Johnson, trying to sleep on a manhole cover in Downtown Milwaukee. The spot provided warmth as he tried to bundle himself in three thin blankets.