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Milwaukee's Pabst Mansion Expands Role To Include Research & Community Outreach

Courtesy of the Pabst Mansion
The Pabst Mansion has stood for more than a century on Milwaukee's near-west side.

Doors Open Milwaukee allows visitors into some remarkable spaces that are not typically open to the public. But there are other, remarkable spaces around the city that people can visit annually. Take the Pabst Mansion, an example of the Gilded Age that has stood for more than a century on Milwaukee's near-west side.

Construction on the mansion began in 1890, and after it left the Pabst family, it later became the Milwaukee Archbishop’s residence. It’s been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1975, and this year marks its 40th anniversary of allowing the public to visit.   

Credit Pabst Mansion / facebook.com
The creation of the original Pabst Mansion chandelier dates to the mid-1890s.

The Pabst Mansion is on the path to complete restoration, and seeks to move forward and build itself into Milwaukee's landscape on a more prominent basis according to the mansion's new president, Pamela Williams-Lime.

"The next step is really building a sustainability path for the organization, which will include being a bigger resource through lending our archives to other researchers around the country and beyond," she notes.

While the Pabst Mansion has always been a destination to explore historic design and architecture, the greater challenge now is to shift its role to better meet the needs of the community, including educational outreach.

"There's always something more to see about the Pabst mansion." — John Eastberg

After college about 25 years ago, Pabst Mansion's Executive Director John Eastberg started volunteering for the mansion. "I love when we get thank you notes from younger students and what they see here," he says. "They see details and make their own connections, and I know the experience they have here will definitely resonate with them going forward."

Eastberg notes that objects that left the house in 1907 when it was sold to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee are being donated back to the mansion from the Pabst family. He says that hundreds of objects have made their way back to the mansion in the past 15 years.

"A real interest of mine was using these original 1897 photographs we have of the house to not only bring the interiors back to what they look like, but actually to start populating the rooms back with original objects," says Eastberg. "The Pabst Mansion has completely developed into another institution as far as the aesthetics and the art collection. I think that's kind of one of the best kept secrets in Milwaukee."

Bonnie North
Bonnie joined WUWM in March 2006 as the Arts Producer of the locally produced weekday magazine program Lake Effect.
Audrey Nowakowski is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.