An e-zine for happenings of local culture in Milwaukee and elsewhere

Archive for October, 2011

The Rotunda Within, Central Library

Little do most people know that the Rotunda seen from the exterior of the Central Library, only protects the Rotunda seen from inside the Central Library main foyer (remember the building’s original blueprints were destroyed). Not entirely enthusiastic about changing the inner rotunda light bulbs during the winter months, in the 1920’s a few employees punched a hole in the 3rd floor ceiling to find out if they could access the inner rotunda from the inside of the building.

Discovering a clear path to the inner rotunda after probing, the library workers fashioned a makeshift opening to the inner rotunda by bashing a wingspans’ width crater in the ceiling and sealing it with a crude plaster held together by cattle hair. A steep winding iron staircase allows for entry to the hidden level, for easier access to the inner rotunda.

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Pt 1 A Gem, Doors Open, The Central Library, http://wp.me/p1hPwN-LY
Pt 2 The Old Board Room, http://wp.me/p1hPwN-Mo
Pt 3 The Rotunda Within
Pt 4 The Green Roof, http://wp.me/p1hPwN-Mu
Pt 5 The Old Museum Director’s Office, http://wp.me/p1hPwN-Mx

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The Green Roof, Central Library

In 1957 the library expanded the original Library building to span the entire block between Wisconsin and Wells Streets. By 1986, the roof on the Library Expansion needed a replacement. When time came due for maintenance again 2009, the Library received $1 million of support from the City and an additional half million dollars of incentives for sustainable construction practices, to convert the 30 thousand square foot rooftop into a arid ecosystem that supports solar panels.

One of the first of it’s kind in the Country, the Central Library’s Green Roof will last 20 years longer than the conventional roof and reduce rain water intake in downtown’s storm water mains.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Pt 1 A Gem, Doors Open, The Central Library, http://wp.me/p1hPwN-LY
Pt 2 The Old Board Room, http://wp.me/p1hPwN-Mo
Pt 3 The Rotunda Within, http://wp.me/p1hPwN-Mr
Pt 4 The Green Roof
Pt 5 The Old Museum Director’s Office, http://wp.me/p1hPwN-Mx


The Museum Director’s Office, Central Library

Since the Central Library once held the Public Museum, deep in the upper floors of the 4th floor had a mysterious Director who’s office shared a hall way with the Taxidermy room. Not all the specimens felt the hands of anthropologists preserving their final action pose.

The Director’s Office adopted Simba the “lion” cub as their in house pet. Simba kept the Director’s Office companion until he grew too big and was released to the County Zoo. Simba eventually died and returned to the Museum’s Taxidermy department where he prepared to join the African Savanna exhibit. Simba had a burn on his nose by which people always recognized him.

Today the abandoned Museum Director’s Office serves as storage for a variety of museum nick-knacks.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Pt 1 A Gem, Doors Open, The Central Library, http://wp.me/p1hPwN-LY
Pt 2 The Old Board Room, http://wp.me/p1hPwN-Mo
Pt 3 The Rotunda Within, http://wp.me/p1hPwN-Mr
Pt 4 The Green Roof, http://wp.me/p1hPwN-Mu
Pt 5 The Old Museum Director’s Office


A Gem, Doors Open, The Central Library

Hidden within the astute renaissance facade of the Central Library, the people that walked those halls, past and present, exude as much character as the marble railings and bound books they house. Doors Open Milwaukee let us peer into the the windows of the past of kept open by the Central Library structure’s detailed building-craft and stacks filled with archives of knowledge.

Central Library docents guided tour-faring guest through several of the most celebrated portions of the building during Doors Open. Built by Ferry & Clas and opened in 1898, The Central Library once housed the Milwaukee Public Museum, and Discovery World’s in years prior to its current location on the Lake Front. The U-shaped building footprint allowed the library to reside on the Eastern wing and the Museum on the Western wing, joined by the grand rotunda.

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A Becoming Building

Typical of the high time of architecture, when construction of the Central Library took place, a design competition determined the builder of the Library. Frank Lloyd Wright dueled Ferry & Clas for the gig, however unable to stir imaginations with his submission and with whispers questioning its tenability, Wright withdrew his design ceding to Ferry & Clas’s French and Italianate neo-renaissance design. Ferry & Clas had also recently constructed the Pabst Mansion and the Goll and Frank Building in the Third Ward. The Library to this day shocks visual senses with its exterior elegance and stately interior.

A small chink in the mystique of the Central Library arose when a architectural design flaw surfaced in the Pabst Mansion. Upon learning of the fact George Ferry, the firm’s principal, destroyed the Central Library’s blueprints fearing the possibility of another blemish to his reputation if a similar discovery occurred within the Library.

Stories of Learning

The Central Library today houses many intellectual and artistic attractions including the Frank Zeilder Humanities Room, the Richard E. and Lucile Krug Rare Books Room and gallery of art on sabbatical from the Milwaukee Art Museum Collection, Betty Brin Children’s Room, first floor discard books sale room and R Cafe.

Pictures of Milwaukee’s historical figures and structures nestle against walls and in display cases, anchoring the Milwaukee to its past. A rare example of tessera mosaic floor tile lights the way, through the Library’s halls back in time.

–Contents–
Pt 1 A Gem, Doors Open, The Central Library
Pt 2 The Old Board Room. http://wp.me/p1hPwN-Mo
Pt 3 The Rotunda Within, http://wp.me/p1hPwN-Mr
Pt 4 The Green Roof, http://wp.me/p1hPwN-Mu
Pt 5 The Old Museum Director’s Office, http://wp.me/p1hPwN-Mx