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Historic Preservation Group Declares Milwaukee’s Mitchell Park Domes ‘National Treasure’

Report Spells Out Plan For Repairing Buildings

Chuck Quirmbach/WPR

A historic preservation group has named the domes of Milwaukee County’s Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory a “national treasure,” and contends the roughly 50-year-old buildings can be maintained for less money than others are projecting.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation announced the designation Wednesday. Group spokeswoman Jennifer Sandy said the Mitchell Park domes deserve preserving.

“They’re nationally significant. They’re really innovative structures from an architecture and engineering standpoint, and they’ve really been a center of community life and a tourism destination for Milwaukee for more than 50 years,” Sandy said.

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The privately funded, non-profit group is also releasing an engineering report that spells out a possible renovation plan for the buildings. Sandy said that for about $18 million, Milwaukee County could stop water from leaking in around the domes’ many glass panels.

“It’s making some changes to the connectors between the glass and the steel and concrete, where all that kind of comes together, making some changes there that would be global across the entire system,” Sandy explained.

A county task force is studying the long-term future of the Mitchell Park domes after the three buildings had to be temporarily closed last year while emergency repairs were made.

The preservation group’s report will be discussed Wednesday evening at a meeting of the domes task force.

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele has said the county should consider tearing down the domes and putting up a new structure.