History in a New Light - Phase IV of Restoration Progressing Rapidly

Published in History in a New Light

Phase IV of Restoration Progressing Rapidly

THE FOURTH AND FINAL PHASE OF restoration of the Milwaukee County Historical Center is progressing rapidly. In late November, Conrad Schmitt Studios erected scaffolding throughout the entire atrium in order to permit the repainting of the ceiling and the surrounding ornamental plaster moldings.

As the accompanying photographs suggest, Conrad Schmitt had done virtually the same thing in 1937 when they were asked to redecorate what was then the Second Ward Branch of the First Wisconsin National Bank!

The atrium ceiling and moldings were completed by the end of December, and the three central chandeliers were rewired and restored by Brass Light Gallery in January. Although some scaffolding still remains, it is now possible to see much of the beautiful restoration work that has been accomplished.

While Conrad Schmitt was restoring the atrium ceiling, Findorff Construction was preparing other areas of the building for further restoration work and for the installation of HVAC and electrical upgrades. To facilitate the next stage of ceiling restoration, Findorff removed the old acoustical tile ceiling from above the east and north mezzanine.

They also removed the suspended ceiling from the first floor galleries on the east and north ends of the building to permit the hanging of electrical conduit and HVAC piping and ductwork. Conrad Schmitt expects to complete the restoration of the east and north mezzanine ceiling during February and March, and thereafter to turn their attention to the west mezzanine.

One of the casualties of the construction process has been the loss of the teller's cage at the north end of the first floor, an area which had been the home of "Otto, the teller" since shortly after the Historical Society moved into the facility in 1965. The mannequin, which seemed always to be busy reconciling figures at his desk behind the marble and granite counter, has given way to expanded gallery space which will occupy the area between the reception desk and the small north vault.

Although members might feel a bit intimidated by the construction going on throughout the building, the staff wishes to remind everyone that the Historical Center is open to the public.

The Research Library has been a very busy place since re-opening on the south mezzanine in early January, and visitors are welcome to tour the City Hall Restoration exhibit which currently occupies first- and second- floor galleries on the west side of the building. Hard hats are available on request!


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