Pabst Mansion


“It’s awfully slow work but it’s going to be nice.”

-Captain Pabst (commenting on the building of his new mansion)



 

 

 

When Captain Frederick Pabst, Milwaukee’s famed beer baron, began construction of a new mansion for his family in 1890, he could not have anticipated that it would survive and thrive into the twenty-first century as a testament to America’s Gilded Age. Designed by George Bowman Ferry and Alfred Charles Clas, construction at 2000 Grand Avenue lasted two years and was completed in July of 1892 at a cost of just over $254,000 -- including the house, furnishings and artwork. As leading figures in Milwaukee society, Captain Pabst and his wife, Maria, became consummate art collectors, filling their mansion with priceless treasures. During the years of the Pabst family’s ownership, the house was the scene of many fine parties and receptions, a wedding and, in the end, Captain and Mrs. Pabst’s funeral.


After the Pabst descendants sold the house in 1908, it became the archbishop’s residence and the center of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee for more than sixty years. When it was sold in 1975, the mansion was nearly torn down to make way for a parking lot. After a three-year crusade for its preservation, it was spared demolition and went on to become an award-winning house museum. The Mansion was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.  Open to the public since 1978, revenues for the Pabst Mansion’s continued success and ongoing restoration are garnered from admissions, sales, events, grants, donations and memberships.

 

 

 

 

$75,000

Original cost estimate to build the structure in 1890

$168,728

Actual cost to complete the structure

$254,614

Final cost including house, carriage house, greenhouse Pavilion and land

$32.7 mil

Final cost in 2011 dollars

20,019

Square feet

5

Levels: 3 floors, full attic, full basement

37

Rooms

10

Bathrooms

14

Fireplaces

210

Windows

137

Doors

3,328

Bottles of wine and champagne in Captain Pabst’s cellar – 1904

12

Servants

1

Telephone (#55 West)

14

Hidden compartments in the Captain’s study

9

Hops bud finials on the Grand Staircase

76

Servants’ stairs from the attic to the basement (1 ladder to get to the roof)

 

 

The Pabst Mansion remains a constant on the Milwaukee landscape as generations have come and gone.  Surviving papers and photographs detailing the life of this house give us an unusually full view of the life of the Pabst.  It is simply an organized pile of bricks, wood and terra cotta, yet the Pabst Mansion has always had a life of its own.  As the world continues to change, the Pabst Mansion will serve as an active participant that represents the best of the 19th century in the 21st.