The battle to save the Pabst Mansion had been won, but difficult years would still lie ahead as the fledgling organization sought to make the Pabst a viable house museum. Twenty thousand square feet of empty rooms spread before the organization with white walls and white wall-to-wall carpeting. Still the Pabst Mansion had a surprisingly strong visitorship as soon as the doors were thrown open for tours.
The three rooms of original furniture that had been specifically constructed for the Pabst Mansion and had been sold with the house in 1908 were still in the possession of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Founder Florence Schroeder, believing that it was in the best interest for the Pabst Mansion to reacquire these important furnishings, personally purchased the furniture for Mrs. Pabst’s Parlor and the Dining Room.
By the mid 1980s, with money in the bank, the young organization was finally in a position to begin the on-going and never-ending restoration of the Pabst Mansion in earnest. Using the original photography of the Mansion’s interiors rooms were analyzed and plans were set. Original materials, fabrics, colors, and patterns became the tools for designing and recreating spaces. Paint was removed, floors exposed, wood treated, metals polished, and damages repaired. The results were transformative and spectacular.
It was also apparent that the exterior of the Mansion needed help due to years of deferred maintenance. In 1979, the entire front exterior staircase was completely disassembled and replicated with gleaming Indiana limestone. The roof was repaired complete with renewed copper flashing. Terra cotta replication included removing dozens of large decorative blocks for the first time since 1891. This included the designing and replicating of terra cotta spires and a large serpent downspout that had been destroyed decades earlier. When the work was completed the effect was surprisingly subtle. The Pabst Mansion now appeared as it had in historic photographs, without fanfare, the Mansion looked as it always had, stately and dignified.
Now over 30 years later, millions of dollars have been spent on the Mansion’s upkeep and restoration, which has made the Pabst Mansion one of the foremost house museums in America. Captain and Mrs. Pabst would no doubt be amazed at the interest their mansion has garnered. Each passing year brings more restoration, a deeper understanding of this amazing mansion, and the family that called it their home.
Currently under restoration… The Master Suite.