pabst mansion

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When Captain Frederick and Maria Pabst began construction of their new family mansion in June 1890, they 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 for 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, both Captain and Mrs. Pabst 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-seven years. When it was sold in 1975, the mansion was nearly torn down to make way for a parking lot for a neighboring hotel. 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 on April 21, 1975.  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.

As the years have come and gone, The Pabst Mansion has remained a constant on Milwaukee’s landscape.  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 and yet the Pabst Mansion has always had a life of its own.  The world around it continues to change, but the Pabst Mansion will serve as an active participant that represents the best of the 19th century in the 21st.