The Domes make national list of ‘most endangered historic places’

Mitchell Park Conservatory one of 11 sites included on 2016 list

The Mitchell Park Domes

Last updated on July 3rd, 2019 at 07:13 pm

The Mitchell Park Domes have been included in the National Trust for Historic Places‘ 2016 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

The Mitchell Park Domes
The Mitchell Park Domes

The list, which has been put together by the National Trust each year since 1988, is meant to raise awareness of threats to the longevity of historic buildings and places around the country.

Listed along with the domes are the Bears Ears rock formation landscape in southern Utah, the Charleston Naval Hospital District in South Carolina, The Azkiwe-Nkrumah Hall at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, the Chihuahuita and El Segundo Barrio neighborhoods in El Paso, Texas, the Delta Queen passenger steamboat in Louisiana, Historic Downtown Flemington in New Jersey, the James River in Virginia, the Lions Municipal Golf Course in Austin, Texas, the San Francisco Embarcadero in California and the Sunshine Mile in Tucson, Arizona.

The Domes were nominated for the list by the Milwaukee Preservation Alliance.

The National Trust describes the domes as “a unique engineering marvel” that is “a nationally significant example of Midcentury Modern architecture.”

“Rather than needlessly sacrifice this unique national treasure, local leaders owe it to the public to continue to explore a solution that preserves the Domes for the benefit and enjoyment of future generations,” said National Trust president and chief executive officer Stephanie Meeks.

Since early February, construction crews have been busy at the Mitchell Park Conservatory making repairs to the lattice concrete and steel structures of the domes. All three domes at the conservatory were closed on Feb. 5, a week after a piece of concrete casting fell from the structure of the Desert Dome.

Crews have been wrapping thousands of concrete-cast joints that make up the structures to prevent more pieces from falling.

Currently, repairs have been completed on the Show and Tropical Domes. Work on the Desert Dome is expected to be completed in early November.

But the repairs are being viewed by county leaders as a short-term solution.

The closures raised questions about the longevity of the Domes, which County Executive Chris Abele estimated in February may cost between $65 million and $75 million to repair or replace. The steep cost estimate prompted meetings seeking public input on the future of the Domes.

At the time, Abele spokesperson Melissa Baldauff blamed the Domes’ deterioration on what she called an inherited mess of deferred maintenance.

Construction of the Mitchell Park Domes was completed in 1967.

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Ben Stanley, former BizTimes Milwaukee reporter.

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