Mitchell Park Domes named as a "National Treasure"

Posted at 5:09 AM, Mar 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-22 13:32:29-04

A non-profit that works to preserve historic structures is officially classifying Milwaukee’s Mitchell Park Domes as a “national treasure.”

The designation comes from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Jennifer Sandy, a senior field officer for the group, said the classification doesn’t guarantee any special protection for the domes. It also doesn’t come with any funding.

But Sandy added it raises awareness about the desire of many to see the Mitchell Park Domes repaired and preserved into the future.

“It's just another way to shine a spotlight on these structures, which we believe are important locally and also from a national perspective," Sandy said. “They’re nationally significant because of their architecture, their engineering."

Dawn McCarthy, a past President of the Milwaukee Preservation Alliance, said many people in southeastern Wisconsin have positive memories of visiting the domes. Some have even celebrated special occasions, like weddings and family gatherings, there.

“They’ve served as Milwaukee’s icon for close to 50 years,” McCarthy said.

The designation as a national treasure comes at a time when a county task force is weighing what to do with the domes. They were closed for portions of last year after a chunk of concrete fell from one of them.

Protective netting was installed, but that’s seen as a short-term fix.

The task force, which meets tonight at 5:30 p.m., is gathering input from the community regarding a long-term solution for the Mitchell Park Domes.

An engineering firm previously presented Milwaukee County with several plans to repair or restore the domes. A short-term fix is estimated to last 5 to 10 years and cost $14 million. Solutions in the range of 15 to 50 years have been estimated at $38 million to $50 million.

At tonight’s meeting, the National Trust for Historic Preservation will unveil its own proposal to restore the domes. Sandy said the group’s plan will be a long-term solution, but the cost will be just $18.6 million.