WTHP Meets for Mentoring Session with Michigan Historic Preservation Network

The board of Wisconsin Trust for Historic Preservation (WTHP) was recently awarded a grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Peter H. Brink Leadership Fund.   The grant funded a two-day mentoring session with the Michigan Historic Preservation Network. Michigan's statewide preservation advocacy group is a mature organization that offers a wide range of programming.  Nancy Finegood, MHPN Executive Director, and Janet Kreger, founding member and super-volunteer, traveled to Milwaukee’s School of Architecture and Urban Planning September 5-6 to offer ideas and insights on successful advocacy and programming.

Discussion focused on MPHN’s programming, staffing, governance, and communications.  MHPN also advised the WTHP board on strategies to establish work plans and expand long-term goals.  The board came away from the session with renewed energy and enthusiasm. The WTHP board resolved to become a lighter and more focused organization advocating for statewide polices that encourage conservation of Wisconsin's historic places, and supporting local preservation groups throughout the state.

The Mary Nohl Artist Environment (PRESERVATION FORUM)

The Mary Nohl Art Environment is listed on the National Register of Historic Places

A public forum on the preservation of artist environments is being convened on Thursday, July 10, 2014 in the Lubar Auditorium of the Milwaukee Art Museum, 700 North Museum Drive, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, from 7:15-9 pm. The forum was organized in response to the announcement that the John Michael Kohler Arts Center intends to move the environment of artist Mary Nohl, located on the shores of Lake Michigan in Fox Point, and a rare example of a vernacular environment created by a female artist, to a location in Sheboygan. The forum is free and open to the public.

Event Information: Thursday, July 10, 2014

Lubar Auditorium of the Milwaukee Art Museum

700 North Museum Drive, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

7:15-9 pm

The public is encouraged to arrive at the Milwaukee Art Museum at 6 pm to attend the opening of Postcards from America: Milwaukee in the Contemporary Galleries. The remarks by photographer Alessandra Sanguinetti and Curator of Photography Lisa Sutcliffe begin at 6:30 pm and will conclude prior to the beginning of the Preservation Forum at 7:15 pm. More information on the exhibition at: http://mam.org/exhibitions/details/postcards-from-america.php

The central purpose of the Preservation Forum is to provide fuller public consideration of the issues surrounding the preservation of artist environments such as the Mary Nohl residence, particularly when they are located in communities that must balance the impact of allowing public access (even on a very limited basis) against the value of preserving a local cultural treasure. The Kohler Arts Center's announcement, which caught many by surprise, became the catalyst for a discussion of the ramifications of moving such a site. It is hoped that this event will not only expand public understanding of the particularities of the Nohl situation, but also introduce into the discourse a clearer sense of the recurring preservation issues that surround artist environments: negotiating with neighbors, defining public access, funding preservation, and weighing the impact of cultural loss on our sense of place.

The program will be moderated by Polly Morris of the Public Art Subcommittee of the Milwaukee Arts Board and will begin with an introduction to the artist's work by Debra Brehmer of the Portrait Society Gallery. Speakers include Ruth DeYoung Kohler, director of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center; Lisa Stone, curator of the Roger Brown Study Collection and adjunct associate professor in the Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism, both at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago; preservation architect Matthew Jarosz; and local historian John Gurda.

Presentations & Presenters (in order of appearance)

Debra Brehmer: A Yard of One's Own: A Tour of Mary Nohl's Art Environment

Brehmer will take a brief look at the environment Mary Nohl built inside and outside her Beach Drive home over a period of more than forty years. Brehmer has a master's degree in Art History, and wrote her thesis on Mary Nohl. She is the owner and director of Portrait Society Gallery and teaches part time at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design.

Lisa Stone: Women's Work: Mary Nohl and Her "Fellow" Environment Builders

Following a brief introduction to the significance of vernacular environments in our cultural landscape and the imperative to preserve the best examples, Stone will present an overview of environments built by women––most of which are no longer extant––to position Mary Nohl's work within this context. Stone's research and teaching focus on the preservation and interpretation of artist’s environments and collections, and the relationship of objects to creative practice. Since the early 1980s she has worked on the documentation and preservation of environments by artist/builders whose works are home and garden-based, who ignore or dissolve boundaries between home and studio, life and art. She works with Don Howlett on preservation planning and project implementation for their company Preservation Services, Inc.

Matthew Jarosz: Issues in Historic Preservation

Matthew Thomas Jarosz, Associate Adjunct Professor in the School of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, is best known for his architectural design work related to historic preservation. By combining his teaching and research with his involvement in community preservation projects, he has provided extensive opportunities for students to apply and expand academic learning. His private practice, JaroszLynch Architects, has offered students important hands-on education in the matter of professional preservation activities.

John Gurda: The Importance of Context

Since the 1970s, historic preservation has grown from a value-added element--nice but not necessary--to a cornerstone of civic planning. There have been losses, certainly, but there is also a new and broadly shared awareness of the importance of the past in our present. What's too often missing in the preservation discussion is a concern for context. No landmark exists in a vacuum. Each is embedded and embodied in a particular landscape that is integral to comprehending its story and understanding its importance. Gurda will illustrate the general principle with examples from Milwaukee's built environment. Gurda is a Milwaukee-born writer and historian who has been studying his hometown since 1972. He is the author of nineteen books, including histories of Milwaukee-area neighborhoods, industries, and places of worship. The Making of Milwaukee is Gurda’s most ambitious effort. With 450 pages and more than 500 illustrations, it is the first full-length history of the community published since 1948. Milwaukee Public Television created an Emmy Award-winning documentary series based on the book in 2006. In addition to his work as an author, Gurda is a lecturer, tour guide, and local history columnist for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He holds a B.A. in English from Boston College and an M.A. in Cultural Geography from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Gurda is an eight-time winner of the Wisconsin Historical Society’s Award of Merit.

Ruth DeYoung Kohler: Preserving Artist Environments: Balancing Access and Preservation

Ruth DeYoung Kohler, director of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, will provide a deeper understanding of how the institution works to preserve artist environments, and the many elements that contributed to the board's decision to move the Mary Nohl Art Environment from its original location. Kohler has been director of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center since 1972.

Conference Stories | Plum Island Life-Saving and Light Station – Door County, WI

The following excerpt was presented by the Wisconsin Trust for Historic Preservation at the 2013 Local History and Historic Preservation Conference in early October. This excerpt is the eighth and final post in a series of stories we have published to the WTHP blog over the last month. Please check back oin our archives for more. You can find the whole series here.


Plum Island is located halfway between Washington Island and the tip of Door County in the Port des Morts passage. In 1848, the 325-acre island was reserved from the public domain for lighthouse purposes. In 1896, Congress authorized funds to construct a new keeper’s quarters, range lights, fog signal building, and life-saving station on Plum Island. The Coast Guard operated the facilities on the island until 1990. In 2007, the island was transferred to the US Fish and Wildlife Service as part of the Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Friends of Plum and Pilot Island (FOPPI) was established to provide stewardship for the island’s architectural resources. The entire island was listed as a National Register Historic District in 2010.

This past summer, FOPPI restored the life-saving station’s nearly collapsed front porch. Other work in progress includes an engineering study of the dock, the break wall, and the boathouse. This study was funded by a Wisconsin Coastal Management grant with an in-kind match from FOPPI. FOPPI also received a grant to hire a strategic planning consultant to assist with the establishment of a five-year plan of action. A special ceremony is planned for Spring 2014, when Plum Island is opened to the public for the first time.

Conference Stories | Hospital Building at Wisconsin Veterans Home – King, WI

The following excerpt was presented by the Wisconsin Trust for Historic Preservation at the 2013 Local History and Historic Preservation Conference in early October. This excerpt is the seventh in a series of eight stories we will publish to the WTHP blog over the next few weeks. Please check back often for more. You can find the whole series here.


The Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs plans to demolish the 1929 Hospital Building on the campus of the Wisconsin Veterans Home at King for the construction of a new 200-bed skilled nursing facility. The building, designed by Arthur Peabody, is listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places. The Wisconsin Veterans Home was established by the Grand Army of the Republic in 1888 on the shores of Rainbow Lake, part of Waupaca’s Chain O’ Lakes. Arthur Peabody was born in Eau Claire in 1858 and was campus architect for the University of Wisconsin – Madison from 1905 to 1915. He became state architect of Wisconsin in 1915 and designed a number of Madison landmarks, including the Wisconsin State Office Building, the UW Memorial Union, Camp Randall Field House, and the university’s Carillon Tower.

Conference Stories | Rothschild Pavilion – Rothschild, WI

The following excerpt was presented by the Wisconsin Trust for Historic Preservation at the 2013 Local History and Historic Preservation Conference in early October. This excerpt is the sixth in a series of eight stories we will publish to the WTHP blog over the next few weeks. Please check back often for more. You can find the whole series here.


In 2000, Rothschild’s Halls, Parks, and Grounds Committee recommended that the 1911 Rothschild Pavilion be demolished and replaced with a smaller building. One of the outstanding features of the pavilion is its 6,725 square foot dance floor. Constructed of 1 ½” inch strips of maple, the entire floor is supported by 24 large railroad springs with steel plates affixed on each end. These springs give the vast floor flexibility and strength, while providing a wonderful surface for dancing. In 2002, citizens concerned about the fate of this National Register-listed community treasure formed the Rothschild Pavilion Preservation Committee (RPPC). The RPPC contacted the Wisconsin Trust for Historic Preservation and the Trust placed the building on that year’s Ten Most Endangered Historic Properties list. Thanks to the efforts of the RPPC and the support of the community, the building was restored and once again made available for community and private events. The RPPC’s ongoing mission is to promote cooperation for the benefit of preserving the Rothschild Pavilion and to provide charitable assistance and support for planning, preserving, and promoting the Pavilion. The Village of Rothschild adopted a Pavilion Park Master Plan in January 2013, with a guiding principle to preserve and enhance the 26 acre park’s historic architectural and landscape features.

Download the PDF of this story here