Milwaukee County War Memorial Center
The Milwaukee County War Memorial Center, built in 1957, is located next to Lake Michigan east of downtown Milwaukee. Its mission is to honor all those who have served in the U.S. Armed forces. Standing memorials at the center are dedicated to veterans from World War I through the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. One of these is dedicated to all those who died in the September 11, 2001 terror attacks and in the wars that followed; it features a steel beam from one of the World Trade Center towers. The center also houses a toy soldiers collection and war posters collection. The Center and the Milwaukee Art Museum are located in the same building, with the upper portion housing the center and the lower containing the museum. The museum has expanded over the years, extending beyond the original building.
Backstory and Context
After World War II, a professional women's group and another organization called the Milwaukee Civic Association spearheaded the drive to build a memorial center and art museum (in the same building), and a performing arts center. An organization called the Memorial Corporation collected the funds and hired Finish architect Eero Saarinen to design the entire complex, which can be seen in one of the accompanying photographs.
After seven years of debate about the location for the complex, the memorial center and art museum building was constructed in 1957 and dedicated “To Honor the Dead by Serving the Living.” The performing arts center was never built due to lack of funds. Over 70,000 individuals raised $2 million for the project. The center’s offices are located in the structure that rests on several piers, allowing for the public to visit the memorial court and enjoy the views the lake.
The court contains a reflecting pool with an eternal flame in it. Above the pool are four mosaic panels, designed by artists Edmund Lewandowski, depicting the insignias of the Army, Marines, Air Force, and Navy. In 1959, Lewandowski also constructed a large mosaic containing 1.4 million glass pieces that was installed on the western facade of the center. The mosaic shows Roman numerals that represent the beginning and end dates of World War II and the Korean War. In 1975, the Art Museum expanded its gallery spaces with an addition designed by David Kahler, which extended the museum towards the lake. The center is currently restoring the memorial courtyard.
"About the War Memorial Center." War Memorial Center. Accessed March 9, 2015. http://warmemorialcenter.org/about.