If you ask anyone what defines the Milwaukee skyline, the answer will most likely highlight buildings such as the Calatrava addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum and the US Bank Tower. 50 years ago, however, the answer would have been completely different. Since seeing it's completion in 2001, Milwaukee has accepted Calatrava's addition as a city icon and a testament to the city's growth and success, replacing what was once it's premier lakefront destination: the Milwaukee War Memorial Center.
Designed by Eero Saarinen and completed in 1957, the Milwaukee War Memorial Center was the monument of monuments in Milwaukee as it sought out "To Honor the Dead by Serving the Living." Honoring those who had lost their lives in World War II and the Korean War, Milwaukee's take on a memorial stood not only as a tribute to fallen soldiers, but also as a catalyst to the city's cultural revival. As the massive concrete wings of the building draw attention to the site from afar, they create an equally impressive experience as the pedestrian traffic withdrawing from the street passes freely beneath the mass of the structure, taking in views of Lake Michigan. In addressing the goal "To Honor the Dead by Serving the Living," the War Memorial Center was design to serve multiple purposes as it not only housed the memorial, but also the newly formed Milwaukee Art Center. As the Art Center continued to grow, it drew further awareness to the city's cultural presence, ultimately leading to the prominence it possesses today.
Next time you pay a visit to the Milwaukee Art Museum, I encourage you to walk over and explore the War Memorial Center. Now sitting on top of the larger Kahler addition to the museum's galleries, the War Memorial Center has become a dying icon as incoming generations lose sight of who it honored in the first place. With a lakefront presence highlighted by the Calatrava addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum, Discovery World, and the Betty Brinn Children's Museum, it is easy to see the role the War Memorial Center played in introducing a cultural hub to Milwaukee.
Hours of Operation:
8:30 AM-8 PM Every Day
750 N. Lincoln Memorial Drive
Milwaukee, WI 53202