Mitchell Park Domes, Milwaukee, WI

Domes Named to National “Most Endangered Places” List

Prospects for the future Mitchell Park Conservatory have improved considerably since the site was designated a Landslide at-risk landscape by TCLF in March 2016.  There has been considerable media attention and increased public awareness; on October 5, 2016, the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP) named the attraction, known as the Domes, one of its 11 Most Endangered Historic Places for 2016.

The botanical garden’s inclusion on the "endangered places' list was announced at a press conference hosted by the Milwaukee Preservation Alliance (MPA) at the base of the Domes. Speakers and attendees expressed optimism about the future of the Domes given the landscape's newest designation.

Genell Scheurell, Senior Field Officer for NTHP’s Chicago Field Office, called the Domes “stunning examples of midcentury architecture that have also been a key part of community life in Milwaukee for more than 50 years.” Scheurell said NTHP has joined with MPA in “urging Milwaukee County to find a solution that preserves the Domes for the benefit and enjoyment of future generations rather than needlessly sacrifice this unique national treasure.”

County Supervisor Jason Haas, chair of the county board’s parks, energy and environment committee, said “this very significant announcement…should put the brakes on any talk about tearing down the Domes.” He also noted that Domes attendance had been steadily rising in recent years: 240,000 in 2015, up from 187,600 in 2011. Nonetheless, Haas believes there is potential to further promote the Domes as a tourist attraction.

Mitchell Park Domes, Milwaukee, WI
Mitchell Park Domes, Milwaukee, WI - Photo courtesy of Sulfur, 2005

Ian Batista, executive director of the Clarke Square Neighborhood Initiative thinks that challenges facing the Domes are a “golden opportunity.” He hopes the Milwaukee community will “come together across neighborhood, racial, and ethnic lines to build consensus” about stewardship of the attraction that is a major anchor of the Clarke Square neighborhood.

Longtime preservationist and retired history teacher Kathy Kean talked about “reimagining the Domes.” Kean has visions for the Domes as part of several well-linked destinations “in the middle of the city.” She would like to see more well-defined connections and cross-promotion among the Domes, the Urban Ecology Center’s Menomonee Valley center, Three Bridges Park and the Hank Aaron Trail, which borders all the nature-oriented entities.

Adrienne Pierlussi, who hosted a well-attended fundraiser at her pub last spring to build awareness and support for saving Domes, welcomes the national attention brought by being on the NTHP list. She hopes it will increase local appreciation for the Domes’ historic significance.

The annual America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list has “identified historic and important places across America that are threatened by neglect, insufficient funds, inappropriate development or insensitive public policy.” Scheurell noted that of 270 sites named to the list over the past 29 years, fewer than five percent (13 places) have been lost, a sign of how successful the program has been in “galvanizing preservation efforts across the country.”

NTPH invites those who want to learn more about what they can do to support the Mitchell Park Domes and hundreds of other endangered sites at  Those who favor saving the Domes are invited to sign a petition on the site.

National Trust for Historic Preservation website featuring the Mitchell Park Domes
National Trust for Historic Preservation website featuring the Mitchell Park Domes -