Alexander Mitchell’s Belvedere, 1880s
Considered the finest structure of its kind in America, it still stands today at the Wisconsin Club.
The finest remainder of Alexander Mitchell’s estate has to be the splendid gazebo, or more correctly a belvedere. While a few of the minor ornamentations to this one-and-a-half story structure have disappeared over the years, it still remains in its original location, in the front of the grand residence. The Wisconsin Club has done an admirable job in preserving this treasure of Milwaukee 19th century architecture.
Mitchell spared no expense in building his mansion. As the website for the Wisconsin Club notes: “Artists from Europe were commissioned to adorn the interior of Mitchell’s home with elaborate hand carved mahogany woodwork, stained glass, plaster and inlaid tile. The Grand Staircase in the East Hall of the house with its twenty-four lion heads took one craftsman seven years to build. In the Oriental Room (South Lounge), there are over sixteen hundred, hand carved pansies on the ceiling. The walls of the Moorish Room (North Lounge) are covered in embossed leather panels poly-chromed in red, blue and gold arabesques. The Belvedere, built by an Italian woodcarver in 1871, is said to be the finest structure of its kind in the country.”
“The first contemporary records showing the Belvedere occur in two separate documents,” the website notes. “The first of these is a lithograph commissioned by Alexander Mitchell for publication in the 1873 proceedings of the state historical society. The other is a bird’s-eye-view map entitled “Map of Milwaukee, 1872-1873” published by the Milwaukee Lithographic and Engraving Co. This map shows a large octagonal structure on the Mitchell grounds.” More than 140 years later, it still stands there.
Jeff Beutner is a collector of photographs, postcards and stereoviews of old Milwaukee. This column features these images, with historical commentary by Beutner.