Pabst Mansion


The long battle to save the Pabst Mansion from demolition was won in the spring of 1978, but difficult years would still lie ahead as our fledgling organization sought to make the Pabst Mansion a viable house museum.  Twenty-thousand square feet of essentially empty rooms, many of which had been painted white and refurbished with wall-to-wall white carpeting dating to the early 1960s, greeted guests who toured the Mansion that first year.  Fortunately, almost all of the Pabst Mansion’s spectacular woodwork still retained its 1892 finish, instilling a sense of hope for the home’s future restoration.

Shortly after the Mansion opened for tours, our organization was able to negotiate the purchase of three rooms of original furniture that had been used by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee when they owned the Mansion from 1908 to 1975.  These pieces, crafted by Milwaukee’s Matthews Brothers (the same firm that executed all of the paneling and woodwork in the Mansion), were eventually returned and placed in their original locations on the first floor.

In 1897, Captain and Mrs. Pabst commissioned Simon L. Stein, a Milwaukee society photographer, to photograph at least two views of many of the Mansion’s interior spaces.  Albums were made of these photographs and given to the Pabst children as a memento of their family home.  In the mid-1980s, our organization acquired one of these albums, unlocking many mysteries as to the original furnishing and decoration of the Mansion.  Over the last thirty years, that album has been used not only to restore the interior rooms of the house, but also to identify furnishings and objects still held by the Pabst family that were originally placed in their ancestral home.  To date, over 600 individual objects have returned to the Pabst Mansion and are on display for our visitors to enjoy.

The Pabst Mansion’s rooms have been restored through a series of separate campaigns that focused on individual spaces.  Beginning with the Dining Room in 1984, the restoration of the house has progressed through the Music Room, Mrs. Pabst’s Parlor, Captain Pabst’s Study, Servants’ Dining Room, Butler’s Pantry, Grand Stair Hall, Emma Pabst’s Bedroom, and the Master Suite.  Today several areas of the Mansion are currently under restoration, most importantly, the elaborate bedroom suite once assigned to their granddaughter, Elsbeth Pabst.

In addition to the magnificent restoration of the Pabst Mansion’s interior, is the maintenance and restoration of the Mansion’s exterior.  Since 1979, millions of dollars have been invested in the exterior limestone, brick and terra cotta, as well as the historic roof of the structure.  Today, with a never-ending series of repairs and meticulous restoration efforts, the Pabst Mansion looks much the way it did in 1892 when the Pabst family first received the keys to their new home.