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Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012

An Artful, Historic Home: The Charles Allis Art Museum

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Charles Allis Art Museum
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Nineteenth-century American and French paintings, Renaissance bronzes, Chinese and Japanese porcelains and antique period furniture—these and many more pieces are included in the Charles Allis Art Museum’s permanent collection. Not only does the museum display and care for these pieces of art and artifacts, but the building itself is an artifact and a historic home.

The Charles Allis Art Museum is named after its original owner, Charles Allis, the one-time president of Allis-Chalmers in Milwaukee. Allis-Chalmers was a very successful industrial manufacturing company.

Alexander Eschweiler, a Cornell-educated architect who designed buildings on North Lake Drive and the North Point Historic District, designed the Allis home. The Tudor-style mansion held the Allis’ large art collection. Eventually, the home was turned over to Milwaukee County to be used for public art education. In 1979, the mansion officially became an art museum, preserving and displaying much of the Allis’ personal and expansive collection.

In 1998, a $1.4 million gift was given to continue the work the Allis family had started. The money was used to build the Margaret Rahill Great Hall, which would allow the museum to greatly increase its space for programming, community events and private rentals.

The museum’s permanent collection can be seen throughout the many rooms in the house, though the artwork is displayed in five main spaces—Mr. Allis’ room, the library, the dining room, the marble hall and the French parlor. In addition to the artwork, the rooms are staged with original furniture and decorations from the Allis’ home. Some unique pieces include a pair of Louis XIV chairs, a 1900 Steinway piano and a bronze eagle made by Japanese artist Maruki for the Tokyo Exhibition in 1882.

The museum also holds exhibitions in the Margaret Rahill Great Hall, many of which feature Wisconsin artists. A trip to the Charles Allis Art Museum is all encompassing: It includes a museum, a historic home, elegant artwork and a piece of local history. When you take a trip to this art museum, you will experience art and history in a whole new way.