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Thursday, Dec. 10, 2009

The Pabst Mansion

Pictures From a Milwaukee Landmark

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It was a characteristic Milwaukee story from the long, dismal mayoralty of Henry Maier. The Pabst Mansion, a local landmark and jewel of Victorian architecture, was nearly torn down to make space for a parking lot. Fortunately, the tide turned against the wholesale destruction of the city’s architectural heritage by vandals in public office. The Pabst Mansion was saved, restored to much of its original appearance and opened to the public as a museum of a gilded era from Milwaukee’s past.

For many, the color photography by E.C. Landry for The Captain Frederick Pabst Mansion: AnIllustrated History, along with archival illustrations from Old Milwaukee and the mansion’s years as the seat of the city’s Roman Catholic archbishops, will be the main reason for turning the book’s pages. And the pictures are a delight, displaying the beauty of the architecture, the furnishings and the partly restored Pabst art collection.

But pictures can’t tell the entire story. Historian and preservationist John Eastberg wrote the engaging text, giving a concise history of Milwaukee as a brewing capital and the German beer barons who captained the industry. Frederick Pabst actually was a captain, the skipper of a Lake Michigan steamship who married into one of Milwaukee’s earliest brewing families, the Bests.

Unlike the financial wizards of recent years who gambled with the world economy, Pabst and his brand of tycoons were more concerned with building than speculating. The Illustrated History of the Pabst Mansion shows just one of his many enduring gifts to Milwaukee, the city where he made his wealth

John Eastberg talks about the book at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 16 at Boswell Books, 2559 N. Downer Ave.

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