It’s been a long time since we last visited The Domes in Milwaukee’s Mitchell Park, Wisconsin, but with the better weather now upon us, we thought we’d take a drive up there and see how things are doing.
First, a little bit of history and a few facts and figures. The Domes were designed by Milwaukee architect Donald L. Grieb, and the first of the three domes, The Show Dome, was completed in 1964. First lady Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson dedicated the facility to the people of Wisconsin in 1965. Each dome is 140ft across and 85ft high and has 2,200 triangular panes of glass. No pesticides are used on the plants inside the domes so beneficial birds, insects and toads are used to keep things under control.
The theme for the Show Dome is changed five times a year and it’s usually closed for about two weeks in order to prepare for each show, so make sure you check ahead of time before you visit to make sure it’s up and running. I didn’t think about that before we left home, but we were lucky in our timing. The current theme is Shakespearean with famous quotes from many of his works dotted around the displays.
The colors were brilliant and the perfume from the lilies was intoxicating! These shows may last anything up to fourteen weeks so they require constant attention. The plants are watered by hand every day and are changed out as needed.
Tucked away, in a shady area of the Show Dome is an interesting piece of history. This stone lion was one of eight animal heads that stood watch over the Mitchell Park Sunken Garden and Water Mirror from 1904 to 1966. I’m glad they managed to save him from demolition. I must say that Mitchell Park itself is looking very run-down now compared to how it looked when we visited many years ago but I imagine keeping The Domes looking as impressive as they do must take a lot of funding and the focus has obviously shifted over the years from the outdoor gardens to these magnificent conservatories.
That being said, unfortunately, the future of The Domes seems uncertain. The park’s website has a page dedicated to forthcoming plans and it would seem that they are asking everyone to keep an open mind as far as options for going forward with regard to repairing and rebuilding, which, reading between the lines, doesn’t sound too promising. So I would urge you to visit The Domes now and enjoy this amazing facility and, if possible, show your support for one of Milwaukee’s most beautiful attractions.
More on what’s under the other two domes in an upcoming post.