Greetings From Mitchell Park

A postcard history of Mitchell Park, home of the Mitchell Park Conservatory, in Milwaukee.

Mitchell Park lake and pleasure walkMilwaukee County Parks

In the early 20th century postcards were a cheap way of communicating with friends and family. Scenic views of Milwaukee's public parks, such as this view of Mitchell Park, were a popular subject.

These illustrated postcards help tell the history of the park too.

Mitchell Park PavilionMilwaukee County Parks

In 1891, the newly formed Milwaukee Parks Commission purchased the land for what would become Mitchell Park.

Mitchell Park Boathouse postcardMilwaukee County Parks

Early additions to the park included rustic stone fountain, a lagoon and boat house.

Mitchell Park original boathouseMilwaukee County Parks

Boating became one of the first ways the park system could raise money, with boat rental fees set at 10c per half hour.

Mitchell park boatingMilwaukee County Parks

Eventual additions to the boating lake included a permanent boating house and a stone grotto.

Mitchell park grottoMilwaukee County Parks

A view of the grotto and waterfall.

Mitchell park boathouse and grottoMilwaukee County Parks

A view of the boating lake and updated boathouse, with the conservatory in the background.

Mitchell Park conservatory from sunken gardenMilwaukee County Parks

Work on the formal gardens and conservatory began in the late 1890's and completed by June 1, 1899.

At the time the park's commission said "The pavilion, in the opinion of many local florists and horticulturalists, is equal to any of its kind in the country."

Mitchell Park sunken gardensMilwaukee County Parks

The park commissioners were equally proud of the formal gardens too, exclaiming that "no one could imagine that just a few years prior, it was a truck farmer's garden."

Mitchell Park Sunken Gardens postcardMilwaukee County Parks

In 1903 the 'event of the season' was a midsummer night festival in the formal garden, illuminated by thousands of Chinese lanterns, with crowds entertained by an orchestra playing Bach.

Mitchell park gardens looking southMilwaukee County Parks

A view of the sunken gardens facing south towards Pierce Street.

Mitchell park lily pondMilwaukee County Parks

Looking out over the Mitchell Park lily pond.

Mitchell Park Conservatory Interior PostcardMilwaukee County Parks

The conservatory featured a palm garden as well as a wing with seasonal flower shows. Propagation houses were used to grow plants for the other parks and boulevards managed by the commission.

Mitchell Park Horticultural ConservatoryMilwaukee County Parks

A view of a seasonal mum show.

MIT-65 mum flower show postcardMilwaukee County Parks

Interior of the Mitchell Park conservatoryMilwaukee County Parks

A view of a flower show inside the conservatory.

Mitchell park conservatoryMilwaukee County Parks

The conservatory, designed by Henry C. Koch and inspired by England's Crystal Palace. Iron Gates and Brick from the original building are still on display in the Mitchell Park Domes.

Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory sunken gardens postcardMilwaukee County Parks

Color postcards from the 1940s appear to show a change in the design of the conservatory.

MIT-59 formal gardens postcardMilwaukee County Parks

Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory sunken gardenMilwaukee County Parks

As visitor numbers fell in the 1940s and 50s, however, plans were developed to replace the aging conservatory, and the building was razed in 1955.

MIT-71 waterwheel postcardMilwaukee County Parks

The Mitchell Parks Domes opened in 1968, and continued the tradition of seasonal shows.

MIT-72 windmill postcardMilwaukee County Parks

The Show Dome continues to host flower shows with different themes and props for each season.

MIT-63 gazebo postcardMilwaukee County Parks

MIT-73 waterfall postcardMilwaukee County Parks

As well as the Show Dome, visitors can explore a desert dome and a jungle dome, shown in this color postcard.

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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