Villa Terrace Decorative Art Museum in Milwaukee



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Portico of the Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum in Milwaukee WI
Portico of the Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum in Milwaukee WI

Perched on a the high bluff near Lake Park in Milwaukee, with unobstructed views of Lake Michigan, Villa Terrace was built as the home of A.O. Smith president Lloyd Smith. Today it is a public museum of decorative arts. It is open to the public for tours and browsing rooms which have been repurposed to art galleries. Villa Terrace is a Milwaukee landmark, recognizable from the lake front and Lincoln Memorial Drive by its signature Scaletta d'Aqua - a waterfall cascading down a staircase descending the bluff. 



View from the dining room at Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum in Milwaukee WI
View from the dining room at Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum in Milwaukee WI



Most people who visit Milwaukee's Villa Terrace come to see inside a gilded age mansion. The neighborhood is elite, but charming. The views of Lake Michigan and the Lincoln Memorial pleasure drive from the Terrace d'Luna are unrivaled. But, the home today is more than just a historic home and garden tour; it is a museum of decorative art. Some of the upper rooms are dedicated to rotating exhibits while others to permanent collections.

Villa Terrace is designed in the Italianate style. Beyond the Italianate features it is modeled after Italian Renaissance country homes or ... villas. The front facade of the home is modest; you'll enter at street level through an arched gateway into an open air atrium. This begins the progression of the typical Roman residence. A stature of Hermes and fountain replace the impluvium. A herringbone patterned brick floor leads through the portico around this front garden.

On entering the home you'll be drawn to the great hall. A unique feature of Villa Terrace is the pecky cypress ceilings. These cypress beams first became popular in the late 1800's. They are harvested from marshes and swamps in the Southern United States. There are various explanations for what is responsible for causing the irregular holes in the wood, but the general consensus is that it is caused by a fungus. Decorative painting was added to the cypress beams in the great hall, while the beams are white washed in the dining room.

On a nice day, you'll want to step out onto the patio (Terrace d'Luna). The gardens that terrace down the steep Milwaukee lake bluff are the star of the show at Villa Terrace. In this case, the landscape design informed the style of architecture for the home rather than the other way around. Flowering crabapple trees form lines and descend the terraced bluff to form what is referred to as the Bride's Garden. At the bottom you'll find all the trimmings of a Renaissance garden: roundels, statues of gods and goddesses related to fertility and agriculture, Armstrong maples, a fish pond, the Neptune Gate, a small Roman temple, obelisks, and more.

Back in the home on the second floor you'll find the galleries while some of the rooms are preserved for their historical value. Painted designs on the walls (fresco) and custom designed wall paper reinforce the decorative arts as central to this museum.

The Villa Terrace is a popular location to be rented for events and weddings. As a result, it is difficult to know when it will be open to the public. Before you go, make sure to call to check for conflicting events. Typically, the museum is open 1pm-5pm Wednesday through Sunday ... but this schedule can vary greatly. Adult admission is $7.



View into the main hall at Villa Terrace in Milwuakee WI
View into the main hall at Villa Terrace in Milwaukee WI

Directions and Map


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Address for your GPS: 2220 N Terrace Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53202
| coordinates: 43.057628, -87.881019 |

From Milwaukeen/a
From Madison1.5 Hours
From Green Bay2 Hours
From Wausau3 Hours
From Minneapolis5 Hours
From Chicago1.5 Hours


Photos


Courtyard at Villa Terrace Museum of Decorative Arts in Milwaukee WI
Courtyard at Villa Terrace Museum of Decorative Arts in Milwaukee WI


Portico of the Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum in Milwaukee WI
Portico of the Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum in Milwaukee WI

Landscape Architecture at Villa Terrace Museum of Decorative Arts in Milwaukee WI
Landscape Architecture at Villa Terrace Museum of Decorative Arts in Milwaukee WI

Jupiter Gate at Villa Terrace Museum of Decorative Arts in Milwaukee WI
Jupiter Gate at Villa Terrace Museum of Decorative Arts in Milwaukee WI

Portico at Villa Terrace Museum of Decorative Arts in Milwaukee WI
Portico at Villa Terrace Museum of Decorative Arts in Milwaukee WI


Wall Paper at Villa Terrace Museum of Decorative Arts in Milwaukee WI
Wall Paper at Villa Terrace Museum of Decorative Arts in Milwaukee WI

Wall Paper at Villa Terrace Museum of Decorative Arts in Milwaukee WI
Wall Paper at Villa Terrace Museum of Decorative Arts in Milwaukee WI

Metal Worked Grille at Villa Terrace Museum of Decorative Arts in Milwaukee WI
Metal Worked Grille at Villa Terrace Museum of Decorative Arts in Milwaukee WI

Courtyard at Villa Terrace Museum of Decorative Arts in Milwaukee WI
Courtyard at Villa Terrace Museum of Decorative Arts in Milwaukee WI

Herringbone Brick Pattern at Villa Terrace Museum of Decorative Arts in Milwaukee WI
Herringbone Brick Pattern at Villa Terrace Museum of Decorative Arts in Milwaukee WI

Pecky Cypress Ceiling  at Villa Terrace Museum of Decorative Arts in Milwaukee WI

Ceiling at Villa Terrace Museum of Decorative Arts in Milwaukee WI
 Pecky Cypress Ceiling at Villa Terrace Museum of Decorative Arts in Milwaukee WI

Library at Villa Terrace Museum of Decorative Arts in Milwaukee WI
Library at Villa Terrace Museum of Decorative Arts in Milwaukee WI

Front entrance at Villa Terrace Museum of Decorative Arts in Milwaukee WI
Front entrance at Villa Terrace Museum of Decorative Arts in Milwaukee WI


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