Pabst Mansion’s History, Restoration, and Current State

Captain Frederick Pabst (1836–1904), the man behind the Pabst Beer Company, had the opulent Flemish Renaissance Revival-style home known as the Pabst Mansion constructed in 1892 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in the United States. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 and is now a historic house museum that welcomes visitors.

Background of Pabst Mansion

Frederick Pabst moved to Milwaukee from Thuringia, Germany in 1848 when he was 12. After joining the Goodrich Line steamship company, Frederick worked his way up from cabin boy aboard vessels cruising Lake Michigan to captain in 1857. The young steamship captain wed Maria Best in 1862; Maria’s father owned Best and Company, one of Milwaukee’s biggest brewers. Pabst joined the family business in 1864 and took over as president within a few years. Best & Co., the largest brewery in the United States by 1874, changed its name to the Pabst Brewing Company in 1889.

A home in the Flemish Renaissance Revival style was created by Milwaukee architect George Bowman Ferry for Captain Pabst in 1890. A building permit was issued on June 27, 1890, for the residence that would take two years to construct. A three-story, dignified home with corner quoins, pressed brick siding, terra cotta, and stone carvings was the creation of Ferry. The symmetry and the shaped parapets in front of the gable ends are characteristics of the Flemish Renaissance Revival architectural style. Originally, the inside was divided into a mahogany-decorated men’s parlor on one side and a white enamel-decorated ladies’ parlour on the other.

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From 1892 to 1908, when the Archdiocese of Milwaukee bought the estate, the Pabst family resided there. The Baroque conservatory was relocated to the east side of the Pabst house and converted into the archbishop’s chapel by the archdiocese. Five Archbishops, numerous priests, and nuns resided at the Pabst mansion for the ensuing 67 years.

The mansion was put up for sale by the Archdiocese in 1975 (they had earlier sought to have the big home torn down), hoping that a historic preservation organisation would buy it and restore it to its former splendour. The mansion was bought by Wisconsin Heritages, Inc. in 1978, and same year, in May, it was made accessible to the public. The mansion was supposed to be demolished to make room for a parking structure prior to the purchase. Captain Frederick Pabst Mansion, Inc. was the new name given to Wisconsin Heritages, Inc. in 1998. Daily tours of the mansion are available to the general public.

A series of holiday ads for the Boston Store were filmed at the estate in 1980. The mansion was also briefly seen in the 2008 episode “Happily Ever After” of the television sitcom How I Met Your Mother as the childhood home of the character Robin Scherbatsky.

The Renovation of the Pabst Mansion

The lengthy fight to keep the Pabst Mansion from being demolished was finally successful in the spring of 1978, but challenging years remained as our nascent organization worked to turn the Pabst Mansion into a livable home. In the spring of 1978, local preservationists triumphed in their protracted campaign to prevent the demolition of the Pabst House. When the location first opened as a house museum, there were still challenging years to come as Pabst Mansion, Inc., a young company, tried to make the Pabst Mansion a successful house museum.

Visitors who visited the Mansion that first year were greeted by 20,000 square feet of virtually vacant rooms, many of which had been painted white and renovated with wall to wall white carpeting from the early 1960s.

Pabst Mansion, Inc. secured the purchase of three rooms’ worth of original furnishings that had been utilized by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee during their ownership of the Mansion from 1908 to 1975 not long after it was made available for public visits. These items were later brought back and put in their original places on the first floor. They were made by Milwaukee’s Matthews Brothers (the same company that created all of the paneling and woodwork in the Mansion).

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Captain and Mrs. Pabst hired Milwaukee society photographer Simon L. Stein in 1897 to take at least two pictures of several of the interior areas of the Mansion. The Pabst children received albums made from these photos as a keepsake from their childhood home. One of these albums was purchased by Pabst Mansion, Inc. in the middle of the 1980s, which helped to solve several puzzles regarding the Mansion’s original interior design and ornamentation.

The record has been utilized over the past 30 years to identify furnishings and other items still owned by the Pabst family that were first placed in their ancestral home as well as to repair the interior rooms of the house. To far, more than 600 unique items have been brought back to the Pabst Mansion and are now on display for everyone to appreciate.

Over a number of distinct projects, the Pabst Mansion’s rooms have been restored to reflect their original 1892 design. The restoration of the home began with the dining room in 1984 and moved on to include the music room, Mrs. Pabst’s parlour, Captain Pabst’s study, servants’ dining room, butler’s pantry, grand staircase hall, Emma Pabst’s bedroom, and the master suite. Most significantly, the exquisite bedroom suite that was previously assigned to Captain and Mrs. Pabst’s granddaughter, Elsbeth Pabst, is currently undergoing restoration in the Mansion.

The Pabst Mansion’s façade has also had extensive upkeep in addition to the inside, which has undergone a stunning restoration. Millions of dollars have been spent since 1979 on the building’s external limestone, brick, and terra cotta, as well as its historic roof.

The Pabst Mansion Beer Garden

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On July 1, the Pabst Mansion opened its own beer garden. From 1892 to 1908, Capt. Frederick Pabst, who by 1874 had turned the Pabst Brewing Company into the biggest brewer in the country, lived there with his family.

According to a press release, the beer garden will promote “the German spirit of gemutlichkeit,” or hospitality, and allow visitors to “take in” the surroundings in a different way.

Several of the beers that “built Milwaukee” will be included, such as Pabst, Blatz, Schlitz, and Miller. Also, there will be regional specialties from craft breweries and locally produced delicacies.

In 1898, Gustavo Pabst had a home constructed for him. A NGO that supports Hmong women and children will now occupy this building.

But, access to the beer garden is not contingent on participants in a tour or program.

People have the option of taking this unique piece of history in a leisurely setting with friends and family rather than merely choosing a tour or program.

The Pabst Mansion During Christmas

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Although COVID-19 forced the cancellation of last year’s festivities, it reopened in April and is now receiving the full Christmas treatment. Without taking into account planning, it takes 30 employees and volunteers 250 hours to completely deck the halls and more than 35 artificial trees are brought up from the mansion’s basement storage to decorate the rooms.

Christmas at the Pabst Mansion is never the same twice, according to collections curator Jocelyn Slocum. The 23 decorated rooms of the estate undergo annual planning by the staff, which can begin as early as June. A distinct theme is assigned to each room. One of the rooms this year is themed after the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, where a Pabst beer won the coveted “blue ribbon.” Another has a military theme and commemorates the memorable holiday homecomings that American troops experienced while on duty.

The Pabst Mansion’s Christmas season kicks off on November 17 with an opening night event to reveal this year’s decorations. The estate will provide the well-liked Twilight Tours, which showcase the illuminated décor at night.

Historic Pabst Mansion Tours

Classic Tours

Guided Tours

  • A 60-minute tour of the Pabst Mansion was given by a docent. When touring the first through third floors, visitors discover information about the Pabst Mansion, the Pabst family, and specifics about the house’s design and furniture.

Self-Guided Tours

  • With the aid of a self-guide booklet and docents on hand in the exhibition spaces to field questions, visitors can tour the Pabst Mansion at their own speed.
  • Available in English, Spanish, German, and French.

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Specialty Tours

Tours of Sunday Mimosas

Happy Sunday morning, everyone! On a tour of Captain Frederick Pabst and his wife Maria’s magnificent residence, you can enjoy champagne in elegance while admiring it.

The Blue Ribbon Happy Hour Tours

The resonating theme of this adult-only tour will be beer, as a central identity marker of the Pabst family, through presenting the tale of the growth of the brewing business in Milwaukee and how Pabst Blue Ribbon was once the top-selling beer in America. The tour, which takes place on the first floor of the Mansion, includes a PBR salute to the Captain in typical happy hour style!

Tours of the Pabst Mansion’s Art

See the world of the Pabsts’ Gilded Era aesthetics through the complex prism of the museum’s artistic holdings. Few people are aware that Captain Pabst and his wife Maria were among the most important 19th-century art collectors in the Midwest. They are more commonly known for the brewery that carries their names.

The artwork in the Pabst Mansion now is made up of works that were once hung in the Pabst family’s home, works that the Pabst bought for commercial properties, and pieces that came from the collections of other well-known Milwaukee families. This specialized tour investigates the influences that social standing, personal preference, and cultural display had on this magnificent collection.

Behind-The-Scenes Tours

Have you ever wondered what lies beyond the standard Pabst Mansion tour? This is your chance to see inside the spaces hidden by cords and closed doors. For those who simply want to view the entire house, from the basement to the attic, here is an extensive tour! 10 people maximum per tour.

Family-friendly Tours with Guides

Families with young children can take advantage of a shortened, half-hour guided tour, called the Family-free Tour, which is free for all kids.

Also, people ask:

Is the Pabst Mansion tour worth it?

The tour guide was worthwhile. A wealth of information regarding the Pabst family and the mansion itself was provided by our volunteer. Several private details were revealed, which helped us comprehend the background and development of the family and their Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.

Can you take pictures at the Pabst Mansion?

By entering the Pabst Mansion, you provide permission for the Pabst Mansion to take pictures, video, or audio of you for legitimate general or promotional use. You hereby assign all rights and copyrights to the aforementioned images and/or recordings to the Pabst Mansion.

Can you stay in the Pabst Mansion?

The Pabst Mansion is open for rentals throughout the year, with the only regular blackout days happening in early/mid-November and early January during the setup and removal of the Christmas display.

Where do you park for the Pabst Mansion?

The Pabst Mansion (2000 West Wisconsin Avenue) and the building across the street at 2023 West Wisconsin Avenue both have a limited amount of parking.

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