In Miscellaneous Milwaukee, we take a stroll through the aisles of Antiques On Pierce to unearth strange, curious, or valuable Milwaukee artifacts.
ITEM: Mitchell Park Domes postcard
Way back in 2016, a chunk of fallen concrete was discovered in one of the Mitchell Park Domes. Emergency closures, emergency nets, endless task forces and studies, wasted money, ridiculous proposals, calls to “Save The Domes,” and absolutely no actual plans to “Save The Domes” have followed. Will the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors finally agree on a plan to do something with the beleaguered and badly-in-need-of-repair Domes this summer, as promised? We’ll see!
In the meantime, let’s marvel at this old Domes postcard. It’s a beauty!
As you can see, only two of Mitchell Park’s three domes are present here, dating this postcard (or the photograph, at least) to 1966 or early 1967. Construction of the Domes was staggered, you see: the Show Dome was completed in December 1964, the Tropical Dome was completed in February 1966, and the Desert Dome was completed in in October 1967. Also, that sunken garden looks amazing. (It predates the domes, and was joined by an original glass conservatory from 1899 until 1955.)
And yeah, the whole thing is technically called the Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory, but everyone today just calls it The Domes.
“The New Horticultural Conservatory, Milwaukee, Wis. takes shape at Mitchell Park,” reads the back of the postcard. “Plants from all over the world will be on exhibit in it when it is finished. The sunken gardens attract thousands of visitors annually.”
The back of the postcard also reveals an incongruous 1961 copyright, as well as the identity of the postcard creator: Milwaukee’s L.L. Cook Company. “The L.L. Cook Company was founded in 1921 and was one of the two largest postcard publishing companies in Milwaukee, Wisconsin up to the 1960s, producing thousands of postcards with scenes from different cities and states across the country,” explains the Texas State Archives website. It continues:
The L.L. Cook Company bought the other large postcard publisher in Wisconsin, the E.C. Kropp Company, in 1956. The company continued to produce postcards into the 1960s. In 1969 the L.L. Cook Company was sold to the General Aniline & Film (GAF) Corporation and shifted focus from producing postcards to maintaining a photofinishing business. It formally dissolved in 1980.
The company was started by Lloyd Lewis Cook (1887-1972), who first co-founded the Cook Montgomery Company (about 1917-1918) in Minneapolis, along with Harris P. Montgomery. It was popularly known as “Co-Mo Photo”(which was also bought by GAF in 1969). Cook left the company in 1921 to start the L.L. Cook Company in Wisconsin, and its postcards subsequently listed Lake Mills and Milwaukee as addresses for the company. The company produced “real photo postcards,” which refers to an actual photograph printed from a negative directly onto photographic paper for the purpose of being mailed as a picture postcard. The reverse side of the card was printed mechanically with space for the address, message, etc. Real photo postcards differ from printed postcards, where the photographic image is referenced to create a master postcard image and then printed on a printing press.
Lloyd Lewis Cook studied at the University of Wisconsin and was a member of the Phi Delta fraternity. He died on May 17, 1972 and is buried in Rock Lake Cemetery, Lake Mills, Wisconsin.
FYI: The “Plant-itary Orbits” Train Show is on display in the Show Dome through March 26. Check it out!
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• “Plant-itary Orbits” Train Show opens at the Domes January 14
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• Here’s a 160-page business plan that reimagines the Mitchell Park Domes for the next 50 years
• Supervisor Ortiz-Velez: “It is not Milwaukee County’s policy to demolish the Domes”
• Hey Milwaukee: If we want to save the Domes we should probably start going to the Domes