Milwaukee’s Polish community recently celebrated the opening of its $3.6 million cultural center, a building that was several years in the making.
The Polish Center of Wisconsin, located on 44 acres in Franklin, a southwestern Milwaukee suburb, opened its doors for its donors on August 26 and continues to celebrate their ‚dream realized’ with a series of events, including the Polish Ball on October 13.
The idea for a cultural center was hatched during the first Polish Fest in 1981 with the desire to share and celebrate Polish culture year-round. Ground broke for the center in 1999 and a capital campaign has raised almost $2 million, including a $100,000 donation from the Polish Army Veterans Association, a group of 12 WWII veterans, the largest gift from a Polish organization.
The 22,500 square foot facility was designed to replicate a Polish country manor from the 17th and 18th centuries. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee architecture professor Tom Hubka, who has lived in Poland, worked with the architectural firm of Uihlein & Wilson to showcase striking features of Polish architecture.
Center director Cindy Rewolinski says that the goal of the design was to capture the imagination of the guests who visit
„We wanted it to be a cultural experience from the moment they walked through the door,” she said.
A neo-classical entrance gives way to herringbone oak floors, stucco and chandeliers by a Milwaukee lighting company that replicate a Polish antique chandelier. Considered by Rewolinski to be the „jewelry of the building,” each chandelier is topped by a Polish eagle.
Other Polish details include a double gambrel roof and lookouts on the second floor to the rooms below.
Rewolinski has been particularly thrilled with the reaction from guests from Poland to whom she has given tours of the building.
„They have taught me things about this building, she said, such as how the pattern of carpeting is a typical Polish pattern, and that the second floor lookouts are also common feature in Polish architecture.
The praise has confirmed that the building is „on target,” said Rewolinski.
The center will host cultural events such as art and craft exhibits, concerts and films, and offer educational programs in Polish language, history, literature and travel. In addition, Rewolinski hopes to offer ESL courses to Polish immigrants.
„Our mission is cultural and educational,” she said. „And it isn’t just the past. It’s pretty exciting what’s happening in Poland now.” She adds that the center is also working with Milwaukee-area companies doing business in Poland.
A hall is also available for weddings and other formal family, organization or corporate gatherings.
The center will be dedicated on October 13 during the Polish Ball.
For more information on the Polish Center of Wisconsin, call 414/529-8801.