A Manitowoc Adventure

On a sunny, mild day before Thanksgiving, my partner and I headed north to the Lake Michigan port of Manitowoc, Wisconsin in search of seasonal adventures. We found plenty, as described below!

Rahr-West Art Museum

We started our Manitowoc adventure at the Rahr-West Art Museum.

Vilas-Rahr Mansion

Lured by news that the uppermost floor of the Vilas-Rahr Mansion was open to visitors for the first time, we started our day at the Rahr-West Art Museum. The entire mansion was decorated for Christmas, giving us a great opportunity to savor and photograph the plentiful and ornate decorations.

This historic Victorian-style mansion, designed by Milwaukee architects George Ferry and Alfred Class, was built between 1891 and 1893 for Joseph and Mary Vilas. In 1910, Reinhardt Rahr move into the home with his family. In 1941, the Rahr family donated the mansion to the City of Manitowoc to use as a museum and civic center.

About the Rahr-West Art Museum

The Rahr-West Art Museum preserves and enhances its collections in a historic mansion which provides dynamic learning opportunities in the visual arts, and enriches life by serving as a cultural resource. It’s one of the Ten Great Places to See Art in Smaller Cities according to USA Today, and since its founding over sixty years ago, the Rahr-West Museum has been a cultural treasure for Manitowoc.

The Rahr-West Art Museum combines a visitor-friendly atmosphere with a late 19th century Victorian mansion and extends to a 20th century art exhibition wing added by Ruth and John West, who were prominent figures of the shipbuilding industry as owners of Manitowoc Company. The museum collection includes such notables as Picasso, Georgia O’Keeffe, Andy Warhol, and Mary Cassatt. 

Artworks

Besides the Christmas decorations, we also enjoyed artwork displayed as part of the museum’s permanent collection. Here’s a small sample.

Evergleams on Eighth

Background

An Evergleams on Eighth map and event guide explained the phenomenon of Evergleam Aluminum Christmas trees. Eighth is a main street in downtown Manitowoc. The brochure told the story:

Mid-century Manitowoc, WI was known at the Aluminum Capital of the World, most notably for cookware.

In 1959, a new product emerged. The ‘space-aged’ Aluminum Christmas tree was just what the modern family was looking for!

Aluminum Specialty Company, located in Manitowoc, became the market leader with their Evergleam brand, producing over a million trees in the next ten years!

Trees came in five sizes: 2′, 4′, 6′, 7′ and 8′. The most common color being silver, but gold, green, blue/green and the coveted pink were also available. New variations were also introduced, as were complimentary products, such as color wheels and rotating tree stands and wall decor.

As market demand increased, so did competitors, including another one right in Manitowoc, Mirro. In all, over forty other companies produced trees in all price ranges and qualities.

By the mid-1960’s the Aluminum Tree had lost some of its shine, as people decided to get back to basics and observe a less commercialized holiday.

Aluminum Trees were rarely considered ‘collectible’ until 2004 when the book Seasons Gleamings was published and the value was changed again by creating new demand for trees. This event is quite special, and we believe it might possibly be the largest combination of Evergleam Collections in the World.

Evergleam Exhibits

Evergleam Aluminum trees were displayed in over forty different locations in Manitowoc, primarily as window displays in storefronts. The Manitowoc Public Library featured a special indoor exhibit of trees.

Here are photos of the ones we saw.

Manitowoc Public Library

Storefront Trees

Dr. Freud’s Institute of Fine Recordings

By some strange and unexpected confluence of powerful forces, we found ourselves in this fascinating place. It’s hard to find the right words to describe this establishment, part storefront record store and part music museum. Dr. Freud’s has been in business at 925 South 8th. St. in Manitowoc for almost 45 years. The best words I can come up with are vinyl, chaotic, weird, quirky, album, cluttered, and complete. It’s a super emporium of Baby Boomer era music. The Rock and Roll Museum and your average Hard Rock cafe certainly lacks the character and distinction of this place. If you can’t find the piece of music or album you’re looking for here, you’re probably out of luck!

Manitowoc Moments

Odds and ends spotted and photographed around this photogenic port city!

 



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