Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum

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Lloyd R. Smith House
Lloyd Smith House Milw May09.jpg
LocationMilwaukee, Wisconsin
Coordinates43°3′27.6″N 87°52′50.54″W / 43.057667°N 87.8807056°W / 43.057667; -87.8807056Coordinates: 43°3′27.6″N 87°52′50.54″W / 43.057667°N 87.8807056°W / 43.057667; -87.8807056
ArchitectAdlee, David; Nichols, Rose Standish
Architectural styleRenaissance, Other
NRHP reference #74000107 [1]
Added to NRHPDecember 30, 1974

Villa Terrace was built in 1924 for the Lloyd R. Smith family - an Italian Renaissance-style home on a bluff above Lake Michigan. Since 1966 the house and grounds have housed the Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum,[2] it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as Lloyd R. Smith House.


Lloyd Smith (1883-1944) was the president of A.O. Smith Corporation.[3] After returning from a trip to Italy, the Smiths commissioned architect David Adler to design their new home; the architecture and water stairs were inspired by Villa Cicogna Mozzoni (built in the 1560s) in Lombardy, Italy.[citation needed] Smith called the house Sopra Mare, which is Italian for "above the sea."[2] The general form is a rectangle surrounding an open central courtyard. Walls are of red brick that has been painted white; the roof is covered with barrel tile. Inside, the original rooms included a dining room with beamed ceiling of pecky Cyprus wood, a living room with fireplaces and pegged walnut floor, and a library;[4] the ironwork in the home is from the Milwaukee studio of Cyril Colnik,[2] an Austrian-born blacksmith.[5]

The surrounding bluff is landscaped with terraces and formal gardens, a "water stairway," fishponds, and two secret gardens.[6] Rose Standish Nichols is credited with the original landscape design.[4] No record of her plan for the Smith residence has been found.[citation needed]

Lloyd died in 1944. In 1966 the Smith family donated their home to Milwaukee County to serve as a Decorative Arts Museum; some rooms were converted to offices, but the house and grounds changed little with the transition from home to museum.[4] In 1976, a formal planting of sugar maple bosques with privet hedges and white gravel was installed. During the 1990s, The Parks Department suffered severe budget cuts, which resulted in reduced maintenance and decline.[citation needed]

Villa Terrace's art collection features fine and decorative arts dating from the 15th through the 19th centuries, wrought iron masterpieces by Cyril Colnik and changing exhibitions highlighting the decorative arts,[5] it is also the host of a Garden Lecture series, in which attendees are able to learn more about planning and maintenance for their home gardens.[7]

Renaissance Garden[edit]

In 1997, The Friends of Villa Terrace Board committed themselves to restore the gardens at Villa Terrace. Based on the master plan created by Buettner & Associates,[6] volunteers with the Renaissance Garden Club began two years of site clearing in the spring of 1998. Construction of the gardens began in 2000 and continued for two more years. After four years of work, the gardens officially opened to the public in July 2002.[citation needed]


Villa Terrace is a popular site for weddings in Milwaukee. For brides in Milwaukee's changing climate, the views offer something that would otherwise only be attainable by travelling to Europe, its Italian Villa structure, picturesque garden, unique stairways and breath-taking views of Lake Michigan provide Wisconsin brides with scenery they would otherwise not be able to use.[citation needed]

The Villa Terrace, along with the Charles Allis Art Museum, is part of the Milwaukee County War Memorial Corporation.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. March 15, 2006.
  2. ^ a b c "Lloyd R. Smith House (Sopra Mare)". Wisconsin Historical Society. Retrieved 2017-04-27.
  3. ^ "Lloyd R. Smith Dies; Milwaukee Industrial Head". Chicago Tribune. 1944-12-24. Retrieved 2017-04-27.
  4. ^ a b c Mary Ellen Wietczykowski; Donald N. Anderson (1974-08-17). "NRHP Inventory/Nomination: Villa Terrace Museum of the Decorative Arts". National Park Service. Retrieved 2017-04-27. With one photo.
  5. ^ a b "Collections". Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum. Retrieved 2017-04-27.
  6. ^ a b "Renaissance Garden". Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum. Retrieved 2017-04-27.
  7. ^ Demski, Joanne Kempinger (2017-03-16). "Villa Terrace hosts gardening lectures". Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Retrieved 2017-04-27.

External links[edit]