building of the week – silurian mineral springhouse
Key Project Information
Address: 700 North Hartwell Avenue, Waukesha WI
Year Built: 1927
Architectural Style: Neoclassical
Historical Use: Springhouse
Silurian spring is one of the few springs still freely flowing in the City of Waukesha. In its heyday, the Silurian Park was in direct competition with Bethesda Springs Park. The spring itself had been in use since 1840 and, following the development of Bethesda in 1868, the property was purchased by the Waukesha Mineral Spring Company and named Silurian Spring after the prehistoric sea which had once covered the area. A landscaped park was developed around the Silurian springhouse and bottling plant, complete with a bath house, pond, roller coaster, bandstand, and the Silurian Casino.
Post Card depicting the original Silurian Springhouse
Following the decline of the Springs Era, the park deteriorated and portions were sold off. The bottling plant failed in the 1920s and the new owner of the property erected the present Silurian springhouse on the site of the old pavilion. Built in 1927, this new octagonal springhouse replaced the 19th-century open gazebo-like building. The small, one story concrete block structure was meant to cap off the well rather than to allow access to it. The majority of other springs in the city have been capped more recently with undecorated concrete block structures.
The Silurian Mineral Springhouse is an architecturally significant example of the Classical period of construction. The individual faces of the hexagonal building feature recessed panels, including mural panels depicting spring related motifs (see below). The walls of the structure are framed by fluting and terminate at a classical frieze, detailed with triglyphs and metopes, beneath a sectional copper roof.1
Water from the Silurian spring was shipped all over the world due to its purity. Although constructed at the end of the Springs Era, the Silurian Springhouse is considered historically significant as a reminder of the importance of the springs to Waukesha, both economically and culturally.2 The copper roof of the structure was restored in 2003. The tile murals on the springhouses’ façade were originally made by the Kraftile corporation and recently underwent significant restoration efforts. For more information on the Silurian Springhouse Terra Cotta Murals, visit the following link: http://www.waukesha-wi.gov/DocumentCenter/Home/View/3142
1Wisconsin Historical Society, Wisconsin Architecture and History Inventory, Silurian Mineral Springhouse, Waukesha, Wisconsin, Reference Number 17000. http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/Content.aspx?dsNav=Ny:True,Ro:0,N:4294963828-4294963814&dsNavOnly=Ntk:All%7cMOOR+MUD+BATHS%7c3%7c,Ny:True,Ro:0&dsRecordDetails=R:HI17000&dsDimensionSearch=D:silurian+spring+house,Dxm:All,Dxp:3&dsCompoundDimensionSearch=D:silurian+spring+house,Dxm:All,Dxp:3