By Melissa Rigney Baxter
There’s only so much that can be taught in an architecture classroom.
So Matt Jarosz, a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee professor, took his students to Bay View to give them a greater understanding of the history behind buildings.
“You need real buildings,” he said. “We’re always looking for opportunities.”
Sixteen architecture students in Jarosz’s preservation studio course conducted an intense study of the Beulah Brinton House, headquarters of the Bay View Historical Society. Students followed the standards of the Historical American Buildings Survey in photographing, measuring and recording information about the 1872 Gothic Revival home.
“When you get into the area of historical preservation,” Jarosz said, “you need a project that is pertinent, timely and happening in the community right now.”
The documentation will be kept in the Library of Congress and entered into the Charles E. Peterson Prize competition, a national contest sponsored by the National Park Service, the Athenaeum of Philadelphia and the American Institute of Architects.
For the Bay View Historical Society, the students’ work is the cornerstone of a planned restoration of the house. The organization just began a three-year capital campaign to renovate the historic property, and the information documented by the students is a crucial starting point, said Kathy Mulvey, president of the historical society.
Working on a class project that affects people outside of the class was motivating, said Colin O’Donoghue, 23, a first year graduate student at UW-Milwaukee who participated in the project.
“They were really appreciative,” he said of the historical society members. “It’s really clear they hold this building dear to their heart and to Bay View.”
Beulah Brinton and her husband, Warren, owned the house when Warren Brinton was a supervisor for the Milwaukee Iron Co., according to information from the Bay View Historical Society. Beulah Brinton welcomed to her home the families of the company’s immigrant workers, teaching the women homemaking skills and English and letting the children use her tennis court and Bay View’s first library, which was part of the house, according to the historical society.
“She was an incredible person,” Mulvey said. “She opened her home and really affected the way Bay View developed. The immigrants became a part of the community and helped create the diverse composition of today.”
For some students, such as O’Donoghue, the Beulah Brinton House survey solidified an interest in historic preservation.
“It’s pretty obvious and apparent the students seem re-energized,” Jarosz said.
Learning about the historic structure beyond the bricks and mortar was a great learning experience, he said.
“Many students have a latent interest,” Jarosz said, “and when they learn the history of the things around us, when they hear the stories of the people who built them, it takes on a different meaning.”