The Rahr-West Art Museum in Manitowoc, WI, has completed a major accessibility project and will unveil new elevator access to the Historic Vilas-Rahr Mansion on Wednesday, November 23, 2022. The elevator will allow barrier-free access to the Mansion section of the museum, a National Register of Historic Places site, for the first time in the museum’s 72-year history.
The opening of this six-stop elevator – 4 floors of the Vilas-Rahr Mansion and 2 floors of the connected exhibition galleries – is decades in the making, with previous attempts hampered by architectural and financial limitations. The $1.27M project was spearheaded by Rahr-West Art Museum staff and board, and funded through a Federal Community Development Block Grant with support from the City of Manitowoc. The Rahr-West Art Museum is a City of Manitowoc facility.
The elevator will provide full access to the museum, including the four main floors of the Vilas-Rahr Mansion. This addition will allow for future renovation of the mansion to expand visitor access. The museum plans to open the Mansion’s third floor to the public in future years.
“The addition of this elevator is nothing short of transformative,” said Museum Executive Director Greg Vadney. “It allows us to fulfill our goal of bringing more people more access to more of our collection.” The museum began consultation with Somerville Architects on the elevator project in 2010, but due to budgetary considerations the project was put on hold for nearly a decade. This is the final of many attempts by the museum and the City of Manitowoc to add accessibility features to the 1893 Queen Anne-style Victorian Mansion since it opened in 1950 as the Rahr Museum and Civic Center.
An opening celebration for the elevator will coincide with the City of Manitowoc Holiday Parade, on the evening of Wednesday, November 23. The Rahr-West Art Museum is the end point of the annual parade, and also debuts its holiday “Christmas in the Mansion exhibition. Accordingly, the exhibit of seasonal decoration will also be accessible for the first time ever thanks to the elevator addition. Patrons will also have an early opportunity to visit with Santa, who will be at the museum prior to the Holiday Parade (4:30pm – 6:00pm) and following the parade (approximately 8:30pm).