The John Plankinton mansion was originally built by James Rogers in 1856. Upon his death, John Plankinton acquired the home in 1863, did extensive remodeling and brought the value of the home up to $200,000. The mansion was known as “the most expensive and elegant private residence in Milwaukee if not the entire Northwest”. John Plankinton made his fortune in the meatpacking business and was also involved with many philanthropic organizations in the Milwaukee community. He had two children, William and Elizabeth, whom he also built homes for. Mr. Plankinton lived in the home from 1865 until his death in 1891. William’s mansion was right next door and Elizabeth’s was across Wisconsin Avenue. The John Plankinton home, along with William’s and seven acres of land, were all sold to Marquette University in 1918 on the condition that they should be destroyed by 1920. However, the university found a loophole in the contract and was able to keep and utilize both mansions. John Plankinton’s mansion became first, Marquette University’s College of Music and in later years, the College of Speech. The mansion included many spectacular features such as bamboo trimmed paneling and other elaborate woodwork, a mahogany elevator, stained glass windows, marble floors, gold plated doorknobs and tremendous crystal chandeliers. These features at one time made the mansion the grandest residence in Milwaukee. The outdoors featured a seven acre landscaped park and a fountain guarded by lions, in front of the home, where Marquette University’s engineering building now stands. The John Plankinton mansion was demolished by Marquette University, in 1975, to make way for the school’s campus expansion plan.
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