The Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum includes furnishings and works of art from the 15th through the 18th centuries. The mansion was originally the family residence of Lloyd R. Smith, president of the A.O. Smith Company. It was designed and built in 1923 by renowned architect, David Adler, in the style of a 16th century Northern Italian villa. It was originally called Sopra Mare, which means "Above The Sea."


The newly redesigned Cyril Colnik exhibition is an updated interpretation of the life and work of a late 19th/early 20th century Artisan Blacksmith. The display features the implements of a blacksmith shop, complete with forge, anvil and blacksmithing tools. Also included are reproduction and original photos, drawings and blueprints from our Cyril Colnik Archive. New storyboards lead you through the process of forging and repousse step by step, to help you understand Colnik's fiery creation process. Together with biographical and historical information, this updated exhibition more fully tells the story of this eminent blacksmith who was an integral part of Milwaukee's architectural history.

The Colnik Object Collection donated to the museum in 1991 by Gretchen Colnik, Cyril's daughter, contains more than 200 pieces of ironwork that the artisan blacksmith created over the span of his career. Many of these objects are on display in the permanent collection exhibit. 

Often called the "Tiffany of wrought iron masters," Cyril Colnik (1871-1958) achieved national fame as one of the foremost metal craftsmen of his time. His artistry in cast and wrought iron, as well as other metals, included candelabras, balustrades, decorative panels, fireplace tools and lamps in styles ranging from Baroque to Art Deco.

The Cyril Colnik Archives contain drawings, blueprints and photographs of completed works that span the career of the master ironworker. There are also photographs of Colnik, his family and the Ornamental Iron Shop. The archive was acquired by the Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum in 2002 as a generous gift from the Kohler Foundation.

The Villa Terrace is working with Wisconsin Heritage Online to digitize the entirety of the Colnik Archives in order to provide greater public access, foster research and expand knowledge of Cyril Colnik and his important body of work.

The Wisconsin Decorative Arts Database includes more than fifty images of works by Colnik from the collections of the Villa Terrace.

Dan Naumann of Bighorn Forge in Kewaskum, WI provided a boundless resource of knowledge to the updated collection.  His contribution to this exhibition was of inestimable value.

The wide-pegged floor and beamed Georgia ceiling, decorated with stencil designs, enhance the feeling of the Villa's 16th century Italian design. Oil paintings from 17th, 19th, 20th century German and American artists adorn the walls.

The heavily carved walnut dining table and chairs were designed by David Adler, and made under his direction by craftsmen in Italy to resemble 17th century prototypes. To the west of the dining room is an ante-room containing built-in cabinets, lined with blue and white Dutch tiles.


The paneling in this gallery was copied from a room built at Bromley-by-Bow, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The paneling's design shows the Nordic influence prevalent in early 17th century England. The theme of 17th century England is carried further in the elaborate ceiling design. The walls of the gallery are adorned with Dutch and Flemish oil paintings.

The most outstanding feature of this gallery is the panoramic Züber wallpaper. To print a lush landscape such as the panorama in this gallery, titled Decor Chinois, required the talents of 50 men. A total of 1554 wooden plates were inked in order to apply 192 colors on 24 panels. Multiply that by 50, which was a typical edition, and the task of creating one panorama grows to some 77,000 impressions.

Inspired by master craftsman Cyril Colnik, this wrought iron masterpiece was commissioned in 2000 and brought to fruition through the generous support of the Demmer Group, Lawrence Demmer, Edward U. Demmer Foundation, Mae E. Demmer Chairitable Trust and The Wisconsin Arts Board, The Kohler Foundation, Inc., Mary A. Tingley, and Dennis Buettner. It was designed and wrought by three local, yet nationally known artist craftsmen, Eric Moebius, Daniel M. Nauman, and Thomas M. Latané, creating a regal eastern entrance to the garden from Lincoln Memorial Drive.