Check out a few of the interesting facts about the Mitchell Park Domes:

  • The Domes was designed by Donald L. Grieb, a nationally-recognized Milwaukee architect, who beat out 32 other architects from around the world.
  • Construction was staggered over several years. The Show Dome was completed in December 1964, the Tropical Dome in February 1966 and the Desert Dome in October 1967. First Lady Mrs. Lyndon B. (Lady Bird) Johnson dedicated the facility to the people of Wisconsin in 1965.
  • About 200,000 visitors from over 100 different countries visit The Domes annually (about half are from Milwaukee County).
  • The Domes is unique in many ways: one example is the amount of space dedicated to a non-permanent collection. About half of the space in the Show Dome transitions five times a year. The Show Dome was designed in this way to ensure that Milwaukee-area residents have a reason to visit time and time again.
  • About 3,000 area youth participate in a field trip at The Domes each year.
  • The green roof on top of the Ed Center provides energy efficiency by helping keep the building warm in the winter and cold in the summer.
  • There are seven full-time horticulturists, and other support staff who care for both the indoor and outdoor gardens and the green roof.

  • The “Gifts Under Glass” Gift Shop is operated by Friends of The Domes to generate funding for educational programming.

  • Two full-time and one part-time Friends of The Domes Educators run all education programming for adults, families and students.

  • There are six state-of-the-art greenhouses that are connected to the back side of The Domes. These were placed on the property in 2011.

Technical Specs

The Domes is an entire acre under glass; each dome is 140 feet across by 85 feet high (7 stories); 750,000 cubic feet.
The world’s only conoidal (not geodesic) glass house; the unique shape allows a better angle for solar heating and more height for tall trees.
The Domes has a concrete frame with aluminum guttering and glass skin.
There are 2,200 triangular panes of 1/4″ thick wire-embedded glass is in each dome.
Four one-million BTU low-pressure boilers fueled with natural gas heat The Domes. There is also a fuel oil backup system.
A fan system around the base and at the top of each dome keeps them cool. A complete air exchange is done in 3-1/2 minutes.
A maintenance elevator is suspended inside the top of each dome and can be lowered to within a few feet of the floor.
Beneficial insects are strategically introduced to control pest populations in all three domes as well as the greenhouses.
The plants in The Domes are watered by hand every day. City water is pumped in to a water tank and then heated. The Tropical Dome also makes use of an extensive misting system. There is a water reclamation process that allows rainwater to be used to water plants throughout all six functioning greenhouses.

Various species of birds, frogs, fish and lizard live in the Tropical and/or Desert Dome. Beneficial insects live in all three domes.

Canary Island Date Palm in the Tropical Dome. This is an original planting in the dome.
The Madagascar collection in the Desert Dome.


Spring Show: Abstracting Georgia O’Keeffe
DATE: March 30 – May 27, 2024

Video: Christa Beall Diefenbach, Executive Director of Friends of the Domes, presents solution for the future of the Domes to the Rotary Club of Milwaukee

Grooving Under Glass: September 26, 2024 


Our Beloved Mitchell Park Domes Video