Lloyd R. Smith House

Also known as: Villa Terrace Museum of Decorative Arts
2220 N. Terrace Ave., Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Styled in the fashion of Villa Cicogna Mozzoni in Lombardy, Italy by noted Chicago Architect, David Adler


The Gardens

Villa Terrace (as it is known now) is on the top of the bluff that is a feature of the west shore of Lake Michigan. The gardens are a stunning component of this beautiful mansion, once the home of Lloyd Smith, president of A.O. Smith.

Photo taken by J.R. Manning




Inspired by Italian Renaissance villas, this attractive, well-preserved building, for forty years a private residence and now a public museum, is an admirable example of the traditional architecture built in this century and of the work of Chicago architect David Alder. Its setting is also noteworthy: The Smith house stands on a terraced, landscaped bluff overlooking Lake Michigan. -- Historic American Buildings Survey

Sopra Mare, the Home of Lloyd R. Smith 

Written by J.R. Manning

Villa Terrace, as it is now known, was the home of Lloyd Raymond Smith, grandson of the founder of the A.O. Smith Company. (The company was founded by Charles and C.J. Smith, Arthur O. Smith was the son of Charles and father of Lloyd.) After returning from a trip to Italy, Smith commissioned noted Chicago architect David Adler to design a home in the fashion of Villa Cicogna Mozzoni in Lombardy, Italy. (Adler, best known for his designs in the Chicago area, was a native of Milwaukee. He also designed homes in Long Island and Los Angeles. This is his only residential design that was built in Wisconsin.)

The house is built on top of the precipitous Lake Michigan Bluff with an address on Terrace Avenue. It is a part of the North Point South historic district. The brick home is built in three wings that surround a front courtyard. The brick work is painted white, the roof is built of barrel tile in varying shades of red. The numerous gates, railings, fences and window grills are wrought iron.

The ironwork was created by noted Milwaukee artisan, Cyril Colnik, an Austria-born blacksmith who came to Milwaukee to ply his trade. Colnik's work can be seen in numerous places around Milwaukee, many of his masterpieces are on display here, original to the house. Other Colnik items are displayed in the museum, or featured in photographs, as part of the museum collection.

The stunning garden design was created by Rose Standish Nichols of Boston, a noted authority on Italian gardens. She had the challenge of tying the bluff-top home with an entrance and view from Lincoln Memorial Drive. Although none of her drawings of the garden have ever been located, the garden remains virtually unchanged since the 1920s. The double stairway with the fountain is replicated from the Villa Cicogna Mozzoni.

Lloyd R. Smith died in 1947 but his widow continued to use the house until 1966, when she donated it to Milwaukee County for use as an arts museum.

Originally called Sopra Mare, the museum is also a popular venue for weddings. The spectacular views of Lake Michigan, the Italian Villa styling, gardens, breathtaking stairway/fountain, and the unique features of the building are unparalleled.

This sculpture is entitled Hermes and depicts the Greek god, Hermes. Hermes was one of the primary 12 gods of Olympus and the son of Zeus. In Greek Mythology, he was athletic and graceful and is usually seen wearing a hat and winged sandals. He is also sometimes seen with a magic wand, known as a kerykeion (in Latin, caduceus) that is also the symbol of the medical arts. In Roman mythology, Hermes is identified with Mercury.

The eight foot tall statue is made of marble and was sculpted in Italy sometime in the 19th Century by an unknown artisan. It came to the United States around the turn of the 20th Century, purchased by a collector in New York. Somewhere along the line, it was purchased by The Garden Club that commissioned the bronze pedestal with four lion head jets, and put on display of the courtyard at Villa Terrace.

National Register information 

Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on December 30, 1974
Reference number
NR name
Smith, Lloyd R., House
Architectural styles
Victorian: Renaissance; Other architectural type; Italian Renaissance
Areas of significance
Landscape Architecture; Architecture
Level of significance
Evaluation criteria
A - Event; C - Design/Construction
Property type
Historic function
Single dwelling
Current function
Period of significance
Significant years
1923; 1924
Number of properties
Contributing buildings: 1
Contributing sites: 1
Contributing objects: 1

Update Log 

  • September 6, 2013: Essay added by J.R. Manning
  • September 5, 2013: New photo from J.R. Manning
  • June 30, 2013: Updated by J.R. Manning: Corrected status and added photos
  • November 14, 2010: New photos from J.R. Manning