History and Heritage in Milwaukee
Many thanks to Jeannine Sherman, Public Relations Manager for VISIT Milwaukee for this contribution to our Historical and Heritage Travel: Journeys Through Time series.
Milwaukee City Hall
This historic building is an example of classic Flemish Renaissance architecture. Upon its completion in 1895, City Hall was the third largest building in America, exceeded only by the Philadelphia City Hall and New York City’s Pulitzer Building. On April 5, 2005 the U.S. Secretary of Interiors signed the official documents designating Milwaukee City Hall as a National Historic Landmark.
An extensive, three year preservation and restoration project of the building was completed in January 2009. This $60 million preservation of one of Milwaukee’s beloved historical landmarks gained national attention and is currently the most historically significant project in the Midwest.
The terracotta, brick, and granite facade has been restored to its original beauty and more than 1,900 windows have been upgraded. The worn, blue-green tower roofs have been refinished to a gleaming bright copper color and shine. Inside, each floor has elaborate ironwork balconies which provide breathtaking views of the 47,000 square feet of marble and mosaic flooring and the 8-story open atrium at the center of the building.
Frederick Pabst Mansion
From the day the house was completed by beer baron Captain Frederick Pabst, this Flemish Renaissance Revival-style mansion was considered the jewel of Milwaukee’s famous avenue of mansions called Grand Avenue.
Representing the epitome of America’s Gilded Age Splendor in Milwaukee, the mansion has been lovingly restored to its Victorian grandeur and is open daily for tours. The history of Milwaukee’s noble brewing families comes alive in rooms filled with exquisite woodwork, antique furnishings, and the original and impressive art collections chosen by Captain Frederick Pabst.
Milwaukee’s jewel box theater was built in the tradition of the grand European opera houses in 1895 by brewing magnate Captain Frederick Pabst and designed by Otto Strack. The Pabst played an important role in the German American culture of early 20th century Milwaukee, when the city was called “Deutsch Athen” (German Athens). A massive, 2-ton Austrian crystal chandelier hangs over the auditorium. The theater also boasts a staircase crafted from white Italian Carrara marble and a proscenium arch highlighted in gold leaf, which frames the stage.
The fourth oldest continuously operating theater in the U.S., the Pabst hosts approximately 100 events per year, including music, comedy, dance, opera, and theater events. A one-hour public “Behind-the-Scene” tour is offered on Saturdays at noon, show schedule permitting.
Old World Wisconsin
Old World Wisconsin is the nation’s largest outdoor living history museum. It takes visitors back in time to explore the lives of immigrants and the rural heartland of Wisconsin. The museum includes more than 50 restored structures, including ethnic farmsteads, and rural outbuildings, and a crossroads village with traditional small-town institutions.
Costumed interpreters serve as guides throughout the museum and represent the different ethnic groups who settled in Wisconsin. Learn about the lives of the Bohemian shoemaker, the Norwegian wagon maker, the Welsh shopkeeper and the Irish laundress and how Wisconsin was shaped by these diverse European influences.
Charles Allis Art Museum
Charles Allis Art Museum is an elegant 1911 Tudor-style mansion museum with period rooms, original furnishings and worldwide art collection spanning 2,000 years. Year round, the museum has changing exhibits, concerts, and programs in its Great Hall and English Garden.
This Italian Renaissance-style villa, designed and built by architect David Adler in 1923, was originally the residence of Milwaukee Industrialist Lloyd Smith of the A.O. Smith Corporation. The Villa Terrace features fine and decorative arts dating from the 15th to the 18th centuries, wrought-iron masterpieces by Cyril Colnik and a formal garden. The terrace in back of the house overlooks the garden and its scenic “water stairway” — the classic Scaletta d’Aqua — flowing down past three terraces to Lake Michigan.
St. Joan of Arc Chapel
Originally known as the Chappelle de St. Martin, this remnant of 15th-century France was removed stone by stone from Chasse, France, to New York in 1927 and transferred to Marquette’s Central Mall in 1966. The chapel is considered an outstanding example of medieval architecture with its simple, pure Gothic lines crowned by a steep roof and towering spire.
North Point Lighthouse
The North Point Lighthouse is an architectural and historic treasure, located in one of Milwaukee’s oldest public parks. First established in 1855, North Point sits on a high bluff in beautiful Lake Park with a 360-degree view of Lake Michigan and Milwaukee’s skyline. It remained operational until its deactivation in 1994 but is now open for visitors to climb and have a birds-eye-view of the city. It stands 74 feet high and its keeper’s quarters houses exhibits focusing on Milwaukee’s maritime heritage.
Milwaukee Public Library
The Milwaukee Public Library opened its doors to the public on October 3, 1898. This imposing structure is a combination of French and Italian Renaissance styles built of Bedford limestone. The hand-carved, limestone staircase was the focus an $8.3 million restoration in recent years and is a work of art. The library is a must see in exploring Wisconsin library history.
National Soldiers Home Historic District
National Soldiers Home Historic District is located on the grounds of the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center and includes the majority of Wood National Cemetery, nearly 90 acres of historic grounds, and 25 post-Civil War era buildings. The soldier’s home is one of three original federal homes created as a result of legislation signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1865. Milwaukee is the only one of the three whose original home (domiciliary) and recuperative village remain.
The Basilica of St. Josaphat
The Basilica of St. Josaphat is a Minor Basilica created by Pope Pius XI in 1929. The Basilica is a place of pilgrimage and special devotion, a center of historic significance for the Faith, and it is architecturally and artistically qualified for such an honor. Patterned after St. Peter’s in Rome, it has all the elements of a classical Romanesque basilica. It is recognized by the city of Milwaukee as an officially designated landmark.