Downtown Milwaukee from the Inside Out
Your tour guide: George Wagner, Doors Open Milwaukee Program Manager
Many visitors to Milwaukee marvel at our rich store of historic downtown buildings. It's easy to construct your own walking tour of our downtown anytime. But on the last weekend of September, architecture and history buffs will be treated to our first annual Doors Open Milwaukee. It will be like getting a backstage pass to a hundred buildings in downtown Milwaukee.
Toronto was the first North American city to sponsor an annual Doors Open event in 2000. In the U.S., New York and Denver have been opening their doors for the last decade. Chicago will debut their first open house three weeks after Milwaukee's.
The idea is simple: one weekend a year, cities open up a large number of buildings for the public to come in and look around, tour areas that are usually closed, or simply feel welcome to peek into buildings that might otherwise be open, but folks just wouldn't feel comfortable going into. Doors Open changes that perception by encouraging visitors to explore their community buildings from the inside out.
So how will it work? On Saturday and Sunday, September 22 and 23, 2012, downtown and nearby buildings will fling their doors open to the public. In many cases short tours of buildings will be conducted by building owners. Visitors will be able to plan their own itinerary at the event website. There will also be a mobile app available.
Printed program guides will also appear a few days before the event in the local weekly, The Shepherd Express, which will be available as a pickup at Doors Open sites and over a thousand free newspaper locations in the Milwaukee area.
Historic Milwaukee, Inc., a non-profit, that has been conducting walking tours for thirty-five years is spearheading Doors Open Milwaukee. Venues that will be especially family friendly include tours of bell towers, professional athlete locker rooms, green roofs, bus repair garages and skyscrapers. Kids' passports will also be available.
Come and admire excellent architecture, old and new: from the ostentatious Second Empire Mitchell Building and the German Renaissance Revival City Hall to Marquette's state of the art Eckstein Hall and Milwaukee School of Engineering new athletic jewel, the Kern Center.
Whisk your way to the top of US Bank's 41st floor observation deck or climb inside the dome roof of Central Library. Check out the locker rooms at the Bradley Center or get a behind the scenes tour at the venerable Pabst Theater. Enjoy produce at the Milwaukee Public Market or visit a place where you can still buy just one screw at historic National Ace Hardware.
Tour Wisconsin's one and only Great Lakes Distillery or learn about our first green certified Hotel Metro. Explore the Streets of Old Milwaukee for free at the Milwaukee Public Museum or admire the recent stunning restoration of St. John's Cathedral.
Architect studios, artisan workshops, old brewery buildings and historic sites like the Newsroom Pub--home to walls of celebrity, politician and journalist autographs--will also open their doors.
Two dozen free but ticketed in-depth tours are also being offered. These will involve historians, architects and local experts, and range from a historic bike ride through the industrial Menomonee Valley to a walk through Yankee Hill led by historian John Gurda; from a tour of the old African American Bronzeville to a discussion of Turner Hall's role in Milwaukee's Socialist Party past. Milwaukee's iconic City Hall will be event headquarters where visitors will be able to pick up tickets to the in-depth tours on event days.
If you can't make it to Milwaukee for Doors Open, a good number of our buildings are open for visiting year-round. Free tours of the beaux-arts beauty of Central Library are given Saturdays throughout the year. Our latest architectural icon, the Calatrava addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum on the lakefront, is always available for perusing. Many buildings in the renovated Historic Third Ward can also be visited anytime. Or take a stroll along our beautiful Riverwalk past many new restaurants and condos.
Other year-round highlights that are usually open include St. Joan of Arc Chapel on Marquette's campus, Milwaukee County Historical Center, Pfister Hotel, Federal Courthouse, and St. John's Cathedral. Along the way, you'll also admire the Plankinton Arcade, Iron Block and Northwestern Mutual buildings.
Historic Milwaukee, Inc. offers walking tours throughout the year, including a daily "Downtown Through the Eras" walk through mid-October, and a cold weather tour of the early history of Milwaukee seen from a comfortable modern skywalk system. Find out more at historicmilwaukee.org and come to our city anytime to explore our great indoors.