Milwaukee historic landmarks guide
Note: The contents of this guide were checked for accuracy when this article was updated on Jan. 15, 2013 at 9:03 a.m. We continually update the thousands of articles on OnMilwaukee.com, but it's possible some details, specials and offers may have changed. As always, we recommend you call first if you have specific questions for the businesses mentioned in the guide.
Milwaukee is alive with history, and its many landmarks are woven seamlessly into the urban fabric. A great way to learn about the past is by exploring these places right under our noses where our forebears lived, worked and played. Many historic buildings have been re-purposed and now house office space or are private homes.
Here are just a few places within the city limits where the past meets the present. Add your favorites at the bottom using the Talkback feature.
The Basilica of St. Josaphat
2333 S. 6th St., (414) 645-5623
Constructed at the beginning of the 19th century, this bastion of Polish Catholicism in Milwaukee was declared a minor basilica in 1929. Designed in the style of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, it was built using 200,000 tons of salvage material from the destroyed Federal Building in Chicago. Weekly tours are given after the 10 a.m. Sunday Mass, and group tours are available upon request. There is also a Lil' Friar Gift Shop located across the street offering religious gifts and Basilica memorabilia. Take a virtual trip to the dome here.
Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist
812 N. Jackson St., (414) 276-9814
Built of Milwaukee brick in the German Zopfstil architectural style, the cathedral has been the seat of the Milwaukee Archdiocese for over 150 years, since the laying of the cornerstone in 1847. Self-guided tours are available every day. Guide books are offered in return for a small donation. Group tours can be scheduled.
814 W. Wisconsin Ave., (414) 286-TOUR
Milwaukee architects Ferry & Clas beat out 74 other applicants (including Frank Lloyd Wright) for the chance to design a permanent home for the Milwaukee Public Library in 1898. This U-shaped limestone building styled in the Neo-Renaissance tradition is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Weekly tours are conducted free of charge at 1:30 p.m. every Saturday, beginning in the rotunda. Tours at other times are available by special request.
200 E. Wells St.
When Milwaukee's new city hall was completed in 1895, it was the tallest habitable building in the country at 353 feet. It was designed by Henry C. Koch in the style of the German Renaissance Revival. The building is open between 8 a.m. and 4:45 p.m. Visit the website for advice on self-guided tours and more.
Federal Building and Courthouse
517 E. Wisconsin Ave., (414) 297-3035
A stunning example of the Richardsonian Romanesque style, this building was constructed in 1892. The building is open to the public and tours are available by appointment.
Lloyd R. Smith House (Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum)
2220 N. Terrace Ave., (414) 271-3656
Designed by architect David Adler in 1923 for A.O. Smith president Lloyd Smith, this Italian Renaissance villa overlooking Lake Michigan is now home to a stunning collection of fine and decorative arts dating back to the 15th century. Admission is $7 for adults and $5 for children. Guided tours are available by request for groups of 10 or more people; self-guided tours are available during public hours.
McIntosh-Goodrich Mansion (Wisconsin Conservatory of Music)
1584 N. Prospect Ave., (414) 276-5760
Industrialist Charles McIntosh built this 22,000-square-foot home in 1903; it was later sold to the husband of Captain Frederick Pabst's eldest daughter. Now home to the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, the building is often open to the public for Conservatory events such as Conservatory Nights, Conservatory Sundays, and the monthly Jaz Jam sessions and Vista del Lago Social Club.
Milwaukee County Historic Society
910 N. Old World 3rd St., (414) 273-8288
The epicenter of Milwaukee history is, fittingly, itself housed in a historic structure - a 1913 Neoclassical bank. The museum is home to a permanent research library, exhibits and a museum store. Admission is $5 for adults and $4 for students and seniors.
Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory (The Domes)
524 S. Layton Blvd., (414) 257-5611
Purchased by the Milwaukee Park Commission in 1889, this is the city's oldest park. Ten years later saw the construction of the Milwaukee Conservatory, which was razed in 1955 to make way for the current Mitchell Park Domes. The land previously belonged to the Mitchell family, and before that to fur trader Jacques Vieau, father-in-law of Solomon Juneau.
North Point Lighthouse
2650 N. Wahl Ave., (414) 332-6754
The land upon which this historic lighthouse is situated has been owned by the U.S. Lighthouse Service since 1851. The present lighthouse dates to 1888, even before the construction of Lake Park, which now surrounds it. It is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Public tours are given on Saturday and Sunday between the hours of 1 and 4 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children ages 5-12. School tours are also available.
2000 W. Wisconsin Ave. (414) 931-0808
This Flemish Renaissance Revival-style estate was the home of the Captain Frederick Pabst family from 1892 until 1908, when it became the residence of the archbishops of Milwaukee for nearly 70 years. Daily guided tours are available. School and scouting groups are welcome. Individual admission $9 for adults, $8 for students/seniors and $5 for children ages 6-17.
Tripoli Shrine Center
3000 W. Wisconsin Ave., (414) 933-1591
A stunning architectural replica of the Taj Mahal, built in 1928, this building is today the headquarters of Milwaukee's Shriners International. It is also available for event rental and, for groups of 10 or more, lunch and guided tours.
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