By Jason McDowell Creative Director Published Jun 21, 2019 at 10:30 AM Photography: Jason McDowell

The Cream City Hostel is set to open within the next few days, but there is still a lot of finishing work to do. The building – which has been a bank, daycare and charter school throughout its history – required numerous code updates in order to function as a rooming house, but on the whole, it looks much brighter and cleaner than it did when it was closed to the public two years ago.

It’s not often that you take a vacation in the city and stay at a local hotel (though it is a highly recommended adventure), so this tour, provided by Cream City Hostel's owner Carolyn Weber, may be one of your few chances to take a peek inside.

First floor

Hometown Bikes will operate out of the hostel and offer bicycle service and rentals.

Second floor

The bubblers are among the few original fixtures in the building. The posts have been added for blind accessibility.
An east side peek.
Cream City Hostel does not lack for lounge areas. Strategic pops of color help to liven up the space.
Converting the historic building for use as a hostel has required some strange code accommodations.
Code also requires windows have screens, so a unique hatch needed to be made in order to open them for fresh air.
The ladder to the roof will be locked away.


The basement has excellent access to natural light thanks to the large, sunken windows. Those that look up towards Holton Street are fenced off by protective grates. Weber envisions some kind of foliage to bring some nature into the urban environment.
Cream City Hostel will offer bike rentals, service and some sales through its partnership with Hometown Bikes.
The basement features a pretty sizeable rec room. There will eventually be a curtained-off TV area and board game library open to the public.
Community kitchenette.
When the building was a bank, this was the door to the safe. Now it is the most heavy duty utility closet in Milwaukee.
Signs from when the building was operated as a part of the Milwaukee Public Schools can still be found around the hostel.
This storage area will be filled with sheets, pillow cases and other linens.


The hostel will be able to house 52 travelers. This is one of the private rooms.
Shared rooms can fit as many as 12 people. Eventually every bed will have a privacy curtain.
Privacy dividers are made of vintage doors.
Each bed will have a shelf with a charging plug for your phone as well as a personal reading light.
The lights underneath the shelves can change intensity and color. The mattresses are waterproof and bedbug proof.
Lockers will be provided for shared rooms.
There is still work to be done to get the rooms ready for travelers, but Weber is confident they'll be open before the end of the month.
Some beds will have wire lockers underneath.


These brand new bathrooms are sure to be a comfort. They are big, bright, clean and spacious.
The women’s bathroom has the biggest shower. Weber hopes to convert the other side (not pictured) into a second stall, eventually.
Bright and clean.


The backyard is big and lush, and has a lot of potential for creativity and landscaping. Weber hopes to host community brunches, bike-in movies and other activities.
A fire pit with bike racks in the back. Bike parts, like the fork in the picture, will likely be thematic around this place, thanks to the presence of Hometown Bikes on site.
A weird little club house/dog house/dugout.
Play equipment.
A gazebo frame still sits on the premises. It may eventually resume duty.
Weber hopes to get in contact with the original muralist to restore the painting.
Jason McDowell Creative Director

Jason McDowell grew up in central Iowa and moved to Milwaukee in 2000 to attend the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design.

In 2006 he began working with OnMilwaukee as an advertising designer, but has since taken on a variety of rolls as the Creative Director, tackling all kinds of design problems, from digital to print, advertising to branding, icons to programming.

In 2016 he picked up the 414 Digital Star of the Year award.

Most other times he can be found racing bicycles, playing board games, or petting dogs.