Welcome To My Blog

Weekends are for wandering Wisconsin. That's what Rick, my guy, and I do. Occasionally we wander during the week, too. Sometimes we just drop in on other people's lives.

This blog is my way of sharing where we've been, neat places and things to do that we've found.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Doors Open Milwaukee

This past weekend was a time to appreciate our built environment. On Saturday morning I lead an architectural tour of buildings on State Street here in Madison.  On Sunday Rick and I checked out some of the buildings that were part of Doors Open Milwaukee. Hats off to Historic Milwaukee, Inc. for this fabulous event that opened doors to 125 buildings in Milwaukee to reveal the city's history, economy, and culture. What a great way to see up close some of the treasures in our midst. 

Rick grew up in Milwaukee and lives only about 30 minutes away now, but he had never been inside City Hall, the most iconic structure in Milwaukee. 
When City Hall was built in 1895, it was the third tallest
building in the United States. This structure was almost
lost in the 1970s. Thanks to preservationists, this
stunning building still stands today.
Beautiful stained glass in the Council
Another splendid stained glass

The Common Council President presides over meetings
every three weeks from here.

Visitors can watch from this gallery - and appreciate the beauty
of the chamber -  but the seats aren't very comfortable!

Another building we visited was the Milwaukee Fire House Engine #1. The fire fighters gave out hats to the kids who dropped by. We followed our noses to the back of the station where one fire fighter was preparing lunch and dinner. He said the kitchen hasn't changed since the 1950s. 

The Railway Exchange Building, Milwaukee's first skyscraper of 12 stories, was built in 1900. It's still an office building.

Mosaic floor tile on the first floor. Each piece was laid by
hand - no tile grid for the artisans of the past.
Every stairway has these ornate wrought iron banisters.

The last building we saw was City Lights in the Menomonee Valley. Zimmerman Architectural Studios now occupies the 1903 brick building that once housed huge furnaces to superheat coal into gas, fuel for Milwaukee's gas street lights at the turn of the last century.
With the renovation, all of Zimmerman's employees can now be under one roof.
The steel structure is original to the building; the wood was replaced. Insulation
(8-12 inches) between the ceiling and the metal roof keeps the building warm and cool.
Zimmerman employees have a great kitchen on the second floor.
It seems logical that an architectural firm would have 10,000 Legos on its site.
Kids who visited during Doors Open Milwaukee had the chance to
design interesting buildings.
Thanks to more than 400 Historic Milwaukee volunteers who helped over the weekend.

"It's not good because it's old; it's old because it's good!"


  1. She sure gets focused on historical stuff. And since I am an antique. It figures. The City Lights was a great looking building. Drive down Canal Street and you'll see much more than just the Casino

  2. Jeannie ...

    If I may, let me point you in the direction of my favorite building in Milwaukee ... the IronBlock building on the S.E. corner of N. Water and Wisconsin Ave. It is one of two that were ever built and the other one is gone now. It is a cast iron kit building where the exterior of the building was cast in pieces in a steel mill in Pennsylvania and shipped to Milwaukee to be assembled here. Everything inside the building is suspended from the four exterior walls. It also was the last building in Milwaukee to be serviced with DC current. Originally the DC current came from the Street Car Company and the building was heated with steam from the electricity generating plant next to the Pabst Theater. Every office in the building had a voltage control box mounted over the entrance door. The entire building "buzzed" as the dim DC bulbs went dimmer and brighter from moment to moment. If it is not on the National Register, it sure should be.

    Favorite number two is the Grain Exchange Building. You've just gotta arrange a visit to these two. Take your camera ...


  3. The Iron Block is being restored - outside was covered with lots of Tyvek-like material. It's set to reopen in 2013. The building is on both the State and National Registers of Historic Places. See: http://tinyurl.com/IronBlock. Rick and I have been to the Grain Exchange for my niece's wedding reception a few years back. Since we'd seen that splendid place, we chose other buildings during the Doors Open tour. Milwaukee has so many great buildings. A variety of walking tours are offered. I need to get back and take those next summer. I did take the Wisconsin Ave. tour (three centuries of buildings) a couple of years ago and that was neat.

  4. Very nice pictures today! And yes, I am a subscriber now! Woohoo!