Doors Open Milwaukee to showcase the city’s best architecture

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:45 am

Doors Open Milwaukee 2, presented by Historic Milwaukee Inc., will open some of the city’s most historic buildings and architectural masterpieces to the public Saturday, Sept. 22, and Sunday, Sept. 23, with both self-guided walking tours and in-depth walking tours led by experts.

In its second year, the event allows visitors to gain access to buildings or parts of buildings normally closed off to the public.

“I think it’s a way for people to take pride in the place where they live and interest in places that they might often drive by or walk past,” said George Wagner, program manager of Doors Open Milwaukee. “It’s a way for people to feel welcome into these buildings that perhaps they’ve often been interested in but could never go inside.”

A total of 125 buildings will be open for visitors to check out, 40 of which were not included on last year’s menu of sites. Not all of last year’s sites will be available for viewing this year. About 75 percent of last year’s sites will open their doors this year, according to Wagner.

While many of the buildings have historic and architectural value, others will offer participants stunning views of the city like the U.S. Bank Building where participants can explore the observation deck on the 41st floor. The bell tower at Milwaukee City Hall and the upper floors of the Allen-Bradley Clock Tower will also give visitors a skyline view of Milwaukee.

Commercial and industrial sites will offer the public a peek into buildings where the action going on inside is more interesting than the structures, themselves. At Sweet Water Organics, community members will be able to explore aqua culture ponds where food is grown to feed fish. And at Jones Island Wastewater Treatment Plant, the public can go behind the scenes of the water treatment process.

“We feel that it’s more than just opening up sites of good historic architecture,” Wagner said. “It’s opening up sites that what’s happening inside is of interest to the public. Many of these places are not locations that they can visit at other times.”

Striking architecture of new establishments will add another element to this year’s Doors Open event with sites like Marquette University’s new engineering hall and the Clock Shadow Creamery in Walker’s Point on the list of venues to tour.

While many of the sites are located in the heart of downtown others, like the St. George Melkite-Greek Catholic Church, are situated off Milwaukee’s beaten path.

And while last year’s event drew more than 10,000 visitors and generated more than 42,000 individual site visits, Wagner said he’s confident this year’s event will be even bigger.

“People really love this,” Wagner said. “I have to say I feel it’s a cliché almost, but it is truly a feel-good event. I’ve never been involved in an event where I see so many smiles on people’s faces. Even people waiting in line to get into the buildings are excited.”

Wagner hopes to solidify the event into an annual one.

“I want this to become an established annual event on the city’s calendar, and I think the second year will help cement that,” he said.

Doors Open Milwaukee 2 is free and open to the public. Registration is not required, and participants can start their own tours at any available site. Guided, in-depth tours will take place at a select group of buildings. Tickets will be distributed at City Hall both Saturday and Sunday beginning at 9 a.m. For more information about tours, specific sites, the times they are open for viewing and a map, visit

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