DO Milwaukee is the common name for the annual event "Doors Open Milwaukee" promoting many of our city's most well known landmarks and historical buildings. Organized and hosted by the nonprofit organization Historic Milwaukee, Inc. (HMI), the purpose of this weekend event is to promote the rich history of Milwaukee as told through the buildings found throughout the city.
The 2013 event was held on September 21 & 22, featuring nearly 125 schools, churches, government and public service buildings, hotels, restaurants and office buildings. Of those on the list, I have personally been to just 22, making my "to DO" list a challenge given I only had one day and approximately six hours to schedule what logistically could be covered. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
The way this event is set up, there are three types of tours available to the public. First there are the "members only" events whereby members (donor/contributors) to Historic Milwaukee can preregister for one of about 45 in depth tours led by prominent historians or those with a personal background with the building or area being featured. As of the day prior to the weekend, 10 were already sold out. Some of the tours offered very limited participation (around 10 to 12 people) while others could accommodate up to 40 or 50. It looked like the average tour size was around 20 or 25.
Some locations required tickets due to the limited available space and the need to control the flow of visitors. These tickets were available only at the HMI Headquarters and were free to anyone who wanted to attend, as long as tickets were available.
Lastly, most of the locations featured during DO Milwaukee were open to the public without tickets and free of charge. This was an especially nice aspect of the event as some of the buildings and guided tours typically charge a fee. A couple of examples are The Best Place at Pabst Brewery (normally $8 per person) and the Tripoli Shrine Center ($16.95 including a buffet lunch).
Some of the locations were open to the public on a self-guided "walk about" basis while others were clearly set up as marketing opportunities for recently renovated buildings. The Brewhouse Inn & Suites (also part of the Pabst Brewery community), Clock Shadow Building and Brenner Brewing Company are examples of newer businesses in Milwaukee occupying historic buildings.
For families and children, they offered a "passport program" featuring 24 sites that would be of interest to kids as well as adults. What youngster doesn't enjoy a visit to the fire house, seeing the skeletal remains of a wooly mammoth or learning more about trains? Like the US National Park Service passport program, kids could have their passport stamped when visiting any of the 24 participating locations.
For my itinerary, I planned on visiting five or six sites. The one I was most looking forward to was St. John's Evangelical Church. Built in 1889 of famous "cream city" bricks, I had previously photographed the exterior. With DO Milwaukee, I would be able to check out and photograph the interior, including the beautiful stained glass windows and ornate woodwork.
For anyone living in SE Wisconsin or Northern Illinois, I would encourage you to consider a future visit to Milwaukee in order to take in some of our great historical landmarks and buildings.
I've been told that this event is typically the third weekend of September so you may want to pencil in those dates but check in with Historic Milwaukee, Inc. as the time comes closer. For more information on DO Milwaukee, check out the HMI website: http://doorsopenmilwaukee.org/ .