EVER WALKED PAST a cool building and wondered what’s inside? That’s the idea behind Doors Open, taking place Sept. 24-25 this year. Trained guides provide tours of buildings, homes and monuments across Milwaukee, many of which are not normally open to the public.
2714 W. BURNHAM ST.
This collection of six small homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright along West Burnham Street is an artful appeal for downsizing with built-ins and smart use of space. Restoration work is ongoing in a few, as volunteers with Frank Lloyd Wright’s Burnham Block, a nonprofit, return the houses to their original state. But it’s not just walls and windows. Wright-designed furnishings built by local makers fill out the rooms in the 800-square-foot Model B1 featured on the tour.
2136 N. 21 ST.
Looking for a touch of Zen? Founded in 1972, on an exact site of a building used by the Wisconsin Underground Railroad, it was later named after the late Black community builder Alice Meade-Taylor. On a tour of this near North Side 2.2-acre farm, you’ll walk the labyrinth with deep contemplation and learn to slow your breath. Bonus: the aromas and “eye candy” from all that’s in bloom – flowers, plants and herbs – are equally enticing.
1525 W. VINE ST.
Spanning the size of five football fields, this city maintenance building pops open the garage door for a veritable “look under the hood.” The behind-the-scenes tour is perfect for kids – or curious adults. Car restorers might also dig it. When any of the county’s 375 buses needs repair, such as an engine dying or a major dent to the body, it’s sent to this hub just north of Fond du Lac Avenue and Walnut Street until it looks (and runs) like new.
CHOOSE NO MORE between a bicycle ride and Doors Open on a crisp autumn weekend. One of the three new Historic Milwaukee app tours is the Harbor District Bicycle Tour. It’s designed to be experienced by bike, dishing out details on neighborhood parks, historic sites and public art, including the MKE Urban Stables and the Kinnickinnic River Trail. Another new self-guided app tour, in partnership with Metcalfe Park Community Bridges, focuses on Metcalfe Park (from North Avenue to Center Street and between North 27th Street and North 38th Street), while a bilingual tour of Clarke Square features Cesar Chavez Drive’s public art and murals.
The full list of sites – all of which are free to visit, while some guided tours charge $10 – is available at historicmilwaukee.org/doors-open.