Milwaukee Public Library

This neo-renaissance building functions as a library and community education resource, as well as an important heritage center for Wisconsin arts.

You don’t need to have bookish tendencies to enjoy a day at Milwaukee Public Library. Dating from 1898, this imposing building is one of the city’s most appealing historic landmarks and a deserving member of the National Register of Historic Places. It was constructed in a neo-renaissance style out of limestone and crowned by a large central dome.

To get a sense of its place in history and its architecture, join one of the free guided tours held each Saturday afternoon. Tours are also available at other times by appointment. Despite its function as a busy city library, there are a lot of original decorative features still visible. Admire the colorful Italian mosaic tiling, brass and stained glass lighting fixtures, and large Corinthian columns. 

Venture into the Old Board Room and Art and Music Room to see intricate hand-carved maple furniture. The latter houses a comprehensive collection of rare art books and sheet music dating back to the early 19th century. The Children’s Room is a riot of vibrant color, with dozens of animal-shaped prints on the walls and furniture. The room is noted for its Hans Christian Andersen window feature, which was installed in 1896. Storytelling, arts and crafts classes, and puppet shows take place here regularly.

For more scholarly pursuits, spend time browsing through the Rare Books Room, which houses over 6,000 items. A few date back to the 15th century. Don’t miss the hefty Autograph Book, which contains signatures and drawings from over 2,000 prominent figures of the late 19th century, including Mark Twain and Thomas Edison.

The library is situated on W. Wisconsin Avenue in central Milwaukee, just east of the North–South Freeway. It’s open seven days a week. There is limited street parking, but the nearest bus stop is only half a block from the main entrance.

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