NOTE: IN ORDER TO BETTER SEE PHOTOS IN THEIR FULL 1600 PX. RESOLUTION, VIEW THEM IN THE ALBUM FORMAT BY CLICKING ON THE LEAD PHOTO OR ANY PHOTO IN THE POST. This is especially true for landscape shots. Thanks to Mark for the idea of adding this alert so the photos can be seen at their best!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Things to Be Thankful For - Touring Milwaukee City Hall At Last

Today it was all about family and bellies full of turkey, but one thing I'm thankful for is that Wayne and I recently got to tour City Hall.

view of City Hall from our hotel window

Milwaukee's City Hall is a masterpiece and tours are available.  Go to their web site and send Bill an email if you want to schedule one, he replies quickly and is very flexible!

City Hall was designed by Milwaukee architect Henry Koch and the building was completed in 1896 at a cost of $945,311, actually quite a modest sum at the time for buildings of this sort. The basement and the foundation of City Hall are constructed of granite and the first and second floors are constructed of sandstone. The remaining six floors consist of pressed brick and terra cotta.

I've talked about this magnificent building before, so I'll keep it brief, but I did find a cool link to an  awesome photo of a 1930's labor demonstration in front of City Hall here.  Of course we had labor demonstrations of a different sort in Madison here a few years ago, so some things don't change, right?

The interior was a big surprise, I didn't expect it to look so long and narrow.  The building looks so massive from the outside that it was a little confusing to me spatially.

We met Bill outside of the Council Chamber which is kept locked when not in use unless you are on a guided tour.  The first thing you see is two magnificent stained glass windows, created as a WPA project in the 1930s, They were restored and installed in the Council Chamber in 1978.

One window incorporates an image of City Hall and the City Seal, while the other portrays the Great Seal of the State of Wisconsin. These windows were acquired through the cooperation of the boards of trustees of the Milwaukee Public Library and the Milwaukee Museum where they languished in storage previously.

The Council Chamber is the largest city council meeting room in the United States, but the symbols painted on the walls and ceiling were all I could look at.  The were added as part of a renovation in the 1930's by artist and Alderman Carl Minkley.  He came to this country from Berlin at the age of 26  in 1892 and was appointed to fill a vacancy by the Mayor of Milwaukee in 1910.  He arrived in Milwaukee in 1893 so would have been familiar with City Hall from its start.  In addition to symbols about wisdom and justice the 12 signs of the zodiac were included in the work.

There used to be wrought iron balcony railings and a viewing gallery between the pillars pictured above, but now the area is used for storage. I didn't get a picture of the dais, but it's made from Wisconsin oak, pretty fitting considering all the oak I saw on my recent Kettle Moraine hikes.

Beautiful things can be found in the Council Anteroom as well, including one of the unique doorknobs emblazoned with the city's name.  Apparently some have ended up on ebay due to remodeling efforts in the 1950's and 1960's when many were replaced.  Can you imagine tossing out such a beautiful and original item?  That period of time was notorious for its disregard for our architectural history and much restoration work is done now in our time in an effort to repair the damage done in the name of "progress" or "fashion".

So much to look at and admire, but the ironwork in the building was definitely top notch. I thought it deserved a little black and white treatment.

There was also a display on the third floor showcasing a collection of historic postcards featuring the building through the years.  It looks so massive in earlier days, but of course now there are many neighboring buildings just as large.

That's it for our tour. I'm also thankful that my packing for my trip to Kentucky is done, it's kind of crazy the amount of stuff I'm dragging along. I leave tomorrow after work and will get as far as Indiana where I'm going to check out their state park cabins.  Even though it will be chilly there I'm taking a full day to check out Tippecanoe River State Park before heading on to meet Sharon near Red River Gorge for some hiking on Sunday. I'm also thankful the cold snap will be done just in time for our arrival!  Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!


  1. Great tour. What a wonderfull bilding that is I love the features & statined glass. Have a good Thanksgiving

  2. What a fantastic building! We will need keep this in mind, also.

  3. Nice city hall building. I work across the street from Portland's city hall, and although very nice it's nothing compared to this one! Have fun on your trip. (BTW - Portland has a suburb named Milwaukie - but it's spelled with the "ie" probably to differentiate it from yours!) :)

  4. The buildings of today do not even begin to compare to the workmanship and craftsmanship of this time period. Thanks for the tour.