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Now home to Lake Park Bistro, this 1903 pavilion is packed with Milwaukee memories

LBP Table

Every week on  Urban Spelunking , Radio Milwaukee’s Nate Imig and OnMilwaukee’s Bobby Tanzilo dig into the buildings and architectural features that help retain the city’s sense of history while it builds for the future.

Since 1995, it has been home to Lake Park Bistro, Milwaukee’s premiere French restaurant. But its history goes much further back, to the early 1900s. In this episode, we visit the 1903 Lake Park pavilion, the central building in Frederick Law Olmsted’s celebrated Milwaukee park.

While Olmsted did not design the pavilion himself, he designed the park and its landscape. This year marks the 200th year since his death.

“Lake Park is famously the work of pioneer landscape architect Olmsted, who drew plans for it, plus Riverside Park, Newberry Boulevard and Washington Park in the early 1890s, when park construction began,” Bobby wrote in his story at OnMilwaukee.

The pavilion was designed by another well-known architect, Alfred C. Clas of Ferry and Clas. That firm drew the plans for the Pabst Mansion, Milwaukee’s Central Library and dozens of other structures still standing today.

For all of its life, the pavilion has been a gathering spot for Milwaukeeans. Offering live outdoor music (we’ll always show up for that in Milwaukee), refreshments and a sprawling green setting, the Neoclassical building was once accompanied by a small gazebo and stage that drew scores of locals in their Sunday best. In Tanzilo’s research, he found postcards and advertisements offering a glimpse of what Lake Park looked like in the early 1900s.

Listen below for more about the pavilion's history, and be sure to listen to the whole episode to learn about Bartolotta’s Lake Park Bistro — how and why the brothers opened it, and a décor Easter egg still visible today. 


Director of Digital Content | Radio Milwaukee