When you drive through Downtown Milwaukee today, it may be hard to believe that certain parts of Wisconsin Avenue were once lined with mansions, home to Milwaukee's elite.
And one of those mansions is still standing today — the Wisconsin Club.
Built in the 1850s, the historic building was home to Alexander Mitchell, perhaps the wealthiest Milwaukeean of the 19th century. He made his fortune in the railroad and banking industries and was an influential politician.
After Mitchell's sudden death in the late 1890s, the mansion was sold to a group of German businessmen that wanted to create a social club catering to Milwaukee's German community. They acquired the building for a price tag of $100,000–quite hefty for the time–and named it the Deutscher Club. But after World War I broke out, celebrating German heritage became unpopular, and the club was renamed to the Wisconsin Club.
Over the last 100 years, the mansion has been expanded and renovated. Wings were added to the main structure, making room for a grand ballroom, two restaurants and a veranda. But even as it was modernized, club owners took great care to preserve as much of the original architecture as possible.
Walk around the mansion today, and you'll see stunning original craftsmanship — ornamental ceilings, dozens of hand carved sculptures, and beautiful mosaic tile floors. Colorful stained glass windows still cast a kaleidoscope of daylight across the club's many intimate lounges and nooks.
Curious to see it for yourself? Visit the Wisconsin Club's website for a virtual tour, complete with narration and photos. And click the podcast player above to hear our interview with General Manager John Constantine who takes us on a private tour.