September 9th, 2023 - 10:00 AM- 3:00 PM
Join us for a public celebration of South Milwaukee's art, architecture, culture, history, and people with behind-the-scenes tours of buildings throughout the city.
Stop at eight or more locations to receive a free branded City of South Milwaukee leather keychain! Return signed location cards to City Hall between 1 - 3 p.m. Location cards will also be available at each stop.
2023 Open Doors Location Card
2023 Location Descriptions
All stops are open from 10:00 am - 3:00 pm unless otherwise noted.
Bucyrus Museum - 1919 12th Avenue
Admission is half-price ($5); kids 11 and under are free
We’re a non-profit educational museum celebrating Bucyrus’ 131 years of machinery that changed the world. You’ll see history, educational displays, operate a mining shovel in our simulator, watch educational videos, and more. You’ll be greeted and guided by our volunteer docents who will answer questions. Open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; please allow at least one hour for the tour. Kids all receive a gift and stickers, and each visitor receives a commemorative sticker celebrating the 130th anniversary of Bucyrus moving to South Milwaukee.
Caterpillar - 1118 Rawson Avenue
Caterpillar will open its doors for tours from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Each tour will be about 30 minutes in length, and each tour will be conducted on the hour and on the half-hour. If crowded, the company will conduct tours every 15-20 minutes. Tours will be limited to about 20-25 people.
- All guests entering the facility will have to sign a waiver.
- All guests must wear closed-toe shoes and must wear PPE that is given to them as they arrive - earplugs and safety glasses.
- Photography will be limited. It is only allowed in certain areas of the factory, and guests will be notified when they can take a photo.
- Safety briefs will be conducted prior to the tour, and any guest who cannot comply with the safety rules will be excused from the tour.
- Parking available on site.
- Guests are asked to look for entrances and exits when arriving.
First Congregational United Church of Christ - 1111 N. Chicago Avenue
Come see the sanctuary and cemetery of the oldest church in South Milwaukee! While inside, explore our historic timeline along the sanctuary walls and meet Pastor Beth. Outdoors, take a self-guided cemetery tour with marked headstones of South Milwaukee's founding members.
Historical train station (Benkowski Builders) - 1111 Milwaukee Avenue
Summary by Jay Benkowski
Benkowski Builders Inc. is proud to be a participant in the Open Doors event with the former Chicago & North Western Railroad Depot. The depot, now in its 132nd year, is a treasure of South Milwaukee’s significance as a place of importance in the development of Wisconsin and the reputation of South Milwaukee’s history as the place where things get to be built.
The Chicago & North Western Railroad Depot, circa 1892, is a testament to the growing industrial power of Southeastern Wisconsin during the great influx of Eastern European immigration during the late 1880s. Skilled and hard-working individuals made this city a force to be reckoned with. From the Panama Canal to coal mines throughout the world, the name South Milwaukee owns the moniker of significance in industrial might!
The depot building was purchased at the price of $15,000 in 1978 by my late father Edwin Benkowski. Ironically it was the actual cost of building this property in 1892. It was after numerous and heated arguments at dinner tables my father saw my argument and agreed to purchase this property. It took five years to rebuild the depot to its current appearance. Mr. George Becker, then a Vice President with Benkowski Builders Inc., oversaw all work schedules to rehabilitate the depot. This was celebrated in an open house January of 1983 by the South Milwaukee Historical Society and attendees. That was 100 years from the building’s final completion, a derelict building order to a certificate of occupancy.
Fast forward to today, and in attendance on Saturday will be …
· Mr. George Becker, the person who organized, oversaw, expedited all of the rehabilitation and retrofit of the Depot. He was the point man on rebuilding the depot to its current state.
· Our master craftsman, Mr. Ken Thompson. Ken Thompson Carpenter Contractor has worked on this building for more than 30 years. He has rebuilt major supporting structural roof brackets, window systems as well as historical lock sets. Additionally he has railroad experience, working on the Union Pacific line as a conductor and yard foreman.
· Lastly, we are honored to have the past President of the Wisconsin Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society, Mr. Dave Nelson.
Holy Resurrection Armenian Church - 909 Michigan Avenue
Holy Resurrection represents one of the three oldest Armenian settlements east of California (Union City, NJ, and Worcester, MA, are Nos. 1 and 2). We will be celebrating our 100th anniversary in 2024, making us one of the oldest congregations in South Milwaukee. The original wooden structure burned down, and the current church was built on the same spot in 1962. With a touch of nostalgia, we will also have a bake sale, which is reminiscent of our annual Autumn Bake Sale at the Marine Bank (where Tri-City Bank is today).
Masjid Al-Huda South Milwaukee - 1800 16th Avenue
Guests can expect to tour our beautiful campus. Meet volunteers from our community, and sample some delicious foods from various parts of the Muslim world.
Mill Pond Warming House - Mill Road & Oak Creek Parkway
The Mill Pond Warming House is open for visitors from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Park on the Oak Creek Parkway near Mill Road. Water and cookies will be available.
The Mill Pond was created in 1840 with the construction of a dam, sawmill, and gristmill by John Fowle. His gristmill is believed to be the first gristmill in Milwaukee County. The mill stones were hand-carved by John Fowle and William Sivyer. The mill operated successfully until 1932 when it was torn down by the Works Progress Administration.
The original mill stones still exist. Thanks to the South Milwaukee Historical Society, they lie on either side of the dam. The commemorative plaques that identify them were recently restored thanks to Chester Grobschmidt. The mill stone on the north side, however, was badly damaged during the recent reconstruction of the bridge.
The WPA also rebuilt the dam and added the building where we are today. It was originally a boat house in summer where you could rent boats for use on the pond. In winter it became a warming house for ice skaters. In recent years, the Friends of the Mill Pond & Oak Creek Watercourse, Inc. have been restoring and upgrading the building whenever possible.
Molthen-Bell & Son Funeral Home - 700 Milwaukee Avenue
What visitors can see when they come through the doors is a 116-year-old business still going strong. There are old pictures of the Molthens and Bells, who started the funeral home. Visitors will get a tour of the entire building and, yes, the basement.
Schlaraffia Milwaukia - 500 Marquette Avenue
Schlaraffia is a German-speaking male organization, which was founded in 1859 in Prague to forget everyday life by playing knights and caring about friendship, humor, and art. It is therefore not allowed to speak about politics, religion, and business. In addition to Germany, Austria, and Switzerland the chapters and castles of Schlaraffia grew wherever Germans came together in greater numbers.
In 1884, the Milwaukia was founded as the second chapter in the USA. From 1921 to 1986 the first Badger Castle was located in downtown Milwaukee. In 1987 we moved into the second Badger Castle in South Milwaukee. The furniture is dating for the most part from the first years, now well over a hundred years old.
On September 9, you will be guided around by our members, see the ceremonial hall with the throne and the “rostra” (as we call our lectern), the busts of some founders, and a huge painting of the Charles Bridge in Prague painted by F.W. Heine, who was a famous panorama painter and art teacher in Milwaukee around 1900. You will also see some interesting paintings downstairs where the members meet after the ceremony.
We will also show a documentary by Atesh Atici that you may imagine how our meetings run. And if you liked it in our castle, you can make a little donation for a hand-painted paper shingle to help repair our roof …
South Milwaukee Fire Department - 929 Marshall Avenue
Open house style: Stop by the community fire station, the heartbeat of South Milwaukee. Meet the firefighters, see the equipment, and learn about fire safety and prevention.
South Milwaukee High School - 801 15th Avenue
South Milwaukee High School will be available for visits from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Guests will be able to participate in either a self-guided or ambassador-led walking tour to see all the fabulous history on display within the high school. You can take a stroll down Heritage Hall, where there are many artifacts on display highlighting current and past sporting success. You can also visit the student library, engineering and technology wing, or visit the multiple levels of classroom spaces to see those old rooms that you may have spent time in! Stop by the Sullivan Gymnasium to see the newly laid wood floor. And the school store “Orbit” will be open during your visit in case you would like to pick up a “Rockets” hat, shirt, jacket, or swag. Current students and staff members will be available during your visit and can’t wait to see you!
South Milwaukee Historical Society - 717 Milwaukee Avenue
South Milwaukee Human Concerns - 1029 Milwaukee Avenue
South Milwaukee Police Department - 2424 15th Avenue
The Police Department will be open beginning at 11 a.m. Tours will begin at the top of each hour between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. You will learn about our history and mission to keep our community safe through guided tours led by a member of our force.
South Milwaukee Public Library - 1907 10th Avenue
The South Milwaukee Public Library will be hosting tours between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Get a sneak peek at new projects, learn about the building's history, and enter for a chance to win a retro library canvas bag.
South Milwaukee Street Department - 910 Marshall Avenue
The Street Department will have all their heavy equipment outside and you will have the opportunity to step inside the Street Department's building to see what is on the inside.
St. Mark's Episcopal Church - 1314 Rawson Avenue
All are welcome at St. Mark's Episcopal Church. We are a small church with a big heart and open arms. Many people are familiar with St. Mark's for our family-friendly events such as Barks at St. Mark's the 2nd Sunday of June, and Trunk n Treat in October!
We are honored to be part of Open Doors and the wonderful South Milwaukee Community. Visit us this Saturday and you will be greeted by the Friendly Folks of St. Mark's with a picnic plate under the tent. Everyone is able to take a guided or self-guided tour of the historic cemetery (locate the resting places of several historic figures including soldiers from the Civil War). Then walk through the Open Doors of St. Mark's to see the sanctuary and enjoy coffee, a tasty treat and visit with Fr. John Allen and St. Mark's parishioners in the Fellowship Hall. We look forward to seeing you!
Sts. Peter and Paul Polish National Catholic Church - 1308 15th Avenue
Sts. Peter and Paul Polish National Catholic Church has been serving the South Milwaukee and surrounding community since 1914. Originally started by Polish descendants and rooted in the Apostolic Succession of the Catholic Church, Sts. Peter and Paul welcomes people of all ethnic backgrounds. We will be offering visitors our famous Lionsfest chocolate chip cookies.
Trinity Lutheran Church - 2507 5th Avenue
When people stop in at Trinity, they will be welcomed by congregation members. We will have historical information available as well as refreshments -- a taste of our Scandinavian heritage. Our beautiful stained-glass windows will be featured in a booklet explaining the symbols in our windows.
Wulff Lodge - 215 Lake Drive
Wulff Lodge was the home of Frederick Wulff, who was hired as the first horticulturalist for the county park system. It was built in 1916. There will be a tour of the lodge and surrounding gardens and interesting facts about Grant Park's history. Visitors are welcomed by members of Friends of Grant Park. Photo cards, chips, and water will be for sale. Parking is in the Wil-O-Way lot in Area 7. Note: There is a fairly long walk (about two blocks) on a gravel road from the parking lot to the lodge.