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Doors Open Milwaukee: 5 Places To Explore In The Near West Side Neighborhood

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Courtesy of Keith Stanley, Near West Side Partners
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The Tower Theater, located at 753 N. 27th St. in Milwaukee's near west side, at was built by the same person who built the Oriental Theater. It'll be open to the public during Doors Open Milwaukee 2019.

This weekend, you’ll have the opportunity to step inside more than 170 buildings in Milwaukee that aren’t normally open to the public.

Doors Open Milwaukee is a citywide event put on by Historic Milwaukee — a non-profit group working to increase public awareness of Milwaukee’s history and architecture. Last year, more than 31,000 people explored buildings and sites all over metro Milwaukee.

Doors Open Milwaukee 2019 takes place across the city, but this year’s featured neighborhood is the near west side.

"I think that Milwaukee is not the city of what it is today without the near west side ..." - Keith Stanley

“I think that Milwaukee is not the city of what it is today without the near west side and the beautiful architecture that lines Wisconsin, State Street, Wells, Clybourn,” says Keith Stanley, executive director of the Near West Side Partners.

What is the geographic boundary of the near west side? “East is I-43, West is 175. South is I-94. And the north is dependent — if you're west of 27th Street, it's Vliet. If you're east of 27th Street, it's Highland,” Stanley says.

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Credit Near West Side Partners
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The near west side is referred to as the "neighborhood of neighborhoods." It includes Avenues West, Cold Spring Park, Concordia, Martin Drive, Merrill Park, Miller Valley, The Valley/Piggsville.

Here are five places to explore in the near west side during Doors Open Milwaukee 2019:

1) Hands In Harmony Piano Studio
3301 W. Highland Blvd.

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Credit Courtesy of Historic Milwaukee
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Hands in Harmony Piano Studio is in an Eschweiler-designed mansion.

Historic Milwaukee’s Events Director Grace Fuhr says this place is lesser known.

“It’s in a historic Eschweiler-designed mansion. It’s right across the street from where some Harley-Davidson's lived historically,” Fuhr says.

The studio focuses on teaching more than 200 kids how to play piano, she says.

“During Doors Open, you'll be able to kind of learn how to play piano and also do some art-lead activities with artists working in education in their back lot there,” she explains.

2) Tower Theater & Mobile Design Box
753 N. 27th St.

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Credit Courtesy of Historic Milwaukee
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A historic picture of the Tower Theater.

“It was built in 1926 as a movie theater by the same architect that built the Oriental so people can peek their head in the theater,” Fuhr says.

If you visit, you can also see the exhibit Evicted that’s currently on display in the Mobile Design Box. The exhibit is based on Matthew Desmond’ award-winning book Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City.

READ: 'Evicted' Comes To Life Through Traveling Exhibition

3) Central Standard Craft Distillery
2330 W. Clybourn St.

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Credit Courtesy of Historic Milwaukee
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Central Standard Distillery's home in the near west side is where all of its spirits are made.

This one Fuhr is especially excited about.

“People probably know the name from their Walker’s Point tasting house. But they actually have their 10,000-square-foot facility where they make all of their spirits and distill in the near west side, so people will have a rare opportunity to tour that building,” she says.

4) Milwaukee Academy of Chinese Language
2430 W. Wisconsin Ave.

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Credit Courtesy of Historic Milwaukee
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The building that's now home to the Milwaukee Academy of Chinese Language used to be the Milwaukee County Dispensary and Emergency Hospital.

From 1927 to 1983, this building operated as the Milwaukee County Dispensary and Emergency Hospital. After remaining empty for some time, it eventually became the Milwaukee Academy of Chinese Language.

“So, that's a very historic building, but a newer story that you can learn about there,” Fuhr says.

There will also be a live dance performance at noon on Saturday.

5) Catholic Financial Life Building
1100 W. Wells St.

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Credit Courtesy of Historic Milwaukee
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The roof of the Catholic Financial Life Building is a pool.

The 19-story structure was built in 1970 to house Catholic Financial Life. The organization’s still there, occupying six floors, while most of the remaining floors are residential apartments.

But it’s home to something special: a rooftop sundeck and pool. “I think that's Milwaukee's only rooftop swimming pool,” says Stanley.

You can see all Doors Open Milwaukee 2019 locations and more information about the event here.

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Lauren Sigfusson
Lauren became WUWM's digital producer in July 2018.
Bonnie North
Bonnie joined WUWM in March 2006 as the Arts Producer of the locally produced weekday magazine program Lake Effect.