The City of Milwaukee is embarking on an exciting new project, a special museum located in City Hall that will showcase the history of this spectacular city treasure and National Historic Landmark. The Common Council has unanimously adopted a resolution, signed by Mayor Tom Barrett, approving the raising of up to $100,000 from private donors.
The concept for the City Hall Museum comes from a desire to have a dedicated space for the purpose of showcasing the history of the building and the physical artifacts that represent its history. The exhibits will revolve around several broad themes:
the architecture of the structure and the labor involved in its construction
the history and activities of city government
special events that have occurred within City Hall
We ask for your assistance in making this City Hall Museum a reality!
Our thanks to you in advance for your support of this effort to bring the history of one of Milwaukee’s greatest icons to life!
If you would like to support the City Hall Museum with a donation, please contact a museum team member or send checks, payable to City of Milwaukee, directly to: City of Milwaukee, Office of the City Clerk, ATTN: Terry MacDonald – Museum, City Hall, Room 205, 200 E. Wells Street, Milwaukee, WI 53202.
City Hall milestones:
- On August 29, 1891, the Common Council passed a resolution which called for a design contest for the proposed City Hall. Eleven applicants submitted designs.
- On February 24 1894, the cornerstone of the building was laid.
- In 1923, the slate roof on the tower was replaced by copper construction at a cost of $14,000.
- In October of 1925 the bell tower was silenced by decree of Mayor Daniel Hoan because it was believed that the vibrations were causing structural damage to the bell tower.
- On October 9, 1929, The bell tower was partially destroyed by fire. It was later repaired using the original blueprints.
- On July 4, 1940, the bell in the tower was rung for the first time in nearly fifteen years to celebrate Independence Day, starting a Fourth of July tradition for the City of Milwaukee.
- On July 17, 1970, City Hall was declared a local landmark by a resolution passed by the Milwaukee Landmarks Commission. The building has since been recognized by the Historic American Buildings Survey as an “important example of our architectural heritage.”
- On March 14, 1973, Milwaukee City Hall was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
- Between 1973 and 1974, exterior restoration work including cleaning and repainting mortar joints was completed.
- In October 1995, the centennial of City Hall was celebrated and the Common Council introduced plans to overhaul the Common Council meeting rooms on the third floor.
- On April 5, 2005, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior designated Milwaukee City Hall as a National Historic Landmark.
Click on the image below to hear the City Hall bell ring
The City Hall Building was built in 1895. At that time it was the 3rd tallest building in the United States. Shortly after it's completion, the Common Council introduced a resolution to advertise for bid for a 7,000 pound bell. A number of resolutions followed and the size of the bell increased to 20,000 pounds. Thus would make the bell the third largest in the world at that time.
A contract was let to George C. Campbell a local founder. After several attempts, a flawless casting was made on October 16th that year. Made from 77% Lake Superior Copper and 23% East India tin the bell manufactured locally at Centennial Iron and Bell Foundry on Oregon Street was delivered to City Hall on November 26, 1896.
The official name for the bell was decreed "Solomon Juneau" after Milwaukee's first Mayor and founding father. And most noteworthy, the bell bears this inscription:
When I sound the hour of the day,
From this grand and lofty steeple,
Deem it a reminder, pray,
To be honest with the people.
Report of findings presented to the council from the historical exhibit work group.
Brief History of Milwaukee's City Hall - slideshow plays in City Hall rotunda exhibit.
A visual report of the city's artifact collection and ideas for display space, goals and objectives.
The mission of the City Hall Museum
is to showcase the history and enhance
tours of, and preserve historical artifacts
related to, this landmark structure.
City Hall Museum Team
The Milwaukee City Hall Museum is a place where casual visitors and tour groups can learn about the history of this landmark structure and view historical artifacts related to that history. The museum can be visited unaccompanied or with the assistance of a tour guide.
The museum will contain paintings, photographs, architectural elements, drawings, tools and other materials that relate to the construction, renovation and history of City Hall and events that have occurred in this building. The exhibits will be designed to tell stories about the workers who constructed it and the public servants who have occupied it over the years. A small theater will show videos that also tell these stories.
A dedicated web presence and a historical display in the lobby of City Hall will be used to promote the museum and tours of City Hall.
The museum will be free, but visitors will be encouraged to consider a donation towards its continued development.
View our Image Galllery!
See behind the scenes snapshots of items and artifacts that may be displayed in the future museum.
We will continually add to this gallery - so check back often!