A Gem, Doors Open, The Central Library

Hidden within the astute renaissance facade of the Central Library, the people that walked those halls, past and present, exude as much character as the marble railings and bound books they house. Doors Open Milwaukee let us peer into the the windows of the past of kept open by the Central Library structure’s detailed building-craft and stacks filled with archives of knowledge.

Central Library docents guided tour-faring guest through several of the most celebrated portions of the building during Doors Open. Built by Ferry & Clas and opened in 1898, The Central Library once housed the Milwaukee Public Museum, and Discovery World’s in years prior to its current location on the Lake Front. The U-shaped building footprint allowed the library to reside on the Eastern wing and the Museum on the Western wing, joined by the grand rotunda.

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A Becoming Building

Typical of the high time of architecture, when construction of the Central Library took place, a design competition determined the builder of the Library. Frank Lloyd Wright dueled Ferry & Clas for the gig, however unable to stir imaginations with his submission and with whispers questioning its tenability, Wright withdrew his design ceding to Ferry & Clas’s French and Italianate neo-renaissance design. Ferry & Clas had also recently constructed the Pabst Mansion and the Goll and Frank Building in the Third Ward. The Library to this day shocks visual senses with its exterior elegance and stately interior.

A small chink in the mystique of the Central Library arose when a architectural design flaw surfaced in the Pabst Mansion. Upon learning of the fact George Ferry, the firm’s principal, destroyed the Central Library’s blueprints fearing the possibility of another blemish to his reputation if a similar discovery occurred within the Library.

Stories of Learning

The Central Library today houses many intellectual and artistic attractions including the Frank Zeilder Humanities Room, the Richard E. and Lucile Krug Rare Books Room and gallery of art on sabbatical from the Milwaukee Art Museum Collection, Betty Brin Children’s Room, first floor discard books sale room and R Cafe.

Pictures of Milwaukee’s historical figures and structures nestle against walls and in display cases, anchoring the Milwaukee to its past. A rare example of tessera mosaic floor tile lights the way, through the Library’s halls back in time.

Pt 1 A Gem, Doors Open, The Central Library
Pt 2 The Old Board Room. http://wp.me/p1hPwN-Mo
Pt 3 The Rotunda Within, http://wp.me/p1hPwN-Mr
Pt 4 The Green Roof, http://wp.me/p1hPwN-Mu
Pt 5 The Old Museum Director’s Office, http://wp.me/p1hPwN-Mx

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