Whenever we go to Milwaukee, we never seem to get beyond the Milwaukee Art Museum, our usual destination. So we decided to spend a few days in the city with no schedule to follow. Though we drove from Madison, we parked the car and walked everywhere. Milwaukee has wonderful architecture everywhere you look, with lots of open space making for an attractive urban experience. Since we were on foot, we also noticed that Milwaukee drivers — unlike most Madison motorists — respected pedestrians and always stopped for us in crosswalks.
I had to make a stop at the historic Geoge Watts & Son whose building (below) is one of the most gorgeous retail stores imaginable. Though reduced in size, the store still carries a dazzling array of china, glassware and linens and their Tea Room is still serving Sunshine Cake — a Milwaukee sweet treat for more than 100 years. Today the building is also home to the De Lind Gallery and a bridal shop. The gallery was showing posters by many of the artists whose work is on display in the big MAM exhibit, "Posters of Paris: Toulouse-Lautrec and his Contemporaries" (which ends on 9/9).
Eero Saarinen's Milwaukee Country War Memorial
Unknown grande dames
We came across this refreshing little oasis and walked through it to take a break from the heat and sun. Since only a couple of people were enjoying this park-like space, it may not have been intended for the public but just the people who work in the adjacent buildings.
Since we hadn't taken an official vacation in a couple of years, we decided to splurge and stay at The Pfister Hotel. This is a stunning 1893 masterpiece with a noted collection of Victorian paintings on display. There are big meeting rooms named after presidents of the era when the hotel was built (like Taft and McKinley) and a room whose walls are covered with photographs of all of Wisconsin Governors. The hotel underwent restoration in 2008 and just sparkles.
There's a piano lounge tucked into one corner of the grand lobby and the long-time pianst was playing Gershwin when we arrived to check in. We had cocktails there one night before going out to dinner.
We stayed in the original part of the Pfister on the eighth floor. I adored the hotel's classic staircase and made Mark walk down all eight flights to the lobby every time we left our room. I wanted to savor every bit of the 19th Century experience!
We did take advantage of the new tower that adjoins the old hotel. It has a spectacular martini bar — Blu — on the 23rd floor where we watched the blue moon rise over the city and light up Lake Michigan.
We stopped in the lobby each day to chat with Timothy Westbrook, the Pfister's charming artist-in-residence. Yes, the hotel actually has an artist-in-residence program. This program and the fact that Westbrook is a textile artist actually convinced us to stay at the Pfister. Westbrook is creating costumes of the Pfister era using looms and an historic sewing machine but employing recycled material like cassette tapes.