By Stacy Swadish, Executive Director at Historic Milwaukee, Inc.   Published Sep 18, 2015 at 8:36 AM Photography: Bobby Tanzilo

The fifth annual Doors Open begins tomorrow. I truly believe that this two-day celebration of Milwaukee’s architecture and built environment was created "by the people and for the people." Doors Open is part of the larger worldwide Open House/Doors Open movement that started in London more than 20 years ago.

Longtime Historic Milwaukee, Inc. member George Wagner presented the concept to HMI’s board of directors and got the green light to proceed. Since the first Doors Open Milwaukee in 2011, attendance has climbed by 20 percent each year. We expect more than 25,000 visitors this year.

One of the best parts of Doors Open is reading the feedback shared by attendees. I encourage everyone to complete our Doors Open survey after the event. It will be available on our website, linked to our Facebook page and hard copies will be available at most sites. Here’s what you had to say last year:

  • "It was my niece’s 12th birthday, and my gift to her was spending an afternoon doing whatever she wanted to do. Movies have always been her choice, but this year I told her about Doors Open Milwaukee and her eyes lit up. She lives in Sussex, and although they occasionally make it into 'the big city' for school sponsored field trips, those excursions don't allow much time for exploration and appreciation of the city, its architecture and inhabitants. We went to MIAD, The Riverside, The Plankinton Arcade, The Apartments at The Grand Wisconsin, walked east down Wisconsin Ave. and then north on The Riverwalk to The Marcus Center, and then finally onto the US Bank Building (she's terrified of heights, but at the last minute, she conquered her fears and said, 'Let's do it!'). Seeing her eyes open to a new world, and her realization that she too can live in a vibrant community full of diversity and beauty was, and is, priceless. Thank you, EVERYONE involved, for the amazing day that I got to have with my niece because of you!"
  • "I took my 80-year-old mom. She told me a cute story about meeting my dad Downtown during her lunch hour when she worked at USF&G on Broadway. She put her coat on the railing, and it blew into the river! I never heard this story before, and taking her down there and walking on the streets inspired the memory!"
  • "We love that diverse people and interests are represented. Thanks for including the Black History Museum, Gas Building, Hilton Garden Inn, Clock Shadow and Sage buildings."
  • "Once again, eye-opening. I grew up on the East Side, and my wife in Shorewood, and we intentionally selected mostly the South Side this year because we knew less about it.  Just great."  
  • "I enjoyed the diversity of the participants as much as I do the diversity of the architecture."
  • "I visited the Milwaukee Safety Academy. I attended Madonna High School and wanted to see my old school. All the officers that were there were very nice and interested in our stories about the building. They even found an old lunch tray to give us. I had met up with other alumni, and we were shown many rooms by very helpful officers. Please thank them all for their kindness. I look forward to visiting more places next year. Thank you!"
  • "We really enjoy it as a family. Great way to get our kids to love Milwaukee even more."
  • "I visited my childhood neighborhood!"
  • "I love hearing from individuals who grew up in the neighborhood of the location. They have such interesting historical information. I volunteered at the Modjeska Theater and talked with two women who worked there in the '60s."
  • "Doors Open Milwaukee is an incredible event. It's extremely well run and diverse. I love how nearly every location has a guided tour!"
  • "Wonderful!! Each year, we check out new things. This year we came to South Side locations, and this is such a wonderful blessed opportunity to learn and experience history, heritage and culture."
  • "It's wonderful to see parts of the city not typically open to the public. Thank you."
  • "Thank you. Love this idea. Love Milwaukee; so proud to live here."
  • "My girlfriend and I pick a different section of Milwaukee each year and just go to space to space. We have seen many cool and interesting things we never knew we had. We love this weekend!"
  • "So glad I went this year and next year plan to attend a different section of the city.  Gives people a chance to know backgrounds of many buildings and sites."
  • "I thoroughly enjoyed volunteering in 2013 and 2014. You meet the nicest people when volunteering."
  • "What a fun weekend! It felt like we were on a mini-vacation seeing sites and taking photos. Loved discovering places I've never heard of and getting a peek 'behind the scenes.' Learned so much."
  • "Doors Open is a great event; I wish I had more time this weekend to go to more places. If there was a stronger comment than 'strongly agree' for this event, which makes me proud to be a Milwaukeean, I'd pick it. I love this city and see Doors Open as a great way to build community for the entire Southeastern WI region."