The Waukesha County Museum, which started in a basement room of the old courthouse in 1914, houses a more-than-2,000-square-foot repository for American history. The Memories of World War II touring exhibit pays homage to veterans, photographers, and reporters with more than 100 photos from Associated Press archives in addition to testimonies and hundreds of artifacts donated by local residents. Duck into the Greatest Generation Theater for a 20-minute film that illuminates the sagas of four local surviving WWII veterans.
In 1928 the famous stage-acting couple Lynn Fontanne and Alfred Lunt declared that from then on they would only appear onstage together. They also refused to act during the summer so they could spend the season at Ten Chimneys—their 60-acre estate retreat in the rolling hills of Kettle Moraine. Alfred had begun the construction himself in 1914, designing the first part of the three-story main house. In 1922 he and Lynn, newly married, began making additions: they converted the house's chicken coop into a private five-room country cottage and built a Swedish-style log cabin for use as a performance studio. Here, they lived and entertained a revolving cast of actors, writers, and artists until their retirement in 1960.
Today, trained docents lead small groups on tours through the cottage, the studio, and the main house's 18 rooms. Some of these confines bear unique titles such as the Flirtation Room, whereas others are named for past guests Helen Hayes, Laurence Olivier, and Noël Coward. Guides divulge the history behind many of the eclectic artifacts found there, such as Staffordshire figurines, pre-Civil War oil lamps, and Delft china, and reveal details about more personal pieces such as handmade gifts from Helen Hayes and Noël Coward, photographs with Charlie Chaplin, and murals painted by set designer Claggett Wilson. Outside, they lead visitors past a creamery and greenhouse, and point out a copper mermaid—designed and crafted by Cecil Beaton—that sits atop the estate's pool house to scare away sailors.
Throughout the year, Ten Chimneys hosts special theater-centric events. Play readings held in partnership with the Milwaukee Repertory Theater showcase the theater's interns as they read works connected to the Lunts or guests at their estate. During Music in the Drawing Room, cabaret artists from around the country gather around Noël Coward's historic piano to perform for small crowds and confuse unprepared time travelers. The estate also invites well-known local or national theater practitioners for a guest-speaker series inspired by the theater-minded talks that took place at the Lunts’ dining table.
Completed in 1892 as the private home of the Pabst family, Pabst Mansion stands as the last bastion of more than 80 mansions built for Milwaukee’s elite during a booming, bygone era. Since its construction, the estate has housed archbishops, priests, and sisters and was saved from near-demolition during the 1970s. The Flemish-Renaissance-Revival home has since been awarded a place on the National Register of Historic Places for its bounty of architectural intricacies.
Today, on-staff docents conduct a range of tours for public groups, private parties, school groups, and well-behaved rugby teams through the fortress of halls, opulent rooms, and verdant grounds, each restored to their original condition.
The Pabst Mansion’s impressive art collection includes works from the 1640s through the 1900s by artists such as William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Gaetano Trentanove, and Eugene Joseph Verboeckhoven. The emporium of excess also features Pabst Beer Pavilion, the pavilion built for the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and the glass-covered conservatory where tropical plants and beer trees continue to flourish.
The mansion gift shop holds classic Pabst drinkware and memorabilia as well as antique photos, books, and former employees' original finger paintings.
The 14,000-year-old Hebior mammoth stands sentinel past the entrance to the Milwaukee Public Museum, serving as a massive reminder to all who enter that they are traveling back in time. Originally founded in 1882, the museum has spent more than a century collecting artifacts and fossils from around the world to portray the vast reaches of natural and human history throughout 150,000 square feet of exhibit space spread over three and a half floors.
Representing the recent past, The Streets of Old Milwaukee's turn-of-the-century gas-lit lanes and the European Village place visitors up close to replicas of more than 58 structures, including an old-fashioned barbershop and a fully furnished Scottish dwelling. Traveling further back to the Cretaceous period in the Third Planet exhibit, a life-size replica of a tyrannosaurus greets visitors with its tiny arms and impeccable manners. Visitors can also explore treasures from Africa, Asia, and the Arctic, or stroll through the butterfly wing to witness free-flying exotic and native species.
Adjacent to the museum, the Daniel M. Soref Planetarium and IMAX theater display astronomical wonders with a Digistar 3 computer-projection system. The Skies Over Milwaukee show lights up the ceiling with the current night sky for a tour of the planets and constellations. In the same theater, IMAX films transport audience members to the top of Everest or to the bottom of the ocean with a six-story screen, wraparound digital sound, and the distilled imaginations of 5-year-olds.
An all-female, amateur, flat-track roller-derby league, the Brewcity Bruisers' mobile mayhem has dazzled audiences and has been digitally immortalized in the Nintendo Wii game Jam City Rollergirls. Take in a sensory assault of devastating checks and merciless puns in the bout between the Shevil Knevils and Maiden Milwaukee, where respective captains Anita Bier and Moby Nipps throw elbows against Bionika and Betty Clobber in a grudge match. Then stay for the second bout, where captains Blue Siren and Rhoda Ruin lead the Rushin' Rollettes to bang wheelie-spurs with Servin' Justice, Pabsty Cline, and Sharkira's Crazy Eights.
In addition to your two-person unlimited admission to the museum, membership includes a 10% discount to the museum store, a subscription to the museum's e-newsletter, a museum decal and magnet, free admission for tykes under the age of 17, and a free copy of the museum's swimsuit calendar, Corrugated Cardboard.