A block from the Milwaukee Public Museum , the distinctive Milwaukee Public Library (814 W. Wisconsin Ave., 414/286-3032, free tours 1:30 p.m. Sat.) is an impressive 1895 edifice. You can find it by looking for the dome. Inside, a spacious rotunda displays well-preserved original Old World detail work, while further in finds graceful century-old design and ambient light (the staircase alone is worth a view!). Oh, and free wireless access too.
In the 200 block of East Wells Street, Milwaukee City Hall (414/286-2266, 8 a.m.–4 p.m. Mon.-Fri., free) is a navigational aid for first-timers, with its can’t-miss-it Flemish Renaissance design (and also because many remember it from the television sitcom Laverne and Shirley). Antechambers there display Old World artisanship. The 10-ton bell in the tower now rings only for special occasions, and it rocks the entire downtown when it does. A $75 million restoration project, finished in 2008, really brought back the amazing luster to the edifice.
Wisconsin’s one-time status as leading world grain producer explains the lavish interiors of the Grain Exchange (225 E. Michigan St.). The three-story exchange was built in 1879 (the first centralized trading center in the United States); its atavistic Victorian opulence sports gold motifs and enormous paneled murals within the 10,000-square-foot room.