Can A big city like Milwaukee, Wisconsin be fill with romance? Is this possible among all of the concrete and huge buildings? At first glance, I”m not sure this big city is someplace most of us would think of as being filled with romantic opportunities. Come along with us as we find romantic places in Milwaukee.
When we think of Milwaukee it’s more along the lines of Milwaukee Airport, Milwaukee Bucks, Milwaukee Brewers, Milwaukee Zoo, Milwaukee Museum, Harley Davidson Motor Company, shopping and of course the big beer companies. However, during a recent weekend to Milwaukee, we found an opportunity for romance around almost every corner.
Milwaukee is the nearest city to us that has a large airport it’s usually where Gary and I drive to just for catching our flights. It seems we have not been giving Milwaukee a fair chance at being a romantic destination.
With the help of VISIT Milwaukee, we were able to experience just a few of the many romantic opportunities that await all of us in Milwaukee. It’s a city that has a lot going for it. Milwaukee is a major port city on Lake Michigan filled with art, culture, history, food, romance and thanks to the German influence….. beer. When I really started looking at what Milwaukee could offer I wonder why we have overlooked it for so long.
Gary and I had fallen into the pattern we caution many of you to not do. We forgot to look close to home for that romantic get-away. This big city is only about 2 hours from us, so it is someplace that was not showing up on our radar as that perfect place for a vacation.
Come along as we share our romantic weekend in Milwaukee with you. See for yourself why those close to home trips might just be the perfect addition to your romantic journey together.
We headed to Milwaukee on an early Friday morning without airline tickets, just our coffee tumblers in hand. It was so sweet of Gary to make both cups of coffee. As we drove we looked over the many things we had scheduled for the next three days. The more we talked and looked at the diversity of activities that would fill our three day weekend the more excited and giddy we got.
Be encouraged as you read this blog, that no matter what has been your life up till now, you have no way to know the completion of your story.
What follows next is a story (much like ours) of adventure, love, and as it may be called, the unexpected fate of a young man chasing his dream. Immediately below, you see the historic culmination of integrity, passion, sorrow and stellar success of a man called: Captain Frederick Pabst!
Pabst Mansion, Milwaukee
Our first stop on our weekend adventure was the Pabst Mansion. A gorgeous home that was built and owned by Captain Frederick Pabst, founder of Pabst Brewing Co.
Who wouldn’t want to start a romantic weekend at a mansion? This Mansion once stood as a pillar in a prominent area of Milwaukee. It is now nestled between two much taller and more modern structures and yet it still stands as proudly today as it did when it was built in 1892.
The Pabst Mansion itself came very near to being the victim of a wrecking ball. After the passing of Captain and Mrs. Pabst in the early 1900s, the mansion was bought by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. For over 60 years 5 Archbishops, called the mansion home. It was their ownership that helped preserve much of the beautiful structure.
In 1975 the Archdioces put the mansion up for sale. Its purchase caused it to become doomed for demolition, to make way for a parking lot. A group called the Wisconsin Heritages, Inc. was able to step in and save this magnificent piece of Milwaukee’s history. In 1978, the Pabst Mansion was opened to the public. Although the structure and magnificent details were preserved much restoration was needed to bring the mansion back to its original glory.
A good portion of the restoration has been completed, yet there is much more to be done. In touring the mansion it is easy to see where the renovation is still underway. The restoration group that originally saved the mansion, Wisconsin Heritages, Inc. is now officially known as Captain Fredrick Pabst Mansion Inc.
After taking the tour, it was such a joy to find out this beautiful piece of Milwaukee history was not only saved from the wrecking ball but is being beautifully preserved for all of us to enjoy.
Let’s get to know Captain and Maria Pabst. Have you asked yourself yet why Mr Pabst is referred to as Captain Pabst? Keep reading and we’ll connect a few of the missing and intriguing pieces.
We received an almost personal guided tour from our Docent, Barb. We enjoyed the fact she was there to teach us and not just point out things in the mansion. But she did more than teach she brought to life the history of the 20,000 square foot mansion and the Pabst family. Barb has a true passion for the history of the Pabst family, the mansion and her job.
Once inside the Mansion, it is so easy to get lost in history and the romance that once filled those halls. A romance that started with a young boy falling in love with the sea.
Why is Frederick Pabst called captain? At the age of 12, Frederick and his parents emigrated to America, it was this journey that caused Frederick to fall in love with the sea. As a young man of 14, Frederick signed on as a cabin boy on a great lakes steamer. For eight years Pabst sailed the Great Lakes and studied navigation, and by 1857 he had become captain of the Goodrich steamer Huron. (here come the first twist of fate)
As captain of the Huron, Pabst met brewer Phillip Best. Frederick Pabst was known to have a very likable personality, Best and Pabst became friends. On some of Best’s trips, his daughter Maria Best accompanied him. Was there a little matchmaking going on? This woman would come to change Frederick’s future. Captain Frederick Pabst and Maria Best, daughter of Milwaukee brewer Phillip Best fell in love and were married in 1862.
Now right here with the marriage begins a fusion of two destinies. The successful, likable and renowned Captain Pabst and the owner of Best Beer Brewery, Phillip Best. From the day of the marriage, Best asked Captain Pabst to leave the sea and join the brewery. But Captain Pabst’s love for the sea kept him on his ship.
All was well with Captain Pabst until December 1863 when his ship was beached by a storm at Whitefish Bay, just north of Milwaukee. Shaken by the incident, Pabst decided to leave the sea and finally join his father-in-law in the brewing business, despite having no brewing background.
Captain Pabst threw his heart into learning all he could about brewing. He studied every detail of the business. It was much due to Pabst mastery of the brewing process that Best began to grow. At the same time, the Best family was growing.
Captain and Mrs. Pabst went on to have 10 children, only 5 made it to adulthood. This sadly was a common occurrence during this era.
Captain Frederick Pabst, world-famous beer baron began construction of their new family mansion in June 1890. In 1892 the family moved into what was considered the jewel of Milwaukee’s famous avenue of mansions called Grand Avenue.
Captain and Maria’s youngest daughter Emma, at the age of 19, was their only child to move into the mansion when the construction was completed. Yet another child was to call the Pabst Mansion her home. Captain and Maria raised their grand-daughter Elsbeth. Their oldest daughter, Elizabeth, passed away at 26 years old from complications of appendicitis while the construction of the mansion was in progress.
In touring the mansion we were shown many features that at the time of construction would have been considered ahead of the times. A high-tech communication device, an intercom system made without wires filled the mansion. Simply pipes in the walls connecting rooms with the waitstaff or offices. Just speak into one end and it is received at the other end…if somebody is there to hear you.
Built into the house was a special entrance where Captain Pabst and family, could board their horse-drawn coach and step from the house directly into the coach. There was also a porte-cochere attached to the home that protected their guests from the weather when entering the home.
Outside each bedroom door was a hook. We questioned the purpose of these hooks. Our Docent Barb explained that at the end of each day, the Pabst family would hang their clothes from the day on the hooks and in the morning freshly pressed clothes would be waiting for the family. Bedrooms in those days did not have closets.
Barb joked that this built-in safe kept Captain Pabst’s most valuable possessions protected.
During our visit we found ourselves captivated by the ornate details of the home. Its beauty is something that words and pictures can’t fully capture. We found ourselves putting away our camera and enjoying the beauty. The home was built by true craftsmen and is filled with intricate woodwork. Undescribable detail, such as carved hops on the railings, hidden locks that opened secret compartments in the walls, beautiful wallpaper, and detailed painting were throughout the mansion.
The Pabst Mansion is someplace you really need to see to appreciate.
While we were touring the mansion, Christmas decorating was going on. You could just feel the joy that would have filled those rooms back in the early 1900s and even today.
When Captain Frederick and Maria Pabst began construction of their new family mansion in June 1890, they could not have anticipated that it would survive and thrive into the twenty-first century. During the years of the Pabst family’s ownership, the house was the scene of many fine parties and receptions, a wedding and, in the end, Captain and Mrs. Pabst’s funeral. As the years have come and gone, The Pabst Mansion has remained a constant on Milwaukee’s landscape.
Best Place Brewery Tour
After the Pabst Mansion visit, we traveled to the “Best Place” for a brewery tour. (WOO HOO!!! One ice-cold beer included with tour ticket) But what does someplace called the “Best Place” have to do with Pabst? There is an exciting part of Pabst’s history here. Best Place is a historic Pabst Brewery building dating back to 1880. The tour we took was a beer
history tour about the history of the Pabst Brewery. Instead of learning how beer was made we became immersed again in the history of a man with a vision, about the company itself and the people behind the vision.
This Historic Pabst Brewery building was once a school, yes I said school; Jefferson Elementary School. The Best Brewery kept growing and expanding throughout Milwaukee and it wasn’t long before it entirely surrounded Jefferson school. Best Brewery bought the school and a local church two blocks away in 1890. The school was converted into offices and a guest center. Captain Pabst had his office in this very building right in the middle of the Pabst empire. Which at the time of the school purchase was not known as Pabst it was known as Best Beer.
Best Brewery had been making beer since 1844 (founded by Jacob Best…Phillip’s father) but financial troubles and Phillip Best’s failing health threatened to close the brewery by the 1860s. Pabst agreed to become a partner in the brewery and two years later, Pabst bought out Phillip Best with his brother-in-law Emil Schandein.
In 1872 Captain Pabst became president of Best and Company the second largest brewery in the U.S. Yet it did not become known as Pabst until 1889. To honor Phillp Best there is still the blue seal on every bottle and can of Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer. If you are like me I assumed the “B” stood for beer. Now you know it is in honor of the Best family as the founders of the company.
Interesting factoid: Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer never won a blue ribbon.
Pabst faced struggles along the way. Despite being the second-largest brewery in the U.S. 13 years of prohibition is sure to hit any beer company hard, who’s main product is now prohibited. Pabst was creative, switching to a cheese-like product, and selling hops with a warning that stated it was against the law to use the hops to produce alcohol.
In December of 1933, prohibition ended! Pabst constructed a statue and a party was held in the courtyard at the Pabst Brewery. They were one of the few breweries that survived prohibition.
For those of you that are not familiar with prohibition, from Jan 1920 until Dec 1933 it was illegal for any alcohol to be stored, manufactured, transported sold or consumed.
Pabst reached it’s pinnacle in 1978 and was producing 15.6 million barrels of beer. At that time Pabst cooperation occupied 7 city blocks in downtown Milwaukee with 28 buildings and 5000 employees. Every morning 70 rail cars full of beer shipped from the brewery.
Pabst knew how to treat his employees. Every employee, with the exception of the delivery men, were allowed 3 beers per work shift. According to past Pabst employees, there was no limitation on the number of beers as long as you could do your job. I think that was a happy workplace environment. LOL!!
Unfortunately, the brewery closed it’s headquarters in Milwaukee abruptly. The Pabst offices sat empty for a period of time from 1996 after the closing of Pabst until September 11, 2001, when purchased by Jim Haertel and began its new life as Best Place.
Among hidden treasures found in the building were photographs of Groucho Marx, Danny Kaye, Jimmy Durante, Donald O’Conner and a guest registry containing signatures from people around the world. The Best brewery tour was exciting. It was romantic to walk the halls holding hands and picturing the past. Some of the areas at the Best Place have been restored, some spaces are in process of restoration and other portions still have not been touched in many years.
A portion of Best Place is now a pub that is open daily and also a venue for weddings, meetings, business conferences, concerts, rallies and the like.
The history of Phillip Best, Best Brewery, Frederick Pabst and Pabst Brewery is immense and full of twists and interesting events that make it quite incredible. Here are some additional questions to consider:
What role did the great Chicago Fire play in Milwaukee’s beer growth?
If Pabst Brewery closed in 1996, how is Pabst still brewing beer?
How many beers did Pabst Brewery have? (it was much more than 50 brands)
Afternoon Tea at the Pfister
Afternoon Tea at The Pfister Hotel was next on our schedule. An experience, unlike anything we have ever enjoyed. An elegant experience that is perfect for lovers, mothers and daughters, friends and even family, something that needs to be enjoyed by everyone at least once.
Walking into the lounge on the 23rd floor, we were instantly surrounded by an elegance that quietly shouted romance and an unbelievable panoramic view of Milwaukee’s Skyline. Although elegant when entering the lounge, you are instantly relaxed, piano music playing gently in the background and a cozy crackling fireplace set the stage for romance. Our Tea Butler seated us overlooking the amazing city of Milwaukee.
Once we were seated and had an opportunity to absorb the amazing view, our Tea Butler visited our table with a service trolley filled with the many blends of teas being offered. Our relaxing tableside tea blending included a variety of Rishi Teas, which are headquartered right in Milwaukee. Our tea butler taught us about each variety, the amazing smells, flavors, origins and the effects each different tea has on our mood and health.
While our Butler shared with us the origins of each tea we were given a sampling to smell and envision the flavors before choosing our own. We were also taught the many options one has for pairing in their tea. Adding fruit or cinnamon sticks when brewing your tea adds to the enjoyment. I enjoy tea but this experience opened my eyes to the many different options one has when enjoying it. Gary chose an orange tea with fruit added while I chose a vanilla tea with apple slices added.
Our tea was served in grand-style presented in all–silver, including a replica of an 18th-century self-tipping teapot with a tea light to keep it warm. The experience was completed with fresh pastries being served alongside the tea.
To complete our experience, we were served a variety of English finger foods, again served in a grand style. Among these finger foods were miniature cucumber sandwiches, crepes, quiche, caviar, miniature scones, and numerous delicious finger desserts.
Our afternoon tea will surely become a treasured memory for both of us.
The Pfister Hotel
It was hard to leave the comforts of the tea room. after a long morning, it was so relaxing and romantic. We had turned our chairs and sat next to each other sipping what remained of our tea, enjoying each other’s company overlooking the city of Milwaukee.
Yet more excitement lay ahead of us. The Pfister Hotel was going to be our home for the next three days and by the looks of it, excitement and romance lay ahead of us! Check out our entire blog post featuring our stay at The Pfister Hotel.
To top off our wonderful day, we headed to the Milwaukee Rep for a show, which is located in the Milwaukee Center. Our night started with Dinner at the Stackner Cabaret restaurant.
The Stackner Cabaret Restaurant and bar is open to the public before and after all evening performances at The Rep. They offer a full bar and a menu featuring comfort food in a unique theater surrounding. It’s the perfect place to meet before the show. As we discovered its also the perfect place for a romantic evening!
The Stackner Cabaret is not a dinner theater and service stops just before the opening curtain. Also, prior to the performance, you are able to place a drink/dessert order that will be served to you during intermission.
Depending on your group size you may be seated at a table with others. Which we found proves to be a wonderful experience, it is so much fun making friends over drinks and dinner.
The Milwaukee REP
Our entertainment for the evening was a hysterical musical comedy called Nunsense. Put on by The Milwaukee Rep. This comedy had us laughing so hard throughout the entire evening.
The Little Sisters of Hoboken were in dire need of emergency funds after a culinary disaster nearly wiped out all the Sisters in the convent. Funds were needed to get their Sisters out of the freezer. Now doesn’t that leave you with a questioning picture?
Both the actresses and the storyline made us laugh as they attempted to put together a variety show to raise the needed funds. (no they didn’t pass the collection plate in the audience. LOL ) The variety show included singing, tap dancing, habit humor, an audience quiz and a special appearance by the convent cook, Sister Julia, Child of God.
With a storyline that kept us laughing, the songs, and comic interludes this was a musical adventure we were so happy to have been a part of!
With this sampling of The Reps work. We have no doubt that there is a lot of talent in this group. Their performances are something we will be looking into doing again. For a list of their current performances check out The Milwaukee Rep.
Following the show, we grabbed a quick nightcap at the Giggly Champagne & Wine Bar, which was located right outside the Milwaukee Center. A masquerade party was going on that evening. Dressing up in costumes just seem to have a romantic feel about it. Giggly’s seemed like a favorite place for many.
Milwaukee is showing us to be a place with way too much to do and not enough time to do it. Day 2 had us exploring Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward District. What an exciting that proved to be.
For additional Milwaukee fun and romance, check out our visit to the Harley Davidson Museum.
Gary & Michelle
X O X O
Thank you VISIT Milwaukee for making part of our weekend possible and for all, your help. sharing with us the romantic possibilities in Milwaukee.
Some parts of this blog post have been sponsored. This means we may have received compensation for publishing the post. However, all thoughts, experiences, and opinions remain our own.
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