Streets of Old Milwaukee

The Streets of Old Milwaukee was originally opened in January 1965.

This exhibit created one of the first walk-through dioramas in the world, transporting the visitor back to a fall evening in Milwaukee at the turn of the 20th century. It was an immediate hit and continues to be the most visited spot in the Museum. In honor of the Streets 50th anniversary, the exhibit was reimagined by further incorporating themed storytelling and a heightened sensory experience to give the visitor a different perspective on every visit.

The Streets boasts a life-sized street car entrance that, through clever use of technology, transports the visitor on a journey back in time to Milwaukee's yesteryear, exiting into a courtyard highlighting some of Milwaukee's industrialized businesses. Museum-goers can stroll down the darkened, gaslit lanes, peer into the windows of some thirty shops, businesses, eating and drinking establishments, and pay their respects to Granny patiently rocking on the front porch of one of two residences to grace the Streets (the other being the Watson Family Home, a tribute to one of Milwaukee's first prominent African American families).

Buildings in the Streets of Old Milwaukee are represented at about three-quarters size or less. The Streets are constructed from three different styles of paving: granite blocks originally from Buffalo Street, red bricks, and cedar blocks. In addition to the artifacts from the museum's own collections, the Streets contain extensive materials generously donated by the community. Some of these objects, resident app tour guides, silent films, and soundscapes will change with themed storytelling, refreshing the exhibit with a new perspective, periodically. 

grann'y housegeneral store
granny's housetrolley

Exhibit Accessibility & Social Stories

This exhibit has cobblestone streets, planked sidewalks, and is dimly lit to represent taking an evening stroll. You can enter through a life-sized trolley that has stairs and a ramp. The trolley has videos playing and rumbling sounds. The people in the buildings look very real, but they are not. They are statues made to look real. There is a small theater in the exhibit that has stairs and a ramp. The room is dark, and a movie will be playing. Some of the buildings have stairs up to a second story. You can check out an Explorer Kit from the ticket windows which has a booklet of photos of the interior of all the buildings and stores.

Presenting Sponsor:
Rexnord Foundation, represented as The Falk Company

Major Sponsors:
Balistreri Owned & Operated Sendik’s Food Markets
Bliffert Lumber and Hardware, represented as North Side Lumber & Fuel Company
Badger Meter
We Energies Foundation, represented as The Milwaukee Gaslight Company