Waukesha’s 125th Anniversary ‘Unlocks’ Historic Places for Tours


WAUKESHA – If history is your thing, you’ll love peeking behind the gates of Waukesha’s oldest sites as part of the city’s 125th anniversary celebrations.

More than that, Waukesha Unlocked, a 60-stop event aided by free bus rides across town on Saturday and Sunday, features a variety of businesses, churches and schools, and public attractions, most involving guided tours.

It also gives access to historic sites and businesses not always open to the public.

“The idea behind ‘Unlocked’ is that it’s your chance to see all of these (sites) that you wouldn’t normally have access to,” said Rebecca Pederson, deputy mayor and city administrator and one Planners of the Largest Birthday Party. “For example, some of the manufacturing facilities, even churches, where you might not always be able to enter.”

Even some public sites, like the Clean Water Plant on Sentry Drive, don’t allow unauthorized access, Pederson said.

“You get more information or a behind-the-scenes look,” she said, noting that each site is responsible for conducting the tours and presenting the background summaries.

Unlocked appears to be modeled after a similar event called Doors Open in Milwaukee.

A full list of venues included in the citywide event is available on the city’s website, including links that provide a summary of each location and what to expect during the event. Not all sites are available on both days, so check out the brochure or links for what interests you.

But here’s a list of some highlights from this weekend’s vast showcase:

The former Waukesha County Courthouse in downtown Waukesha now serves as the Waukesha County Historical Society and Museum.  It is included in a two-day tour called Waukesha Unlocked as part of the City of Waukesha's 125th anniversary.

Historical sites

Fittingly enough, Waukesha Unlocked includes six locations selected for their historical significance, two of which residents cannot visit on a regular basis.

The Andrew Frame House, 507 N. Grand Ave., is one such site. The Italianate house near Waukesha Public Library and Les Paul College is quite familiar from the outside, but the Frame family, who have restored the 19th-century residence in recent years, don’t often open their doors. to the public. It was home to one of the city’s early rulers, Andrew Frame, a renowned banker.

Fischer Center / Fox Head Brewery, 223 Maple Ave., is both historic (structurally) and modern (in its current use for creative arts and events). Fox Head Brewery, founded in 1893, once operated a huge complex stretching from Maple Avenue to Grand Avenue and constructed and used this building for office and storage.

Waukesha County Historical Society & Museum, 101 W. Main St., is generally accessible to the public via a paid entrance, but during Waukesha Unlocked, residents can get a more in-depth look at the building that was originally the courthouse of the County of Waukesha.

The list of historic sites also includes more public items, including the Prairie Home Cemetery, the Schuetze Recreation Center, and a downtown walking tour.

Randy Stretlow works on the final gas engine assembly at what was then GE's Waukesha gas engine plant in January 2014.

Leading companies

Waukesha Unlocked’s list includes 16 commercial locations, including two with massive production facilities that have been expanded and significantly updated in recent years. But beware, some “visits” will be by computer, not in person.

Eaton Corp., 2300 Badger Drive, is still completing its massive expansion off Sunset Drive behind the redeveloped Fox Run Center. Thus, the facility, which will produce transformers and regulators, offers a virtual tour available anytime on Saturday after 10 hours online.

SPX Transformer Solutions, 400 S. Prairie Ave., is one of those places commonly seen by anyone driving along Sunset Drive, but only from the outside. The factory offers 20-minute tours on Sundays for those who want to see the interior of the 519,000 square foot facility. Please note that photography is not allowed.

INNIO Waukesha Gas Engines, 1101 West St. Paul Ave., is what remains of the sprawling historic industrial complex where Moreland Boulevard ends at St. Paul Avenue. Waukesha Gas Engines celebrates its 115th anniversary with a visit to its product training center and outdoor activities on Saturday.

Carroll University's Rankin Hall, which has produced many health-related learning programs, is one of the oldest buildings on the 175-year-old campus.

Arts, churches and schools

Waukesha Unlocked explores all aspects of the community, with a notable emphasis on historic sites as a base of operations.

They include Ethnos360 Bible Institute, 915 N. Hartwell Ave., which explains its current use but explains little of its significant history. The site was a Springs-era hotel, its most grand use, followed by necessary but less glamorous roles as a veterans’ hospital and tuberculosis hospital before it became a Bible institute. Visits are only on Saturdays.

The Waukesha Civic Theater, 264 W. Main St., isn’t as far removed from its original incarnation as the Pix Theater, a movie theater that now hosts plays (and occasionally classic movie screenings). The tours, offered on both days, highlight the performance and rehearsal spaces and will highlight the historic elements that have been restored.

Celebrating its 175th anniversary, Carroll University, whose ever-expanding campus stretches along College, East, and Grand Avenues, will allow those interested to explore most of it with a self-guided walking tour on both days. . Highlights include self-guided tours of historic and new campus buildings such as Doug and Nancy Hastad Hall, Ganfield Gymnasium, Carroll University’s Idea Lab, Main Hall, Rankin Hall, and the Rec Sports Fitness Center.

Dozens of other attractions are part of the event.

Visit all

That’s a lot to take into account, which is why planners encourage visitors to strongly interact with the event listing on the city’s website to capture all the details.

“On our website, we have all the contact information,” Pederson said. “So people will want to check the website to find out what sites they want to go to and make sure they understand when the visits are how the visits are conducted.”

Children will enjoy some places, especially those that have crafts and activities. Some sites, but not all, will offer refreshments, she said.

Either way, the point of it all comes against the backdrop of the city’s milestone anniversary.

“What better way to celebrate than to showcase everything we have here in the city,” said Pederson.

Contact Jim Riccioli at (262) 446-6635 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @jariccioli.


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