Central Library

Also known as: Milwaukee Public Library and Museum
814 W. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee, Wisconsin

U-shaped building designed by Ferry & Clas in a Neo-renaissance format


Overview Looking Northeast

Photo taken by J.R. Manning in June 2014



Yelper Transplant to Milwaukee Reviews the Central Library 

Written by Ophelia M., Quoted by J.R. Manning

Editor's Note: I found this review of the MPL Central Library a few days ago on Yelp. With the kind permission of the author, I am sharing her review. Ophelia is a recent transplant to Milwaukee and this is one of her recent discoveries. Her review gives a first impression of the library from a new Milwaukee resident.

As I drove down Wisconsin Avenue, my GPS beeped--I had reached my destination.

There was a parking lot with a sign that stated "library parking." I swung my car into the lot, paid $3 for an hour, hurried the kiddo out of the car, and looked around.

"Where is it?" my son asked.

"I'm not sure," was my reply.

Then we both gazed at a stately pillared, limestone building across the street.

It couldn't be....

Or, could it?

I spied a plaque near the steps that read, "Public Library", and directed my son. He stopped...

"Are you sure that's not...I don't know...a capitol building of some sort?"

Never mind Milwaukee isn't Wisconsin's capitol. We're still a bit new to WI, so I let that pass.

I understood his point. This location (the central branch and headquarters) of the Milwaukee Public Library is nothing short of grand. Housing Milwaukee's original library collections since 1898, the domed and pillared building demands notice. And, as striking as it is on the outside, it's interior is equally so. Entering into the rotunda, you are met with marble and opulence.

Beyond the rotunda, however, the real treasure lies.

The library houses expansive collections of books of all sorts and an impressive collection of audio books, DVDs, and music CDs as well. On our first visit, we were directed to a help desk where we were able to get our library cards.

Once we were official library patrons, we went in search of the historical section as my son was on the hunt for a book for a research project. There are plenty of computers available in every section (to search the catalog) and all the shelves/areas are well defined. We were able to find his book in no time (and a fun audio book to boot).

Well organized with workers eagerly willing to help in whatever section you find yourself, this library is beautifully laid out and competently run.

Bonus? They have several self check out stations and so there was no waiting when we checked out.

A beautiful building housing a marvelous collection of books. As my father stated when I texted him a picture of the exterior,

"They have real class back in Wisconsin."

We do, dad. We really, really do.

Get to it!

National Register information 

Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on December 30, 1974
Reference number
Architectural styles
Victorian: Renaissance; Other architectural type; Renaissance Revival
Area of significance
Level of significance
Evaluation criteria
C - Design/Construction
Property type
Historic functions
Museum; Library
Current functions
Library; Government office
Period of significance
Significant years
1895; 1899

Update Log 

  • March 10, 2021: New photo from J.R. Manning
  • October 4, 2017: New photos from J.R. Manning
  • October 3, 2017: Essay added by J.R. Manning
  • October 3, 2017: New photos from J.R. Manning
  • June 9, 2014: Updated by J.R. Manning: Updated Status and Added Photos

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