Grand Avenue


The street that we now know as Wisconsin Avenue today has had an illustrious history that, with the exception of the Pabst Mansion, is all but forgotten.  As early as the 1840s, settlers began to settle on Spring Street, as it was known.  Large Italianate homes were built alongside smaller farm homes and cottages.  During the 1870s and 1880s the street continued to develop as the premier residential area of the fledgling city of Milwaukee.  Slowly the countryside gave way to the building of larger and larger homes during which time the street was renamed Grand Avenue.  Milwaukee’s Grand Avenue was heralded as one of the finest residential streets in America.  Early photographs show the area to have been a sea of turrets and arching elm trees that shaded the mansions during the 1890s, when the Avenue hit its peak.  The Pabst Mansion was only one of over sixty residences on Grand Avenue housing Milwaukee’s elite.


During the first decades of the twentieth century, mansion after mansion was torn down, as the city grew westward into this once exclusive neighborhood.  Apartment living was also becoming more popular and the mansions that were not being razed were often turned into rooming houses, spelling almost certain death for these fine homes.  This wholesale devaluation of Grand Avenue continued, at which point in 1926, Grand Avenue’s name was changed to Wisconsin Avenue.  The Pabst Mansion was miraculously spared from the wrecking ball and is the only mansion left, intact, as it was when the Pabst family lived at 2000 Grand Avenue.


Schandein Mansion: The largest mansion on Grand Avenue, built in 1889 at over 40,000 square feet, was constructed for Emil and Lisette Schandein (Mrs. Pabst sister). It also had the dubious distinction of being the first Grand Avenue mansion to be torn down in 1920.



Harnischfeger Mansion: Built in 1905 this was the home of Henry Harnischfeger, the founder and president of P&H Mining. Remnants of this building can still be found today at 35th and Wisconsin Avenue.



Mitchell Mansion: Built by Alexander and Martha Mitchell in 1870, it is now the home of the elegant Wisconsin Club retaining several rooms of original interiors. Milwaukee’s Mitchell Airport is named after their grandson General Billy Mitchell.



Best Mansion: Built 1887 for fellow brewery owner Charles Best, another son of Jacob Best. Charles owned Plankroad Brewery which was eventually sold to become the Miller Brewery. Captain Pabst signed the documents changing the name of the Best Brewery to the Pabst Brewing Company in Charles Best’s home.



Nunnemacher Mansion: Rudolph and Emilie Nunnemacher left their home to the Milwaukee children’s hospital. Rudolph Jr. married the Captain’s daughter, Emma, in 1897 in the Pabst Mansion’s music room with a large and elegant reception in front of the pavilion.



Frank Mansion: Dr. Louis and Ella Frank built their mansion in 1894 complete with a two story pipe organ in the music room. Dr. Frank was Milwaukee’s first dermatologist and Ella was Mrs. Pabst niece. The site is now home to the historic art deco Ambassador Hotel.