Thursday, September 22, 2016

Doors Open to Antiques, Heights, and Shriners

This past weekend my mom and I went to Doors Open Milwaukee, which is this neat event where you can go into places that are not regularly open and get a chance to look around. Some of the places we visited fit with subjects I've blogged about before, like old Milwaukee antiques, history, Prohibition, and Freemasonry.

The first place we went was a lot of fun for someone like me who is into peeking around antiques. With all the Milwaukee history I've been looking into lately, I actually felt like I had a big heads up into understanding some of these items. Especially since most of what we saw seemed to be from the 1920s and 1930s.

The antiques are housed in The Chudnow Museum of Yesteryear.

This house was built in 1869

The collection in this house belonged to Avrum Chudnow, who was really into finding and displaying any old thing he could find. He had a background in picking, because that's what his father did for his business - picking up antiques. So if an old business closed and Chudnow heard about it, he'd buy up what was left. The collection started in his house, but after a point his wife needed a break from all this stuff. So some of his collection was moved to what is now The Chudnow Museum and what was then Chudnow's office building (he was an attorney).

Chudnow organized each room with a theme. He tried to keep each space of collectables in a similar way to how they originally looked. So the grocery store or ice cream parlor would appear close to the original room.


Mom in the ice cream parlor
There were several mannequins in the house. This one was standing in the grocery store.


A photo bomber in the grocery! I love it. I didn't even see him in the picture until I enlarged it at home. And... you probably don't see him now.

So, closing in...

This guy had been kidding me about the cigar accessories a moment earlier. Something like "Oh? You're going to buy a cigar?" I was taking pics of the old Prince Albert tobacco labels, because it's kind of a joke between me and my mom. She'd told me stories about making crank calls asking "Do you have Prince Albert in a can?" "Well, you better let him out!" You know, those old "Is your refrigerator running?" sort of jokes.

So, there's Prince Albert, out of his can.

As I said earlier, Chudnow had a collection of Prohibition items. There were political pins so a person could show their view on the Prohibition law. This is my favorite one:

"Turn on the Golden Booze" Someone could probably sell that on t-shirts nowadays. Around here anyway.

Now, here's a piece of Prohibition history I've always wanted to see. It's a prescription form for  medicine that contained alcohol in 1925. I've heard there were suddenly a lot of colds and flu going around during The Depression... 

And who could forget this classic song?

Check out the "Rum Hound" sitting by his feet.

Fittingly enough, for a museum with Prohibition antiques, there was a big Al Capone cardboard cutout.

I think that's about the expression that would be on my face if I was next to the real Al Capone. I can't entirely explain why. Cautious amusement?  

Now, here's a product Al Capone probably would have liked. It's a set of keys that could open "thousands of different locks".

If you read the old ad for "Safety Keys" you'll see they were trying to appeal to the police, but from what we learned, the police weren't exactly thrilled with this product. I think criminals were the ones using it.

The safety keys were part of a display about the Master Lock company. We saw a short movie on the company's founder, Harry Soref. It was more interesting than I would have thought. You should look him up some time if you'd like to read about an interesting life. 

This display showed the result of a demonstration to show how tough Master Locks were. Those are bullet holes.

Sort of like the tests you see products go through on infomercials, hey?

Something I wish I had gotten a photo of was one of the old phones in the house. There were three phones and you could make them ring by cranking the handle. Then if someone felt like answering on another floor they could. I picked up and heard a woman say "hello". I just said "Glad you picked up" and I heard a little laughing. It's hard to know what to say when you don't even know who is on the other end!

There were also two old cars parked outside the museum. I know you guys are going to be interested in this one. It has ghost car written all over it! I read on this page that the car was found in a Wisconsin barn in 2013.

Check out that roof!

Doesn't this look like the kind of car someone decides to fix up and drive at the beginning of a horror movie? I think I overheard someone talking about fixing it up while I was there, but in a way I think it's cool left as-is.

After visiting the Chudnow museum, we walked more or less next door to The Catholic Financial Life building. I'm not entirely sure what's in this building aside from apartments. Maybe life insurance offices? Anyway, it is a very tall building and the only building in downtown Milwaukee to have a pool on its roof. There's an amazing view to go with the pool.

A nice guy offered to take a photo of us.

These are a few of my favorite photos from up there. We were only given five minutes on the roof, so I had to keep snapping away. I could have used more time up there!

What's neat about this next photo is there's a little bride and groom by the church entrance. I didn't realize they were there until I looked at this photo closer at home.

Closing in...

It was perfect timing, because the photos I took before and after this one don't have the couple there. They look so cute and tiny, like a little topper on a wedding cake. 

I just had a funny realization. Even knowing that pool on the roof was such a big deal, I didn't bother photographing it! Luckily, someone else did: Pool Pic

The next day, we visited two more Doors Open locations. The first was a place it turned out mom had wanted to see the inside of for a long time: The Tripoli Shrine Center.  As you can guess, this grand building is a meeting place for The Shriners.

It's very exotic on the inside and out. The building was completed in 1928 and you can see the Art Deco influence.

This is a view of the tile floor from above.

I love old, detailed lamps and there were plenty to be seen.

This one reminds me of lace.

There were cool spiderweb glass windows through the building, at least that's the way I saw them. Maybe there's a deeper symbolic meaning. I got the feeling there were symbolic meanings to pretty much all the decor there.

A closer view of the gold painted accents on the wall:

This is a view of the inside of the dome in the ceiling. Look at the beautiful designs in there! They really glowed with the help of that chandelier.

There's a cool poolroom that's original to the building.

If you're curious about reading the nitty-gritty of how Shriners are related to Freemasons, this page is worth a look:

I thought I'd add that in after mentioning at the beginning of this post that there would be something about Freemasonry. As you'll read, the Shriners were more inspired by Masons than connected in every way.

The last stop was The Milwaukee City Hall.

We were hoping to get a view from the bell tower, but as it turned out, you had to get tickets several months in advance to do that! So, that's something to remember for next year. But we did get a view looking up the many floors to the roof of the building.

Dizzying, isn't it? I looked down from the top to the bottom floor too, but I didn't have what it took to lean over and get a photo.

This is the city council room:

It's hard to see above, but lining the ceiling were all the zodiac signs along with patriotic images. I zoomed waaaay in for the Libra. Those scales are really swinging.

An intricate glass window inside the room:

There were also some beautiful pieces of stained glass outside the room. Representing The City of Milwaukee with City Hall at the bottom:

Representing the state of Wisconsin with the Capitol building at the bottom:

I'm going to end with a few videos. This first one gives a nice overview of the Drug Store portion of The Chudnow Museum:

It's enough to make you think everyone was hopped up on goofballs back then! Isn't it funny to think that around the time alcohol was illegal, these heroin or cocaine laced over the counter drugs were legal?

I also found a video taken from The Milwaukee City Hall bell tower. Here you'll see what we missed out on, because we didn't have tickets months in advance. But you know, watching this, I think that's OK.

It's way high up, and I don't like all that empty space in the middle of the never-ending staircase. That and the loud bell. So, I think we ended up on the top of the right building!

Hope you guys enjoyed this mini tour of a few Doors Open buildings. I learned today that we could have had 150 locations to choose from! Do any of you live near a city that does something like this?


  1. Hi Justine! First, let me wish you a Happy Birthday! Or, because it's Halloween season, how about a Happy Boo-day! It's interesting that in order for me to be born in June I had to be concieved around this time. So you got born and I got conceived! Anyway, this is really a great post, I love all these old buildings. It's great when cities retain some of their looks from the past and history.

    1. Matt ~ Hey! Thank you for the birthday wishes! :) Yeah, Happy Boo-day to me. I think it is going to feel like a Halloween birthday to me more this year because the weather has really taken a turn for the autumn. Yeah, sounds like autumn was an important time for the both of us then. :)

      I thought you'd like these old buildings and that old car. I meant to send you a tweet about that car actually, but forgot. So I'm glad you saw this. We're always talking about the cool old cars, but I don't think either of us has shared a car quite like this one. I totally agree that it's great for cities to retain old architecture and history. It drives me nuts when any old historical building is torn down. But we still have a lot of them around here. Except for a few issues, they seem built to last!

  2. I love it!! This is a place I would thoroughly enjoy.

    1. Julie ~ I thought you would! (I'm assuming you mean The Chudnow Museum) That car especially seemed just your style! I know you're into the beautiful, decayed remnants of houses and cars. I think you would have enjoyed looking at all those antiques too!

  3. I would love to have seen both places. I love antiques!

  4. Cool event! I have done a wedding at that church is beautiful! Back when I would shot video of weddings for extra cash. That photo bomber cracked me up. Hope you had a great birthday!

    1. Bob ~ No way! I didn't know you were doing wedding photography. How is the interior of that church? I bet it's beautiful. It looks fancy from the outside, anyway. Did you do any other wedding photography in the Milwaukee area?

      Oh yeah, the photo bomber was a fun surprise. Somehow I don't notice the photo bombers until I get home and look closer at my pictures.

      I meant to tell you that I enjoyed watching your recent YouTube video of the car show! Nicely done.

      And thanks for the birthday wishes! I think I'll have a fun birthday tomorrow. :)

  5. My dad was the Photographer I studied film so I was a Videographer. I did wedding's on the side for extra money when I was not working on commercials or film (nothing exciting). All I remember about that church where all those windows!! And how I was the back Camera and it was a really long shot! I did do a few things in your neck of the woods one of the coolest was a documentary I worked on for The Trinity Irish Dancers. We followed them around Irish Fest(?) and a few other places in Milwaukee. The aired on WTTW for years. We also shot in a big building downtown with a stage but for the life of me I do not remember I was on sound mixing that night and it was a humdinger to keep in balance. It was a fun career but things happened here at home and my company moved to Canada sadly I was not ready to leave. I'm blessed tho I did what I loved for a few years. And that leads me to YouTube.

    Thanks for checking out some of my video's I have always wanted to do more with that outlet and I'm pretty impressed with what the iPhone can do so, for now, I keep playing. I plan on some videos of Starved Rock during the fall this year hoping they pay off.

    Oh and I still have my demo reel that I would send out, it was a wedding I did at the Field Museum! That was cool! And it's on VHS lol!!

    1. Bob ~ How cool! I had no idea about your background as a videographer. Oh yeah, it looked from the outside like the windows would be a big design element of the church.

      Oh yeah! The Trinity Irish Dancers. I actually went to school with a girl in that group. Yup, you probably would have been at Irish Fest. That's a place I visit every summer. It's probably my favorite ethnic festival in Milwaukee. I wonder if you ended up at the Irish Cultural Center (another old church) when you were filming the dance group?

      Hmm... a big building with a stage. I wonder if you were at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts? That's the first one that came to mind.

      I should watch more of your YouTube videos. I've noticed that you've been adding some recently. I like going to car shows, so that's probably why I chose to watch that one. I didn't make it to any car shows this summer, though.

      I didn't know about Starved Rock Park until just now. I looked at the park web site and it's beautiful! I'd like to see those videos if you put them up.

      Haha! Ah, if you could only somehow transfer that VHS into something watchable online... There's probably some way with a ton of equipment. The Field Museum sounds like a cool place for a wedding!

  6. Wow that was a real interesting and informative post!

  7. DJ Trish ~ Thank you! I'd definitely like to take part in this event again next year.

    So this is a coincidence, you and Bob (who commented above) both put up car show videos on YouTube around the same time. I enjoyed seeing the old cars and boats and just in general what was going on during your day. Looks like there were lots of friendly people out!