Near West Side Partners: Preserving history, engaging community with the Pabst Mansion

The Pabst Mansion on Wisconsin Avenue is where Milwaukee history meets modern-day community in the Near West Side. Near Marquette University’s campus, it stands as a rare example of the Flemish renaissance revival architectural style. Through the years, the Pabst Mansion has found ways to preserve the historical integrity of the property while making inclusive advances to engage patrons. 

Visitors to the mansion include local community members, Marquette students, guests from all 50 states and international travelers from around the globe. Considering the multitude of visitors, the mansion plays a crucial role in tourism and preserving history.

“It’s the only example of what this neighborhood used to be,” says Jocelyn Slocum, director of operations and curatorial affairs at the Pabst Mansion. “It is not just an example, but it is a living example, it’s an immersive example.”

The Pabst Mansion recently introduced free days for residents to make the property more accessible for larger groups of families, co-workers and student organizations in the Near West Side. Following the successful first free admission day on June 15, the Pabst Masion decided to plan another day for the fall season. Before these offerings were piloted, the Pabst Mansion offered complimentary tours to neighboring Milwaukee Public Schools and fostered partnerships with Marquette through tours to enrich public history courses. Empowering residents and students to take advantage of these opportunities is an integral part of building community pride.

Marquette students can make the Pabst Mansion a fixture in their college experience by buying a student membership. The student membership is a new offering that encourages students to become patrons of the arts and history. This $25 membership includes free admission to the mansion all year, a Heritage newsletter subscription, 10% off at the Pabst Mansion Gift Shop, and discounted entry to special events. 

From Friday, Nov. 24, through Saturday, Jan. 6, Twilight Tours will kick off the celebration of the holiday season. Visitors can experience a self-guided evening tour with festive, sparkling lights, live holiday music and beverages like glühwein (mulled wine) and hot pecan whiskey cider. 

These Twilight Tours include live music at the property and celebrate the Pabst family’s love for the performing arts. The family’s affection for the arts is demonstrated through their previous ownership of the Pabst Theater. Whenever there was a performer they particularly liked, they would extend an invitation to perform a private show at their residence for their esteemed guests.

Aside from the Twilight Tours, the Pabst Mansion has a variety of other seasonal tours and a rotating list of more general walk-throughs. It offers guided tours in Spanish and self-guided tours in German, French, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese. A Marquette student intern pioneered the task of translating the mansion’s guided tour into Spanish. This student has become a permanent member of the team and continues to make tours more accessible to this day. 

Other interns at the Pabst Mansion have engaged in a wide range of outreach activities, including conducting research, creating blogs and crafting social media content. Additionally, interns have utilized the archives to create their own research projects.

Through community engagement, ongoing renovation projects and historical preservation, the Pabst team is committed to preserving the mansion as a reminder of the Pabst family’s contributions to shaping the Near West Side. Like the Pabst family, the current staff holds engaging their community and city in high regard. These objectives align perfectly with the efforts of Near West Side Partners, Inc. and Marquette’s Center for Peacemaking to empower and enrich the Near West Side.

“The more each of us (Near West Side Partners, Inc. and the Pabst Mansion) thrives, the more appealing our neighborhood is,” says Slocum.