Tour 20,000 square feet of elegance at Pabst Mansion


Disclosure: I received complimentary admission for the Pabst Mansion tour in exchange for writing about my experience in Milwaukee. This assistance in no way affects the opinions expressed in my posts about the city. All opinions are my own.

One of the last authentic Victorian houses in Milwaukee is Pabst Mansion, a grandiose building that was formerly home to Frederick “Captain” Pabst, a German-American brewer who founded Pabst Brewing Company.

It’s a historic building in the city open for tours to the public that offer an extensive lesson about the Pabst family as well as facts about their mansion.

With a bit of an interest in architecture and history, I decided to take some time to roam around inside the mansion by signing up for a guided tour, which is the only way you can only go inside. But I was sad to find out that photography inside is unfortunately not allowed 🙁 It’s an elegant structure and it’s amazing to be able to walk around inside to see where Captain Pabst and his family used to live.

The interior is a magnificent sight with elaborate features like 3-D embossed wall covering from New England. Some of the house is restored, including the wallpaper, which was covered with white paint before restoration efforts took place. Restoration is made possible by existing photographs of the mansion from that time period.

It cost the Pabst family a little more than $254,000 to build the mansion in the late 1800s over a span of two years. The mansion is 20,000 square feet with three floors, so there is a good amount of walking involved on the tour, but every step you have to take inside that place – so that you can see as much of it as you can – is worth it.


The tour takes visitors to Mrs. Pabst’s powder room where upholstery, including that on chairs and drapes, is carefully reproduced. The chandelier in the room is original, as well as the wooden shutters. Window shades are reproductions based off of photographs.

Other rooms shown during the tour include one with a grand piano, the dining room a small conservatory with plants and a view of the street, the study (or “man cave”), the bedroom of the Pabsts’ daughter Emma, the master bedroom, and the principal guestroom.

The mansion is also adorned with works of art that the docent on my tour said are all original, as the Pabsts were art collectors.

This stained glass window was visible from the gift store – where you go to purchase tickets & meet before the tour. Photographs are allowed in this area.

Another fun tidbit about the house is that it was its time: by 1892, it was wired for electricity, and had heat, a burglar alarm, and a telephone, among other things.

The docent offered a wealth more of information about the Pabst family, including how they would hire a quartet to entertain their guests in their home and how Captain Pabst had initially rejected his father-in-law’s offer to learn about beer. Of course, it’s a lot more entertaining to learn about it while you’re inside their former home 🙂 If you’re interested in reading more about the Pabsts, click here.

Pabst Mansion is located on Wisconsin Avenue, a street that used to be lined with mansions. It was sold in 1908 to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, which helped save it from being demolished in the 1970s.

Gift shop exterior

If you’re interested in architecture and/or history, this is a great way to spend some time in Milwaukee. General admission is $12 for adults, $11 for students and seniors (62+) and $7 for children ages 6 to 17. Children under the age of 6 get in for free.

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