Westown Treasure


Historic Second Ward Savings Bank is Home to Milwaukee County Historical Society

At the corner of State Street and Old World Third Street, one of Milwaukee’s finest examples of lovingly restored and repurposed vintage architecture reins over the adjacent riverside Pere Marquette Park.

Originally founded at a different downtown location in the 1850s, the Second Ward Savings Bank – now home to the Milwaukee County Historical Society – was patronized by the leading brewers of Milwaukee: Valentine Blatz, Joseph Schlitz, Philip Best, Emil Schandein, and August Uihlein and became known as the “Brewers’ Bank.”

In 1866, the bank was reorganized and moved to its present location, where a stunning new building in the style of Beaux-Arts Classicism opened later in 1913. The building featured an intricate chandelier, ornamental iron and concrete work, stunning windows, marble staircases, and ornate brass vault doors. Tops of grand pillars were adorned with clusters of hops, symbolizing the patronage of the beer barons.

The bank remained in operation until 1965, when the building was donated to the county to be used for the Milwaukee County Historical Society. Extensive restoration of the building’s original elements, including opulent decorative plasterwork, was completed in recent years.

Located on Milwaukee’s popular RiverWalk and Pere Marquette Park, this historical treasure is used as the Society’s headquarters, housing a museum open to the public, an extensive artifact collection, and an archival research library.

Fun Fact:

In 2008, Hollywood set designers temporarily restored the 1913 bank teller stations to film scenes from the movie Public Enemies starring Johnny Depp. Although the movie portrays John Dillinger (Depp) robbing the bank, the Second Ward Savings Bank never had a single robbery in its time of service.