Come see the historic five story Hill’s Building renovated into a modern mixed-use structure with the Mitchell Street branch of the Milwaukee Public Library on the ground floor and dozens of luxury apartment units above. Originally constructed in 1919 as Lion Store, then Hill’s Department Store for more than 30 years, the building is on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2017, HGA Architects designed Mitchell Street Branch, which became the first library housed in a renovated space since 1989. Today it retains several original architectural flourishes including terrazzo floors, ornate plaster column capitals, historic mahogany stair and mezzanine railings, and floor-to-ceiling windows. Contemporary elements include a fireplace, community room with a folding glass door, multi-use “social staircase”, and a pedestrian alley.
With 23,000 square feet of space, Mitchell Street is the largest of the branch libraries. Visitors will be shown a behind-the-scenes look at staff work areas where they can view how material is checked in and organized by a state-of-the-art sorting machine. Visitors will also see the library’s lower level Makerspace, complete with Sound Locker recording studio and the Cargill Community Kitchen. Visitors are also welcome to view and explore unique, original visual and audio artworks including paintings and a sculpture by former artist-in-residences Ck Ledesma and Celeste Contreras, as well as Listening to Mitchell, which preserves images and stories of Milwaukee’s own Mitchell Street.
Businesses that once called this building home include Krambo grocery store, Goeb’s Finer Bakeries, Allen D. Everitt Knitting Co., National Hardware, Empire Television & Appliance Store, Big Bend Self Service Shoe Store, Wedding & Banquet Services, P M Upholstery Fabric & Supplies, SER Jobs for Progress, UMOS (United Migrant Opportunity Services), and more. In the early 1980s, the top floor was home to a punk rock night club called Top of the Hills where the Dead Kennedys once performed before 500 people. Today, the library serves one of the youngest and most diverse neighborhoods in the city and plays a vital role in Milwaukee’s Latino community, including offering bilingual programs, an extensive Spanish reading collection, artist events, and even a wrestling match!
Visitors will experience one of Milwaukee’s newest branch libraries and how it operates.