1st Floor Main Street
1st floor main street, looking north from beneath the Grand Staircase
This large walkway and crossroad along the center of Central Library is often referred to as 1st floor main street. This area is just west of the Media room entrance, behind/north of the Grand Staircase but south of the main Schoenleber Reading Room. This space was not original to the building but part of the 1st addition (1909-1912, Ferry & Clas). This addition was space for the Museum and designed by the same architects as the original building. It stretched the building east to 8th street matching the Wisconsin Ave façade, adding 4 floors up and a basement level. For reference, this addition’s 1st floor footprint is now the entire Media area (east) to 8th Street, the 1st floor main street and Mozart’s Grove/Green Ideas areas (west) to the entrance to the Gray Rotunda. This was also the addition that created the Museum’s lecture hall / auditorium space known today as Centennial Hall.
Map of library-museum addition, 1909-1912
Centennial Hall, circa 1955
While locals may be familiar with the first 3 floors, which have been a mix of public or staff/storage space over time, the 4th floor was built primarily as a staff-only / behind-the-scenes space. It included the Museum Director’s office, some department spaces and the museum’s taxidermy room. Over the years it has held many adventures. From an orphaned lion cub brought back by museum staff on a trip to Africa in the late 1920s, to Milwaukee Police Department’s homicide evidence storage from the 1980s-2001, to a 2016 Halloween Library Loud event which turned it into a haunted attraction for the community. These days it’s just offices and storage for things like furniture, paper products, carpet squares, and Central and branch libraries’ lawnmowers or snowblowers – depending on the season.
On the west side of Main Street are two open areas called Mozart’s Grove on the south and the Green Ideas area on the north. Mozart’s Grove is a flexible event / programming space used by the library. Its namesake goes back to before the building’s construction. Mozart’s Hall was a music / concert venue built in 1847 on roughly this spot before building construction in the 1890s. Built in 1847 by John Amberg, Mozart’s Hall was very popular with the German Community and their musical and sing-along productions. It was the birthplace of both the Milwaukee Musical Society and Kurz’s German Stock Company, which performed theatrical works in the German language.
Green Ideas area
The Green Ideas area shares information on our 33, 000 square foot Green Roof, which opened in 2010. It also includes books on green and sustainable practices. The Milwaukee Public Library worked with the City of Milwaukee's Office of Environmental Sustainability, We Energies, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, and Focus on Energy to create a green roof on 30,000 square feet of the Central Library building. Since then, the Library has added solar electric panels to the green roof which generate about 36,000 kilowatt hours per year. More information can be found on the Green Roof page or by attending our Green Roof tours.
Next stop: Media Room
Previous stop: Welcome Desk