Yesterday’s Milwaukee

Saengerfest and City Hall, 1868

The earlier City Hall was a converted market hall, here decorated for an annual German music festival.

By - Feb 18th, 2014 10:01 am
Get a daily rundown of the top stories on Urban Milwaukee
Saengerfest, with City Hall in the background. Photo courtesy of Jeff Beutner.

Saengerfest, with City Hall in the background. Photo courtesy of Jeff Beutner.

In June 2013 the National Saengerfest was held in Milwaukee. This is an annual gathering of Austrian and German musical societies. The history of Saengerfest, however, goes back many years in the United States. As Milwaukee in the 19th century had a substantial population of German origin it should be of little surprise that Milwaukee’s first Saengerfest was held here in 1868. The building in this photograph is City Hall and the streets are amply decorated to welcome the singers. The garlands would decorate the streets all the way to Union Depot, the city’s main railroad station at that time, which was located on south 2nd St. near Seeboth St.

Note the tracks in the street. This was for the trolley which was horse-drawn. Electric trollies would not appear until 1890.

City Hall was originally a market hall that in 1860 was remodeled and converted into City Hall by architect Edward Townsend Mix, and served the city’s seat of government until 1871. (After this the city government was housed in various locations.)  This building appears in many early stereoviews beginning in the 1860s. The current City Hall, built in 1895, is on this same site.

Jeff Beutner is a collector of photographs, postcards and stereoviews of old Milwaukee. This column features these images, with historical commentary by Beutner.

3 thoughts on “Yesterday’s Milwaukee: Saengerfest and City Hall, 1868”

  1. Tom D says:

    Where was that old city hall?

  2. Same site as the current one, give or take changes because of size. Wells, Water, and Market.

  3. Jesse H. says:

    Very cool picture, once again, thank you for the high resolution. Looking at the American flags in the picture, they don’t seem to be “official” flags. Many are in a 6×6 star formation, which I don’t see on this page, but maybe there were other “official” flags.

    Either way, if 36 stars is accurate for the time, that would place the photo between 1865-1867, a big if though.

    Thanks Jeff!

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us