Historic Milwaukee, Inc., a private 501-(c)(3), was founded in the Walker’s Point neighborhood in 1974. The first iteration of Historic Milwaukee, then called Historic Walker’s Point, was the result of a partnership between Land Ethics and the Junior Women’s League of Milwaukee. The collaboration sought to raise awareness and revitalize the Walker’s Point neighborhood in an effort to protect this original Milwaukee settlement and its working-class roots from rezoning and redevelopment. This group sought to restore the historic neighborhood by conducting in a series of renovation demonstrations at local homes, reopening a defunct bank, and developing a junkyard into a park. In 1978 Walker’s Point became the first Milwaukee neighborhood to be added to the National Register of Historic Places as a Landmark Historic District. By 1980, increased collaborations and growing public interest led the nonprofit to move downtown and adopt its current name, Historic Milwaukee, Inc., which better reflected its citywide focus.
In 1981, the first Loft Spaces & Hidden Traces event was held, welcoming attendees into private homes and businesses. Since 1981, more than 40,000 tour-goers have toured hundreds of historic homes, churches, and businesses in Milwaukee's richly textured neighborhoods.
Doors Open Milwaukee was started in 2011. This two-day public celebration of Milwaukee’s art, architecture, culture, and history offers behind the scenes tours of more than 160 buildings throughout Milwaukee’s downtown and diverse neighborhoods. Doors This event was a finalist for a 2016 MANDI award and won the people’s choice award. Since 2017, Doors Open has been awarded a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts in the Design category. The 2019 grant award is $25,000 and allows this event to remain free of charge.
Historic Milwaukee has continued to raise awareness about local architecture and history through its volunteer-led walking tours and has grown its special programming to bring history to all those who visit or call Milwaukee home. In 2016, HMI relocated to its current location, the corner of Broadway and Michigan in the historic Mackie building and opened a nonprofit gift to help further our mission.