Pabst Theater Collection, 1865-2007


The Pabst Theater was built by brewery magnate Captain Frederick Pabst in 1895 on the site of a theater known as Das Neue Deutsche Stadt-Theater (The New German City Theater). Designed by architect Otto Strack in the tradition of the great European opera houses, it is an outstanding example of Victorian Baroque architecture. The theater was extensively renovated in 1928, then restored to its original style in 1976. It is a City of Milwaukee Landmark, a State of Wisconsin Historical Site, and a National Historic Landmark.

The Pabst family owned the theater until 1953, when the Pabst Theater Foundation was formed and took over its management. The City of Milwaukee bought the Pabst Theater in 1961 and leased it to the foundation. Philanthropist Michael Cudahy purchased the Pabst Theater in 2003, and it is currently managed by the Michael Cudahy Foundation.

In the years prior to World War I, the theater was nationally known for its German-language stage productions. After that time, it continued to stage plays (in English), symphonies, and operas. Although the Pabst Theater still presents stage productions, primarily from touring groups, it is better known today for bringing contemporary musicians to Milwaukee. Over its 100 years, the Pabst Theater has hosted performers as varied as Marcel Marceau, Leontyne Price, the George Kennan Forum, and Spoon.