7 Man-Made Wonders of Southeast Wisconsin

By Amy Bayer
Staff Writer

Artists, architects, visionaries and the like have been enhancing Wisconsin’s landscape for generations. Take a trip and explore these unique destinations.

While there are far more than seven beautiful structures in southeast Wisconsin, we wanted to recommend a handful that are open year-round just to get you started. Once you have an opportunity to marvel at the beauty and craftsmanship of these seven man-made wonders, we’re sure you’ll want to keep exploring more!

1. Basilica at Holy Hill – Hubertus


Known informally as Holy Hill, the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians at Holy Hill receives more than 500,000 visitors from around the globe every year. Located atop a high peak in the Kettle Moraine, this towering structure can be seen for miles.

Staffed by Discalced Carmelites, the neo-Romanesque church and its twin spires were constructed in 1926 and are located on 435 acres of picturesque, wooded hillside. Whether you trek the grounds or tour the building, this man-made wonder will offer a peaceful retreat.

2. Mitchell Park Conservatory (The Domes) – Milwaukee

Imagine standing in the warmth of a tropical paradise, walking through a desert oasis or viewing a floral display filled with colorful blooms, all while ice, wind and snow are shielded by glass panels above.

The Mitchell Park Conservatory offers three unique greenhouse environments located inside iconic large glass domes. Each dome has 15,000 square feet of growing space that expands 85 feet into the air, and includes everything from plant life to waterfalls to colorful birds.

While the Tropical and Desert domes have permanent displays, the third dome is called the Show Dome and hosts five different exhibits a year, boasting floral arrangements based on a variety of themes.

3. Yerkes Observatory – Williams Bay

Established in the late 1800s, this man-made wonder is astronomical … literally. Considered the birthplace of modern astrophysics, the Yerkes Observatory offers free guided tours with engaging staff who provide expert information on the observatory’s history, architecture and astronomical research.

Visitors also have an opportunity to look inside the 90-foot dome at the 40-inch refractor, the largest lens-type telescope in the world. Open for public tours every Saturday throughout the year, there are also opportunities to visit the Quester Museum, which displays artifacts and personal effects from the observatory’s most famous astronomers.

In addition, visitors can reserve spots for observation events that allow the public to witness different amazing celestial wonders with a 24-inch reflecting telescope.

4. SC Johnson Headquarters & Wingspread – Racine 

Sc Johnson

Born and raised in Wisconsin, Frank Lloyd Wright is widely recognized as the greatest American architect of all time. Some of Wright’s beautifully designed buildings are available for the public to tour, including two properties in Racine: the SC Johnson Headquarters and Wingspread, a prairie-style home constructed for the grandson of SC Johnson’s founder.

Wingspread’s unique features include a disappearing dining table and a teepee-inspired ceiling in the great room. At the SC Johnson Headquarters, the Administration Building and Research Tower both were designed with innovation and adventure in mind.

Tour the spaces, including one of the tallest structures ever built on the cantilever principle, and immerse yourself in the wonders of Frank Lloyd Wright’s visionary genius.

5. Anderson Arts Center – Kenosha

Originally an opulent home consisting of 30 separate rooms on 4.7 acres of landscaped grounds, the Anderson family mansion is now dedicated to the promotion of all arts from painting to dance and everything in between. The former private residence has towering ceilings and expansive wall space, which is the perfect venue for displaying works of art.

Today, the Anderson Arts Center features a variety of artists at more than 25 exhibitions a year, and fosters art appreciation in local youth. As a matter of fact the west wing of the property displays art from area students.

The public gallery is free, so don’t hesitate to visit Kenosha and walk through the beautiful halls of this man-made wonder.  

6. Basilica of St. Josaphat – Milwaukee

A physical example of inspiration, the Basilica of St. Josaphat is located near the south side of Milwaukee in the historic Lincoln Village neighborhood. Constructed by Polish immigrants at the turn of the 20th Century, the building is modeled after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and features one of the largest copper domes in the world.

The construction of this grand landmark is a marvel in itself as it’s rumored that unskilled parishioners did most of the work using repurposed building materials from the former Chicago Federal Building in Illinois. The interior of the opulent building is adorned with murals, paintings, stained glass, and gilded plaster.

The visitor center is open Monday through Saturdays and guided tours are offered on Sundays following 10 a.m. mass.

7. Sculpture Walk – West Bend

This man-made wonder in West Bend features more than 25 outdoor exhibits and sculptures created by local and national artists. From quirky to inspirational, the various pieces are set against the backdrop of the Milwaukee River and the historic downtown.

Viewing the sculptures was designed to be a contemplative experience that encourages visitors to look at the area in a different perspective. Take a walk along the river or charming downtown and see the enhanced landscape. Compare notes with your friends and family to learn which pieces are your favorites and which pieces offered the most diverse interpretations.


Check out Wisconsin's top man-made wonders statewide, and keep an eye on TravelWisconsin.com as we highlight more regions in this occasional series.

This entry was posted in Architecture