History of Gay and Lesbian Life in Milwaukee, Wisconsin - Businesses - Spas/ Bath Houses/ Health Clubs

Midtowne Spa
Location: 315 S. Water Street


approx 2000
approx 2018




Midtowne Spa health club was opened as a franchise, with other outlets in Texas and Denver, Colorado. Although it initially had a large workout facility and tanning bed, plus sauna, steam room, and outdoor hot tub, it was generally accepted within the gay community to be a gay "bath house", the type of establishment widely accepted as being a place for consenting men to find anonymous sex.

The Spa hosted various special events during its existence, such as New Years Eve and Halloween parties, using "The Garage" in the back.

From the day it opened, the City of Milwaukee was a thorn in the Spa's side, making every possible attempt to harass and close the business. The gay community mostly stood by the Spa, believing that it was better to have a controlled environment for this type of activity, as an option to sex in public places such as parks, rest rooms, etc. Both the BESTD Clinic and ARCW were especially supportive by conducting regular screening for HIV and other STD's in the Spa itself (with the BESTD Clinic holding at least one HIV testing outreach every month for virtually the entire time the Spa was open).

Late in 2005, the harassment continued, including requirements that doors to changing rooms be left open at all times while occupied, and requiring at least the temporary closing of any rooms that might encourage open sex. Of course, those requirements were largely ignored by patrons.

The web site of the Midtown Spa chain said the following about the Milwaukee club (in December 2005):

    Midtowne Spa - Milwaukee is right at home in the colorful Walker's Point, just south of the historic third ward at 315 South Water Street (near Florida, make a hard left onto Water Street).

    Midtowne Spa occupies a "cream city brick" building on two floors with an outdoor patio. There is abundant on street parking and an off street parking lot which accommodates 60 cars. All parking is free.

    The Spa is Americans with disabilities compliant and has a ramp access to the front door, along with a handicap parking space in the alley.

    On our first floor is our reception area, the locker room which is equipped with full size lockers, a full weight room with in floor heat and air conditioning. The Cybex Gallileo line of weight equipment is state of the art. There is also Life Fitness cardio exercise equipment including Lifecycles, Stepper, and Treadmill. There are both free weights and dumbbells. Also in this area, are drink and snack vending machines.

    The wet area has a 12 man cedar sauna room, a group shower area, and a steam room for 20 guys. Outside the back door is a patio with a volleyball net and our whirlpool. In the back of the patio is our warehouse and the site of future parties and fund-raisers such as "The Garage". Check this site for future events and leave your email address for notification.

    The second floor of the Spa has private, lockable changing rooms, a large TV room that we also show movies on, a private shower, and a smoking room. The smoking room has its own exhaust system. The smoking room and the patio are the only exceptions to our smoke free environment.

Around 2009 the hot tub was closed, and business tapered off graudally. There was an unfortunate death in the Spa in January 2011, when a 54-year-old man got his neck tangled in the chains in a room equipped with them for a sling; the death was apparently accidental (Wisconsin Gazette, vol 2 no 5, pg. 4).

By 2017 the Midtowne Spa was gone; most of the gay community didn't even realize it had closed, as the Spa had not been advertising for several years prior.

Reception area

Workout area
Tanning bed

Smoking Lounge

Quest Cover: Rick, Mr. Midtowne 2010
(Oct-Nov 2010: Quest vol. 16 no. 18)
Article: Rick, Mr. Midtowne 2010
(Oct-Nov 2010: Quest vol. 16 no. 18)
Advertisement, 1989
(Oct-Nov 2010: Quest vol. 16 no. 18)

Building, Dec. 2005

Credits: Web site concept, design and arrangement by Don Schwamb;
History text, page contents, and arrangement by Don Schwamb;
Last updated: December-2020.

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