The Milwaukee County Executive wants it gone, Milwaukee County Parks wants it gone, but the deteriorating Estabrook Park dam got a vote of confidence this week from the County Board, which voted $1.6 million in repairs. Read about the dam and its roots in a Depression-era make-work program in my latest OnMilwaukee.com article.
A concrete foundation in the woods south of Gordon Park in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood is all that remains of the Wisconsin Lakes Ice & Cartage Co. Center Street icehouse. The 350 x 100-foot icehouse, built in the late 1800s alongside the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul RR’s “Beer Line,” was one of several icehouses on the upper Milwaukee River. The icehouse burned to the ground in a spectacular multi-alarm fire in June 1911.
There is a fascinating reminder of Riverwest’s past hidden in plain sight in the Milwaukee River just north of the Locust Street bridge. Here logs across the river trace the remains of the Schlitz icehouse dam. The dam is over a century old, but the reason for Schlitz building its icehouses here dates back even further – all the way to late 1878 when this area was largely open country.
There has never been anyone quite like Orlando Williams Wight. Entirely self-taught (he never attended a college or university), he was a medical doctor, lawyer, theologian, engineer, author of 12 books, editor of 38 more, and – for a few extremely eventful years in the late 1870s – Milwaukee’s Commissioner of Health.
Armed with broad legal authority and an off-the-charts level of drive and focus, Wight encouraged, cajoled, argued, and, if all else failed, outright bullied business and civic leaders into sweeping public heath reforms. (more…)
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No one can explain exactly how it happened, but the Federal government claims to own a piece of Estabrook Park.
After years of debate, Milwaukee County is moving closer to a decision concerning its 1937 dam across the Milwaukee River at Estabrook Park and, no matter the outcome, at least some river users are bound to be disappointed. Those who wish to see the Milwaukee River flowing unimpeded argue forcefully for its removal, while others are just as vehement in demanding a new or rebuilt dam.
In 2009, the state Department of Natural Resources, after a long, worried look at the present dam’s condition, ordered Milwaukee County to either fix it by the end of 2014 or remove the dam. The 2009 order also required the dam gates be left permanently open to alleviate stress on the structure. (more…)
Enjoy this sample chapter from the book, Lost Milwaukee, by Carl Swanson, published by the History Press.
One recent day in Milwaukee’s Juneau Park, a strolling couple paused to look at an imposing statue. Reading the name on the pedestal, one asked, “Who’s Solomon Juneau?”
The short answer is he was a fur trader who turned a cabin in the wilderness into a thriving city. He developed the downtown and the East Side. He donated land and materials for the first courthouse. He was Milwaukee’s first postmaster, its first village president and, when the city was incorporated, its first mayor.
Juneau made a fortune and lost practically everything. He made many friends and kept them all. The pallbearers in his funeral procession included four chiefs of the Menomonee Nation.
This founder of Milwaukee was French Canadian, born near Montreal, Canada, on August 9, 1793. (He became a U.S. citizen in 1831.)(more…)
In the 1880s the Northwestern Union Ry. began building north along the east bank of the Milwaukee River. In time these tracks became part of the Chicago & North Western system and hosted some of the fastest long-distance passenger trains in the world. But before that could happen, the railroad had to resolve the great apple orchard standoff.
Enjoy this sample chapter from the new book, Lost Milwaukee, by Milwaukee Notebook blogger Carl Swanson
During the winter of 1900–01, a pitched battle erupted on the frozen Milwaukee River above the North Avenue dam between enraged ice harvesters and the equally violent crew of a steam-powered launch. The newspapers called it “The Ice War.”
On a section of river that has witnessed many strange things over the years, the ice war was perhaps the strangest. If the riot-on-ice aspect wasn’t odd enough, the fighting was accompanied by jaunty music provided by the steamboat’s brass band.
The ice war lasted six weeks, and it was witnessed by hundreds of spectators and heavily reported in the city’s newspapers. Onlookers and reporters thought it hilarious, but real injuries were sustained, working men had their livelihoods threatened and it all had to do with … ice. (more…)
On May 14, 1952, the Milwaukee Journal printed an article promoting the idea of an automobile trip to various Milwaukee County Parks, including Estabrook. The article advised visitors not to miss an artifact that was then a well-known attraction in the park but today has been forgotten. (more…)