Downtown Milwaukee

Five favorites for Doors Open Milwaukee

Doors Open Milwaukee was held Saturday and Sunday, September 19th and 20th. About 200 locations, many normally closed to the public, were open for visitors. Here are five of my favorite places to visit during this annual event.

1. Former Pabst Brewery

Although the area is undergoing rapid development, some of the original Pabst buildings remain. Photo illustration by Carl Swanson

Although the area is undergoing rapid redevelopment, some of the original Pabst buildings remain. Photo by Carl Swanson

Tour a speakeasy (actually, the former plant infirmary and ancient storage tunnels) at the Best Place at the Historic Pabst Brewery, 901 W. Juneau Ave. The speakeasy is open if the red jelly jar light is illuminated at the doorway marked “J.C. Haertel Real Estate & Financial Consulting.” The Pabst Brewing Co. was the subject of this Milwaukee Notebook post. (more…)

The man who started Milwaukee

Solomon Juneau stands on the shore of Lake Michigan and looks across the city he founded. The first permanent white settler of the city, Juneau was also a friend to the Menomonee Indians, the city's first mayor, and the father of 15 children. Photo by Carl Swanson
Solomon Juneau stands on the shore of Lake Michigan and looks across the city he established. A fur trader turned city founder, Juneau was also a friend to the Menomonee Indians, the city’s first mayor, and the father of a dozen children. Photo by Carl Swanson

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.)

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No jury would convict her …

Photo illustration by Carl Swanson

Photo illustration by Carl Swanson

Long ago in Milwaukee, Mary Ann Wheeler planned a murder, shot her victim in broad daylight in front of numerous witnesses, then freely confessed to the crime. Yet jurors in two separate trials refused to convict her.

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Downtown sculpture is an overlooked masterpiece

"Victorious Charge" is the name of the sculpture on Wisconsin Avenue near the Central Library. It memorializes the courage and sacrifice of Wisconsin soldiers in the Civil War. Photo by John Swanson

“Victorious Charge” is the name of the 1898 sculpture on Wisconsin Avenue near the Central Library. It memorializes the courage and sacrifice of Wisconsin soldiers in the Civil War. Photo by John Swanson

Milwaukeeans love to despise the city’s public art. From David Middlebrook’s deliberately lopsided Tip in Gordon Park to Gerald P. Sawyer’s Bronze Fonz on the downtown Riverwalk, just about every sculpture in town has its share of detractors.

Even in Milwaukee a piece of public art can occasionally resonate with nearly everyone. For example, the sculpture in the above photo was immediately embraced by art critics and the public alike at its unveiling in 1898. According to the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War it is the state’s most important Civil War monument of the 19th century and among the finest-ever monuments dedicated to the memory of the Civil War soldier. And if you live in Milwaukee you almost certainly have passed it many times, perhaps without really noticing it.  (more…)

Someone has a case of the Mondays

In 1942, photographer Jack Delano snapped this image of employees of Western Fuel Commpany having lunch in their locker room at the firm's Seventeenth Street Coal Dock office. It's December 1942, and World War II has been going on for a year. Somehow one feels they are waiting for the photographer to leave so they can resume the poker game. Photo courtesy Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Photograph Collection (Library of Congress), [reproduction number, LC-USW3- 020002-D [P&P] LOT 214]

In December 1942, photographer Jack Delano snapped this image of employees of Milwaukee’s Western Fuel Company having lunch in their locker room at the firm’s Seventeenth Street Coal Dock office. Somehow one feels they are waiting for the photographer to leave so they can resume the poker game. Photo courtesy Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information Photograph Collection (Library of Congress), [reproduction number, LC-USW3- 020002-D [P&P] LOT 214]

Photo Friday: Downtown, 1901

Flashback Friday: Downtown Milwaukee, 1901

In 1901, a photographer from the Detroit Publishing Company captured this view of the Milwaukee River in downtown Milwaukee from Sycamore Street (now West Michigan Avenue). Much has changed in 113 years, but in middle distance you can see what City Hall looks like without its modern crust of semi-permanent scaffolding. Photo courtesy Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Collection, [reproduction number, e.g., LC-D4-10865]