For visitors coming to Milwaukee, I encourage you to enjoy a walk or ride through the city to take in a snippet of history through the architecture that has been well preserved in many areas. I have always been impressed with all that surrounds me, even as a resident, when I go downtown.
On this particular day trip, I traversed the city from the near southside area known as Walker's Point (Great Lakes Distillery) heading north to the trendy eastside (Lakefront Brewery). On my two and a half mile jaunt, I passed through some very historical areas including "Old World Third Street" and "Brewer's Hill".
I did make a stop at Usinger's Sausage Company in the area of the city that was central to the German community that had begun settling in Wisconsin in the mid 1800's. Founded in 1880, they have continued with the original family recipes used by founder Fred Usinger. When you step inside the store, you can relive the experience almost as it would have been back in Fred's day.
The tile floors, marble counters and wood beam ceiling are all original to the turn of the 20th century. The hand painted wall murals depicting the "sausage elves" were added in 1906 at a time when many Milwaukee businesses and buildings were being graced by the German tradition of depicting life's experiences through murals.
After my short visit inside Usinger's Sausage, I drove through a wonderfully redeveloped area of the city known as "Schiltz Park" . . . the site of the former Schlitz Brewing. Schiltz beer was known as "the beer that made Milwaukee famous" and today continues to have a significant place in her history. Several of the original buildings remain in the area, including the stables.
Milwaukee has been nick named "The Cream City". Many people, including long time residents mistakenly believe this is a tribute to our state's dairy industry but they are mistaken. Actually "cream" refers to the color of bricks used to build much of the city's structures starting in the 1830's. When fired, the bricks made from the soil on Lake Michigan's western shore turn yellow. These unique bricks became well known throughout the Midwest, not only for their coloration but also their durability. It is this superior durability that has allowed so many of our lovely buildings to remain as they appeared more than 125 years ago.
Milwaukee has also been called "The City of Steeples". As anyone who has flown into Milwaukee's General Mitchell Airport can attest, this is a city with a lot of beautiful churches with steeples that are delicate and intricate; constructed with the traditions brought over from Europe. As you drive towards the city on I94, be sure to pay note to the skyline before you. It really is quite amazing how many churches remain standing, often with century old clocks that are operational.
The last piece of our history here in Milwaukee I want to highlight is bowling. We've probably all seen a rerun of the television show "Laverne & Shirley" with the girls working the brewery by day, and hanging out at the local bowling alley (Pizza Bowl) at night. Unfortunately for many, the lingering perception that Milwaukee is just about beer and bowling haunts redevelopment and branding efforts trying to attract younger people to come here to work and raise families.
For those who want to embrace their inner "Laverne & Shirley" I encourage you to check out the Holler House. Located at 2042 W. Lincoln Avenue in Milwaukee. Holler House is a corner tavern first and foremost. In their basement they have two bowling lanes which have been continuously certified by the sport's governing body since 1910 . . . the longest of any bowling center in the United States. They still have pinboys in the back to set up the pins and return bowling balls; bowlers keep score by hand the old fashioned way . . . on paper hanging on the wall.
In 2008 they celebrated their 100th anniversary. It's been several years since I left my job in the bowling industry and I have not been back to Holler House since around 2004. I will do my best to get in there soon, so that I can post some photos.