Milwaukee Stories and Tips

DO Milwaukee - Some Other Sights

Bryant's Cocktail Lounge Photo, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

In addition to the three locations I've written individual reviews/stories on, I also made very brief visits at three others participating in the Doors Open (DO) Milwaukee event. With around 125 locations throughout the City of Milwaukee, it was impossible to see more than just a handful of buildings that participated in this wonderful weekend open house.

These three locations really were not enough to write a full feature on, so I've lumped them in together here in this story.

Brenner's Brewery was a bit of a strange place to be included in DO Milwaukee, as most of the participating sites focus on Milwaukee's past. This one, however, is about the revitalization and future of the city. The building brewmaster Mike Brenner is leasing for his soon to open brewery was a parking garage built in 1980. I wanted to see it however, as I had heard quite a bit about his home beer project turned business opportunity.

Inside on the walls were some interesting and bright urban street art. Brenner was present throughout the day on Saturday to welcome visitors curious about how he was planning to turn the Walker's Point garage into a fully operational brewery. So far, he is still receiving equipment to be assembled before he can begin operations. He also had barrels delivered earlier this month. He anticipates going into production later this year. I look forward to visiting once he's up and running . . . and wish him only the best in his new venture.

Following the theme of "adult beverages" another one of the oddball stops I included in my day was Bryant's Cocktail Lounge on Milwaukee's Southside. Touted as Milwaukee's oldest cocktail lounge, it was first opened in 1936 as a beer hall tied to Miller's line of beer. Back in the day, due to the limited ability to transport and distribute beer, all of Milwaukee's beer companies had affiliated beer halls that sold their product exclusively. This all changed with the advent of refrigeration and pasteurization.

In 1938 owners Bryant & Edna Sharp decided to get out of the beer business and converted their bar to a cocktail lounge. They upgraded the interior adding carpeting, velvet wall covering, booth seating and an expensive sound system. "Swanky" was the term most used to describe Bryant's.

A fire in 1971 nearly closed Bryant's Cocktail Lounge for good, but the owners choose to reinvest in repairing and reopening. Today visitors can take a look at the rebuilt cash registers which were restored with gold plating. As you walk into Bryant's today, it appears largely as it did in they heyday of the 1940's to 1960's. It is dark with jazz music on the stereo that creates an atmosphere not found in many bars these days.

My last stop of the day was the Calvary Cemetery Chapel. Another cream brick building from the late 1800's, this small Romanesque style chapel was built on one of the highest points in Milwaukee overlooking the oldest Catholic cemetery in Milwaukee. Here many of city's earliest clergy and immigrants rest in peace today.

Built for the purpose of holding services and providing a place for prayer and reflection; it sat unused for nearly 50 years. The chapel is located on the upper level, with a mausoleum beneath with 45 crypts intended exclusively for clergy entombment. Saving the chapel from being razed, the Friends of Calvary Chapel was formed in 1992 and the restoration effort began in the mid 1990's. There is still much work to be done, subject to their fundraising efforts.

With DO Milwaukee 2013 over, I am already looking forward to next year when I hope to visit some of the buildings that I could not work into my schedule this time. Hopefully others who read this journal will consider this event in the future.

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