CLOSE
Original image
iStock

25 Things You Should Know About Milwaukee

Original image
iStock

The city famous for cold brews and lake views knows how to throw a party. But even if Summerfest (or Oktoberfest, or Irish Fest, or Festa Italiana …) isn’t your thing, there’s still plenty of history and culture to go around. So pull up a stool—this round of facts is on us.

1. The first explorers of the Milwaukee area referred to it by various names, including Milwacky, Mahn-a-waukie, Melleorkie and Milwack, all of which borrowed from Native American titles that meant, depending on who you ask, “good land,” or “rich and beautiful land.”

2. Historians credit Milwaukee with having three founding fathers: Solomon Juneau, Byron Kilbourn, and George Walker. Juneau, a French-Canadian fur trader, established a town on the east side of the Milwaukee River, while Kilbourn, a wealthy businessman from Ohio, set up on the west side. The two sides did not play nice: Kilbourn, for one, published a map of the area that completely excluded Juneau’s claim. He also built streets that didn’t line up with those in Juneautown, creating the angled bridges that still span the river today. Walker, meanwhile, established a settlement on the south side of Milwaukee, in an area that’s today known as Walker’s Point.

3. Milwaukee’s roots as a beer-happy city trace back to the influx of German immigrants in the mid 19th century. They came seeking cheap land and refuge from a divided mother country—and they brought their superior brewing skills with them. By 1856, Milwaukee was home to more than two dozen breweries, including Pabst, Schlitz, Blatz and, of course, Miller.

4. Before it became the mega brewery known today as MillerCoors, Miller Brewing Company was a modest operation situated several miles west of Milwaukee. Founded by Frederick Miller, who immigrated to America after learning the art of brewing from an uncle in France, the brewery turned out a modest 1200 barrels of beer in 1855, its first year in operation. Today, some of the company's beers still use yeast descended from the supply Miller brought with him from Europe.

5.The modern typewriter—that is, the first version to be called a “typewriter” and to use the QWERTY key setup—was invented in Milwaukee. So large and unwieldy was it that one of the developers, a former newspaper editor named Christopher Latham Sholes, called it “a cross between a piano and a kitchen table.”

6. Milwaukee has a rich, albeit obscure, history of manufacturing automobiles, including the Kissel Kar, Nash, and the Ogden. In nearby Racine, Edward Joel Pennington and Thomas Kane created the gloriously named Kane-Pennington Hot Air Engine, in 1895.

7. Forget Democrats versus Republicans: The Socialist Party defined Milwaukee politics in the first half of the 20th century. The city became the first in the nation to elect a Socialist mayor, Emil Seidel, in 1910, and saw some of its most productive years under Daniel Hoan, a Socialist who held office from 1916 to 1940. Hoan’s term was soon after followed by Socialist Frank Zeidler, who served from 1948 to 1960. The party’s focus on infrastructure and public works in Milwaukee earned it the nickname “Sewer Socialism”—a pejorative that members heartily embraced.


8.
Milwaukee’s tradition of long-serving mayors continues. Since 1960, the city has had only four mayors and one of those was interim mayor Marvin Pratt, who served just three months.

9. Prohibition had a profound effect on Milwaukee’s breweries. To stay afloat, many of them sold alternative products like soda, non-alcoholic beer, candy bars, and even snow plows.

10. Milwaukee’s nickname of “Cream City” has nothing to do with the dairy industry or Eric Clapton. It stems from the light-colored bricks that builders used throughout the middle and late 19th century. Drawn from local clay deposits high in dolomite (a type of limestone) and magnesium, the bricks dirtied easily, and therefore many edifices made from Cream City bricks, like the Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church on North 9th Street, are significantly darker today than when they were built. Recent renovation efforts, however, are restoring some of these buildings to their former glory.


11.
It’s also known as the “City of Festivals” for the various cultural celebrations that take place during the summertime. There’s Festa Italiana, the country’s largest Italian heritage festival, which overflows with food and wine and last year included a replica of Rome’s Trevi Fountain. There’s also Polish Fest, Oktoberfest, Irish Fest, Mexican Fiesta, and of course, the state fair, held in nearby West Allis.

12. In 1901, at the age of 21, mechanical engineer William Harley finished his design for a bicycle outfitted with a single-cylinder engine. He joined with his childhood friend Arthur Davidson, and together the two began turning out motorcycles inside a 10-by-15-foot shed on the Davidson family property in Milwaukee. Several years later, Harley would patent the first two-cylinder motorcycle engine, and proceed to leave his competitors in the dust. Today, Harley-Davidson maintains a museum and an 849,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Milwaukee, where workers craft the transmissions and engines that go into each motorcycle.

13. Ever wondered where to find the world’s largest dinosaur skull? Try the Milwaukee Public Museum, where a 9-foot-by-8-foot Torosaurus cranium, along with a partial skeleton, is on display.

14. Go to the Milwaukee Art Museum at around 10 a.m. and you’ll see a singular event unfold—literally. Large white wings situated atop the museum’s Windhover Hall slowly open, providing a graceful moving exhibit for visitors. The installation, known as the Burke Brise Soleil, has the wingspan of a Boeing 747, and contains sensors that will automatically close up if winds reach 23 mph or higher.


15.
Milwaukee residents were pretty bummed when the Braves baseball team—the team hammerin’ Hank Aaron led to a World Series title in 1957—decamped for Atlanta in 1966. Just a few years later, though, Milwaukee would be the beneficiaries of an inter-city transfer after the Seattle Pilots, established in 1969, went bankrupt after just one season. In 1970, the franchise moved 2000 miles east and became the Milwaukee Brewers.

16. Milwaukee’s vibrant immigrant community has made the city a hotbed for soccer. Clubs like the Croatian Eagles and the Bavarians have been in operation for nearly a century. The city is also home to the oldest continuously run professional soccer team in the U.S. — the Milwaukee Wave, of the Major Arena Soccer League.

17. A bronze statue commemorating one of Milwaukee’s most famous fictional characters, Arthur Fonzarelli, can be found on the Milwaukee Riverwalk south of Wells Street. “Bronzie” or “The Bronze Fonz,” as locals call it, stands 5’6”, the same height as Henry Winkler, the actor who played The Fonz. Despite being much loved by locals and tourists, the installation was decried by some in the art community before it was installed, including a gallery owner who called the city “intellectually bankrupt” in its decision. As the Fonz would say: “Sit on it!”


18.
One of the city’s most lavish and best-preserved homes belonged to Frederick Pabst, the man who gave the world Pabst Blue Ribbon. Located on West Wisconsin Avenue, the Pabst Mansion is a Victorian-style abode that includes 10 bathrooms, 14 fireplaces, and a main study filled with secret compartments.

19. If you’re ever flying into Milwaukee and notice the words “Welcome to Cleveland” scrawled across the roof of a building, don’t worry—your plane didn’t take a detour. That’s just the handiwork of Mark Gubin, a puckish local artist who nearly 40 years ago decided, on a whim, to write the large-scale greeting atop his studio. "There's not a real purpose for having this here except madness, which I tend to be pretty good at," Gubin told the Journal-Sentinel.

20. The tiny St. Joan of Arc Chapel, located on the campus of Marquette University, predates American independence by more than 300 years. Originally built in the French village of Chasse, the chapel was saved from the ruins of World War I, shipped across the Atlantic and rebuilt in New York. In 1964, the owners gifted the chapel to Marquette University, and over the course of nine months it was painstakingly installed on the campus. Today, it’s the only Medieval structure in the Western hemisphere where mass is regularly held.

21. One of the world’s largest collections of antique microphones is on display inside an electronics store on East National Street. Mic guru Bob Paquette has amassed a collection of more than 1000 microphones, most made before 1950, and most in working condition thanks to Paquette’s repairs. There’s the one used by Hitler in the Eagle’s Nest, and another that provided updates during an expedition to Antarctica. There’s also an 1876 telephone invented by Alexander Graham Bell.

22. Close to one million music fans pack the Milwaukee waterfront each year for Summerfest—and they’re all really hungry. In 2014, concertgoers went through 66,011 burgers; 38,202 ears of corn; 96,344 mozzarella sticks; and 181,758 mini donuts.

23. Last summer, numerous residents and even a few city officials spotted a giant cat roaming around the city. Believed to be an escaped exotic pet, the Milwaukee lion, as it came to be known, was never captured. The only casualty during the whole episode was a bulldog named Homie, who was shot by a nervous resident (and thankfully recovered).

24. The city has nurtured a wide variety of musical talents, from Les Paul to Liberace. It’s also where Steve Miller, of the Steve Miller Band, played his first chords.

Getty


25.
The oldest bowling alley in America is located inside the Holler House on Lincoln Avenue. It’s a throwback experience in every sense: There are only two lanes, scoring is done by hand, and the lanes are tended by two pinsetters. There might be a wait to play, but you can always pass the time chatting with Marcy Skawronski, Holler House’s sharp-tongued 89-year-old owner/bartender. You can also marvel at the collection of bras hanging from the ceiling—a tradition Marcy herself started nearly 50 years ago.

Original image
Ramones Karaoke, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0
arrow
Lists
Fake It Until You Make It: 10 Artificial Ruins
Original image
Ramones Karaoke, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

The love of ruins, sometimes called ruinophilia, has for centuries inspired the creation of clever fakes—a host of sham facades and hollowed-out castle shells found on grand English, European, and even American estates. The popularity of constructing artificial ruins was at its peak during the 18th and 19th centuries, but architects occasionally still incorporate them today.

Why build a structure that is already crumbling? Between the 16th and 19th centuries, the popularity of counterfeit ruins was influenced by two factors—a classical education that enforced the ideals of ancient Greece and Rome, and the extended tour of Europe (known as The Grand Tour) that well-to-do young men and women took after completing their education. Travelers might start in London or France and roam as far as the Middle East, but the trip almost always included Italy and a chance to admire Roman ruins. More than a few wealthy travelers returned home longing to duplicate those ruins, either to complement a romantic landscape, to demonstrate wealth, or to provide a pretense of family history for the newly rich.

Here are a few romantic ruins constructed between the 18th and 21st centuries.

1. SHAM CASTLE // BATHAMPTON, ENGLAND

Sham Castle (shown above) is aptly named—it’s only a façade. The "castle," overlooking the English city of Bath, was created in 1762 to improve the view for Ralph Allen, a local entrepreneur and philanthropist as well as to provide jobs for local stonemasons. From a distance it looks like a castle ruin, but it's merely a wall that has two three-story circular turrets and a two-story square tower at either end. The castle is not the only folly (as such purely decorative architecture is often called) that Allen built. He also constructed a sham bridge on Serpentine Lake in what is now Prior Park Landscape Garden—the bridge can't be crossed, but provides a nice focal point for the lake. Today, Sham Castle is part of a private golf course.

2. WIMPOLE FOLLY // CAMBRIDGESHIRE, ENGLAND

Building a structure that looks as if it's crumbling does not preclude having to perform regular maintenance. The four-story Gothic tower known as Wimpole Folly in Wimpole, Cambridgeshire, England, was built 1768-72 for Philip Yorke, first Earl of Hardwicke and owner of the Wimpole Estate. Owned by Britain’s National Trust, the ruin threatened to truly crumble a few years ago, so restoration efforts were needed. The last restoration was so well done it won the 2016 European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage. The Wimpole Estate is now open to the public for walks and hikes.

3. CAPEL MANOR FOLLY // ENFIELD, ENGLAND

Capel Manor at Bulls Cross, Enfield, England has been the site of several grand homes since the estate’s first recorded mention in the 13th century, so visitors might be tempted to believe that the manor house's ruins date back at least a few centuries. But that sense of history is an illusion: The faux 15th-century house was built in 2010 to add visual appeal to the manor gardens, which have been open to the public since the 1920s.

4. ROMAN RUIN // SCHONBRUNN PALACE, VIENNA, AUSTRIA

The Roman Ruin was built as a garden ornament for the 1441-room Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna, one of the most important monuments in Austria. The ruin was once called The Ruins of Carthage, after the ancient North African city defeated by Roman military force. But despite the illusion of antiquity, the ruins were created almost 2000 years after Carthage fell in 146 B.C.E. The ruin’s rectangular pool, framed by an intricate semi-circle arch, was designed in 1778 by the architect Johann Ferdinand Hetzendorf von Hohenberg, who modeled it on the Ancient Roman temple of Vespasian and Titus, which he had seen an engraving of.

5. THE RUINEBERG // POTSDAM, GERMANY

One of the earliest examples of artificial ruins in Germany was the complex of structures known as The Ruinenberg. Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, had a summer palace in Potsdam, near Berlin, that was said to rival Versailles. In 1748 Frederick commissioned a large fountain for the palace complete with artificial ruins. The waterworks part of his plan proved too difficult and was soon abandoned, but not before designer Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff constructed the ruins. The complex includes Roman pillars, a round temple, and the wall of a Roman theatre. Since 1927 the site has belonged to the Prussian Gardens and Palaces Foundation, Berlin-Brandenburg.

6. PARC MONCEAU // PARIS, FRANCE

Elegant Parc Monceau is located in the fashionable 8th arrondissement of Paris near the Champs-Elysees and Palais de l’Elysée. In 1778, the Duke of Chartres decided to build a mansion on land previously used for hunting. He loved English architecture and gardens, including the notion of nostalgic ruins, so he hired the architect Louis Carrogis Carmontelle to create an extravagant park complete with a Roman temple, antique statues, a Chinese bridge, a farmhouse, a Dutch windmill, a minaret, a small Egyptian pyramid, and some fake gravestones. The most notable feature of the park is a pond surrounded by Corinthian columns, now known as Colonnade de Carmontelle.

7. HAGLEY PARK CASTLE // WORCESTERSHIRE, ENGLAND

The ruins of the medieval castle at Hagley Park in Worcestershire are definitely fake, but they were built with debris from the real ruin of a neighboring abbey. The folly was commissioned by Sir George Lyttelton in 1747 and designed by Sanderson Miller, an English pioneer of Gothic revival architecture. The castle has a round tower at each corner, but by design only one is complete and decorated inside with a coat of arms. The grounds, which also feature a temple portico inspired by an ancient Greek temple, some urns, and obelisks, are now privately owned and not open to the public.

8. TATA CASTLE RUINS // TATA, HUNGARY

French architect Charles de Moreau (1758-1841) was a scholar of classical Roman architecture known for his ability to counterfeit impressive ruins. Nicholas I, Prince Esterhazy of Hungary, hired him to work on Tata Castle and to create the ruins of a Romanesque church for the palace’s English Garden. Even though the ruin Moreau created was fake, he built it with the stones of a real ruin, the remnants of the early-12th-century Benedictine and later Dominican abbey of Vértesszőlős. A third-century ancient Roman tombstone and relief were placed nearby.

9. BELVEDERE CASTLE // MANHATTAN, NEW YORK

Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux designed Central Park in the mid-1800s, and their plan for creating romantic vistas included the construction of a folly known as Belvedere Castle. The Gothic-Romanesque style hybrid, overlooking Central Park’s Great Lawn, was completed in 1869. Although the folly was designed as a hollow shell and meant to be a ruin, it eventually served a practical purpose, housing a weather bureau and exhibit space. The castle also provides a beautiful backdrop for Shakespeare in the Park productions, evoking the royal homes that play prominent roles in the Bard’s works.

10. FOLLY WALL IN BARKING TOWN SQUARE // LONDON

In a borough known for its real historic buildings, the ancient wall found in London’s Barking Town Square might look centuries old. It’s not, and ironically, the wall is part of the square’s renovation efforts. The wall was built by bricklaying students at Barking College using old bricks and crumbling stone items found at salvage yards. Known as the "Secret Garden," named after the children’s book about a walled garden, the wall was designed to screen a nearby supermarket and was unveiled in 2007.

Original image
Theo Rindos
arrow
Design
Graphic Designer Visualizes America's Major Rivers as Subway Routes
Original image
Theo Rindos

Mark Twain spent his early years navigating America's winding waterways, but the steamboat pilot-turned-author was also a fan of modern transportation: He was one of the first passengers to ride the London Underground's longest tube line—the Central Line—when it first opened in 1900. Needless to say, Twain would probably be a fan of the map below, which visualizes U.S. rivers as subway lines.

A map depicting U.S. rivers as subway routes, by graphic designer Theo Rindos
Theo Rindos
 
 
A map depicting U.S. rivers as subway routes, by graphic designer Theo Rindos
Theo Rindos

Created by graphic designer Theo Rindos (and spotted by CityLab), the map is inspired by Harry Beck's original London Tube map from the 1930s. It's based on data culled from the U.S. Geological Survey, Google Maps, and Wikipedia.

"I have always been fascinated by transit maps and river systems, and I thought, 'Why not put them together?'" Rindos tells Mental Floss. Beck's design style "has been kind of a staple for many city transit systems because it's so easy to understand and is so beautiful. The rivers of the United States are complex, and I wanted to see if I could achieve a similar outcome."

The source of each river is denoted with a solid-colored circle. White circles indicate where these waterways converge and split, and neighboring cities and towns are marked as "stations." That said, the map doesn't feature every single U.S. river: It includes ones important to the transportation and shipping sectors, but for aesthetic reasons, Rindos opted to leave out awkwardly shaped rivers and turned smaller ones into bus routes.

You can purchase Rindos' map here, or visit the designer's website to learn more about his work.

[h/t CityLab]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios