Well, I haven’t been posting much. So other than working and studying, what have I been doing?
I’ve been making a determined and deliberate effort to make Milwaukee feel like home and have pretty much succeeded.
Part of this process, I think, was going to live in Walker’s Point, a neighborhood on the south side of town.
A mostly industrial area, on low-lying ground between two rivers, and in recent years just a footnote in the city’s story, this neighborhood has also long been a hub for people who were “othered.”
For many years, this was a German town, but in the early 1900’s, immigrants from Mexico were brought in to work in the numerous tanneries, which for a time, produced more leather than anywhere else in the world. Polish and Slovenian immigrants had arrived before them, to work in the steel mills, machine shops and factories.
Walker’s Point is now gentrifying and growing, old businesses and warehouses being converted to brewpubs, restaurants and loft apartments, but the residential population is still pretty small, there’s still a great sense of neighborliness and its low-lying houses nicely frame the skyline of the downtown. The skyscrapers for Northwestern Mutual and U.S. Bank are easily visible and not too far, but a world away from this neighborhood.
Also visible is the clock tower at Rockwell Automation, with its 40-foot clock faces (twice as big as Big Ben’s clock), big enough that ships on Lake Michigan use it like a lighthouse.
The area is also home to artists and the gay nightlife scene, and there’s a diverse and tolerant crowd roaming these streets. After being a backwater, now I think now the currents here are a lot of the lifeblood of the city, with true big city hustle & bustle but small town feelings of neighborhood.
Walking around, there are oldtime residential pockets, and you’re struck by the many Victorian homes. Many are stately and charming, with quaint flowerbeds and yards full of statues and art. While a lot of this area is still industrial and not far from the harbor (and the Milorganite factory is sometimes within smelling distance), it’s quiet and safe.
Here’s some cellphone snapshots of random things from from recent walks. There’s no theme today, it’s just an interesting town to walk around.
Here’s some stuff from other parts of the city. Closer to downtown, they’re building a 25-story apartment building. What makes that interesting – – it’s wooden! I don’t mean it will have wood facing or paneling, but the actual structure. It will be the tallest timber frame building in the world.
Near the high school where I worked a few years ago, are some Frank Lloyd Wright houses, currently being restored.
The Basilica of St Josephat, built by Polish immigrants. Maybe it was the spiritual locus, but the sky above it really was that blue the day I walked here.
Hard to believe you’re looking at a former post office (keep reading for the explanation).
By 1900, when this was built, there were 60,000 Poles living here, and they already had seven churches, but wanted something grander, with room for over a thousand worshippers. So this is basically a scaled-down version of St. Peter’s in Rome.
In a clever bit of economy, they bought the old Chicago Post Office, a big 4- or 5-story Second Empire-style building, which was being replaced, and re-used the stone blocks. (The giant 9-story Old Chicago Main Post Office you see today, which goes over the Eisenhower Expressway, was built in the ’20’s and ’30’s)
And that’s the news from Milwaukee. I hope everyone is well and staying dry.
36 thoughts on “Walking around Walker’s Point”
So the Finger Laker has increasingly become a Great Laker (specifically Lake Michigan). I’m pretty sure we spent time in the Basilica of St Josephat during our day trips to Milwaukee from northeast Illinois in 2016. While we would have driven through the Walker’s Point area, especially on I-94, I don’t remember stopping for anything there. It’s good that you’re finding it congenial.
Thanks, Steve. Yes, the museums, historic houses, well-known restaurants, etc. are elsewhere, I wouldn’t expect visitors to detour into this area.
The basilica on the other hand is pretty visible and impressive. I’d only know “Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat!” because Yosemite Sam used to say that when he was chasing Bugs Bunny, so I was surprised to see the name of this basilica, and the similar name. But there seems to be no end to the obscure saints to name things after.
I found more about St. Josaphat (né John Kuncevic): https://thebasilica.org/josaphat
Thanks, Robert. for showing us around: I enjoued it a lot, nd I learned lot.
Thank you, Pit!
You’ve picked a good neighborhood to live in. It’s funky, comfortable, artsy and up-and-coming.
Thanks, Neil, I’m sure you’d like it too
Thanks for this tour. I found many of your photos and historical details very interesting. I like the way you have described the neighbourhood. I think I would like it there!
Thank you, Anne, I think you would too!
That is really good news from Milwaukee, Robert! The Polish cathedral is impressive.
Thank you, Peter. They brought over artists from Rome to paint the interior, it’s beautiful
The Rockwell building looks like something from the dark side of the force. I’d like the see that FLW house! The basilica ceiling image is really beautiful.
Thank you, Tom. I clicked the “Darth Vader/Sinister” setting on my phone for the Rockwell photo, it’s actually a lot more cheerful-looking. Every September, the city has a “Doors Open Day” and you can tour all sorts of places, like the FLW houses, that you normally can’t see. Next year I’d like to climb up the North Point Water Tower, 175′ tall, from the 1870’s.
It was great to go on this walk with you. Or I should say a composite of walks. Cool pictures. Never would’ve known about the sky change in that picture of the Victorian, can’t tell at all. That’s really interesting about the stick-built apartment. Hope they locked in on a good price for their wood, prices for lumber were insane 6-8 months ago. Ever since I did the cross-lake ferry 4-5 years ago I’ve been keen about visiting Milwaukee, it’s an easy (though expensive, for the summer boat) trip from my parents’. if it weren’t for the pandemic, probably would have done it by now. one of these days I’ll drop in on you, know I’ve said that before. At any rate, enjoyed this. Hope you’re having a good week!
Thanks! I imagine the build is quite pricey, but it’s neat to see it.
You’re always welcome whenever you pop by.
Been busy but good, hope you’re having a good week too
You might be gone by the time I get there, probably no telling where your post graduate path will take you. but for now you are a cheesehead
What a great idea, to walk around and capture what you love about your town, and what interests you. The old houses in particular sound great, and I love the shot of the posters. I like the phrase “othered” and guess many of us who move far from home relate to that struggle of finding enough familiar and new to feel anchored. Milwaukee sounds wonderful. Glad it’s feeling like home.
Thanks! It really is a lovely neighborhood and full of interesting little gems.
Finding a place that feels like home is a challenge, but so rewarding when we hit that threshold. I really like it out here.
Have a great rest of your week!
It’s great to know you’ve become increasingly fond of your new place in the world. Just as it takes time to acclimate to new weather (e.g., the move from Iowa to Houston), it takes time to acclimate to a new culture. There’s so much of interest here I’ll just add a few random comments, to go with your random photos.
What’s the story on the orange and purple image of the animal at the top? When I saw it, my first thought was of the LSU tigers. Has a contingent of Louisiana grads showed up in the neighborhood?
Your mention of the “othered” reminded me of an expression I learned from bloggers from the UP of Michigan. They liked to refer to the summer people, tourists, etc., as being “from away.” The exact location of the ‘away’ didn’t matter. They still weren’t “our people.”
I liked the poster that says “Eyes up the road, not your phone.” Simple and to the point. And I thought it interesting that the Rockwell clock served as a lighthouse of sorts. For years, there was a huge oil platform being constructed in Port Aransas, Texas. Called Bullwinkle, it served as a landmark for sailors, and when it finally was towed to its final location and disappeared from the horizon, it was amazingly disorienting. I presume the clock tower will stay put. There’s a great video of Bullwinkle’s departure and installation here.
Thanks, I’m also glad to have found a place in this world.
The theme I could gather was Foxgloves, but in a magic realism sort of way. There are quite a few southern folks in this town, mostly from Alabama and Mississippi though.
That’s funny, the UP is seen here as being an “other” place. I guess to most people everyone else is an out of towner, a tourist, a visitor, or in Roswell a visitor from another planet.
In any case, I find it appealing, having a place that feels like I can fit into it isn’t always easy, I think of myself sometimes as a being a bridge between worlds-not quite rural, not quite city, but not at home in small towns either.
Wow, I hadn’t heard of Bullwinkle but that’s great, I can imagine how disorienting that would be, it would be like if my volcano in Chile vanished one day. Interesting video.
As far as I know the Rockwell clock isn’t going anywhere
It certainly looks as though you’ve pitched up in an interesting place, Robert. Is it all urban, or do you get access to countryside too?
It is a great spot I’m in. Where I live is very urban, even the parks are pretty small, but I’m within an easy walk to the lake and some green spaces and there are patches of woodland along the river where I’ll walk sometimes. But overall, quite urban.
I guess it must suit you, though. I’d need to be more rural myself.
What a charming introduction to Milwaukee. Walker’s Point looks and sounds like an inspiring neighbourhood.
Thanks, George. It is a wonderful part of a lovely town.
That’s a great tour and update Robert! I forgot Rockwell was there, I did some work for them early last year (work they couldn’t automate, ha!). Like what you did with Photoshop on that old Victorian backdrop too. Very neat looking town you’ve got there, your time has been well spent I think…thanks for educatin’ us.
Wow, that building is amazingly beautiful and great that it is repurposed from the post office construction materials.What an incredible amount of labor that must have taken. Great shots of the interior.
Thanks Steve, it’s a pretty stunning interior, Italian artistry.
Peace. I am glad you feel comfortable in your new home. A mid-westerner- I grew up in Iowa and can relate, though i was in a college town and the 50,000 P. city of Ames was surrounded by an ocean of corn.
Thank you, Thomas
What a terrific overview of the neighborhood. I love the diversity that so many years and changes have brought. Frank Lloyd Wright houses, nightlife, handsome Victorians – what more could you want? 😉
Thank you, Lynn, I miss the Finger Lakes but like it here, Milwaukee has a lot going for it.
I can see that!
Looks like an interesting neighborhood. Not sure I’d fancy living in such a big timber building, with the fire risk. But I guess it’s being treated with fireproof materials.
Thanks Denzil. I haven’t been able to read up on that wooden building, and find out how it possibly meets the fire code. I think there’s some Scandinavian projects in the works which will go even taller.