milwaukee, Uncategorized, wisconsin

Walking around Walker’s Point

 

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.

 

Nice brickwork on an old school building

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.

 

I like walking by the local print shop, showing off some of their posters.  My neighborhood has the largest concentration of Spanish-speakers in the state.

 

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, 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.

 

Rockwell Automation “For Over a Century, Doing Our Darndest to Get Rid of Humans”

 

 

 

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.

 

neighborhood shops

 

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.

 

I liked this old Victorian, but took the picture on a day the sky was absolutely gray. So this is a fake blue sky. Photoshop’s bag of tricks sometimes strikes me as clever and useful, sometimes as funny, and some days, as downright creepy. But for a random postcard like this, I guess the fake sky doesn’t seem to present any huge artistic or ethical issues.

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.

 

2 November 2021 update on the timber frame apartment building. It will be 284 feet tall, the tallest wood-framed building in the world.

 

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Cellphone shot of a 1915 station in Sparta, on the Chicago Northwestern.

Originally, this line was called the Baraboo Air-Line Railroad.  (Isn’t that kind of great!?)

The trains don’t go there anymore.

Although there’s active stations not too far away (eighteen miles east in Tomah, and 28 miles west in La Crosse), because Amtrak runs more-or-less northwest across the state, on its way to St. Paul.

This little brick building is now the office for the 32-mile Elroy-Sparta biking trail, which the official guide tells us, is “considered the first rail-to-trail in the United States.”

It’s about 120 miles northwest of Madison, and if you continue NW from Sparta, on the La Crosse River Trail, you’ll hit the Mississippi.

The sections I walked were pleasant, if unexciting, but the big attraction is the tunnels.

 

The trail was mostly crushed limestone and well-maintained. I think one section of trail may still be closed after some storm damage, so if you’re planning on biking this, check with the folks in the Sparta office.

 

In the 1870’s, RR workers dug & blasted their way through the hills.  We walked through the longest tunnel, nearly 3/4 of a mile long.

 

The closest access point is reached by driving down a semi-washed-out gravel lane next to the church I posted yesterday.

At the foot of the hill, there’s what looks like an ancient stone-lined canal.

 

 

It was actually just an attempt to divert storm water away from the tunnel and railbed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The tunnel is almost entirely unlined, and water drips down steadily from the ceiling, and runs alongside the path in little ditches.

At some point, the burrow is reinforced with massive stone blocks, and water cascades down the wall – – I think the spot where the workers hit an underground spring.  This picture was taken with a flash, there’s no lighting in the tunnel.

 

 

 

This is to give an idea of walking through the tunnel with your flashlight turned off, looking toward the entrance.

 

If you don’t mind getting a bit wet, and perhaps hearing a bat or two overhead, it’s a wonderfully cool place for a walk on a hot summer day.

And a great place to sing, if there’s no one around.

I recommend selections from Bohemian Rhapsody, or Phantom of the Opera.

 

 

 

 

1870's, Railroads, Uncategorized, wisconsin

Walks Around Wisconsin. Chicago Northwestern, Sparta station, 1915. And a Dampish Sort of Tunnel, 1873.

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