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.