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Showing 1-20 of 20 entries

Allen-Bradley Clock Tower

The Allen-Bradley clock, also known as Milwaukee's Polish Moon, glows in this photograph from the summer of 1963.
The Allen-Bradley Clock Tower is a four-sided clock that sits on top of the ALLEN-BRADLEY Building (now Rockwell Automation) on the South Side of Milwaukee. Local ARCHITECT Fitzhugh Scott designed the tower. The clockworks were built by Allen-Bradley, which specialized in electrical controls, while the clock faces were created by Super Sky Products in MEQUON.…
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City Hall

City Hall from the south, with a message advertising Festa Italiana on the upper stories.
The Milwaukee City Hall is located on the site of the previous “Market Hall” on the triangular parcel of land between Market Street, Water Street, Wells Street, and Kilbourn Avenue. In 1891 an architectural contest was held to replace the “Market Hall” with a new headquarters for city government. Chicago architect Henry Ives Cobb submitted…
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The second Milwaukee County Courthouse, pictured around 1900.
Historically courthouses were places for resolving legal and political matters. As community social spaces, they also demonstrated civic pride, serving as symbols of the ideal of American justice. As such the architecture of courthouses reflected their important role in community life. However, over time, courthouses, and later “justice centers,” became more specialized. Modern courthouses tend…
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Effigy Mounds

A survey by 19th century scientist Increase Lapham showed "ancient works" in the Milwaukee area, including effigy mounds.
Milwaukee was Native American land until the 1830s. The Potawatomi lived in the area in the early 19th century but lost their lands as a result of coerced treaties that forced them to cede the territory to the United States for American settlers. Most of these people were removed west to a reservation in Kansas,…
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Eschweiler Buildings

The Eschweiler Buildings on the Milwaukee County Grounds, such as this abandoned Milwaukee County School of Agriculture and Domestic Economy building, have been the focus of historic preservation efforts.
The Eschweiler & Eschweiler architectural firm was one of the most prolific in Milwaukee’s history, designing everything from community spaces, private homes, and places of worship, to industrial factories and commercial buildings. Some of their most notable buildings include the MILWAUKEE GAS LIGHT BUILDING, the MILWAUKEE ARENA, the Wisconsin Telephone Co. Building, the Milwaukee County…
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Gas Company Flame

The bright blue flame in this photograph predicts the same weather tomorrow.
The iconic Gas Company Flame was added on top of the ESCHWEILER-designed WISCONSIN GAS BUILDING in 1956. Standing 21 feet and weighing 4 tons, the beacon provides navigational light for Lake Michigan vessels and indicates the local weather forecast by its color. The flame contained neon and argon tubing, but by spring 2014 was replaced…
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Kettle Moraine

A view of part of the Kettle Moraine State Forest from an observation tower at Lapham Peak in Waukesha County.
The greater Kettle Moraine stretches from Kewanee County south through Walworth County. It was created when the Green Bay and Lake Michigan “lobes” of the Wisconsin Glacier (it had six lobes all together) retreated some 10,000 years ago. The retreating glacier left behind geological indentations, known as kettles, and deposited debris—silt, rocks, and boulders—that produced…
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Milwaukee Exposition Building

The Milwaukee Exposition Building, shown here around 1885, hosted events until it was destroyed in a fire in 1905.
Preceded by the city’s oldest skating rink, the Milwaukee Exposition Building opened at what is now 500 W. Kilbourn Ave. in 1881. Walter Holbrook of E.T. Mix Co. Architects designed the building, which was constructed with Milwaukee brick in the modified Queen Anne style. It was constructed entirely with private funds—when a worker’s strike stalled…
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Milwaukee Theatre

This photograph of the building that became the Milwaukee Theatre also illustrates the streetcar tracks of Milwaukee in the early 20th century.
The Milwaukee Auditorium opened in 1909 at 500 W. Kilbourn Ave., replacing the Exposition Building. Operating under a public-private partnership, it became Milwaukee’s major public spectator facility. The main hall originally accommodated more than 8,000 people. It served as a venue for events including religious revivals, the arts, sport, and sociability. In 1912, after a…
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Newhall House Fire

This sketch of the Newhall House Fire dramatizes the rescue operation, illustrating the crowd gathered to watch and firefighters carrying ladders and holding safety nets for people trying to escape the flames.
The deadliest fire in Milwaukee history occurred at the Newhall House hotel on January 10, 1883 on the corner of Michigan Street and Broadway. Firemen who battled previous fires at the hotel, one of Wisconsin’s largest, dubbed it a “tinder-box.” The inferno originated in the opulent structure’s wooden elevator shaft and took over twenty-six hours…
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The North Avenue Dam, in place since 1891, was partially removed in 1994 and fully removed in 1997 to help improve the river’s water quality. A pedestrian bridge is now in place near the former dam site, which connects the two sides of the RiverWalk.
The RiverWalk is a pedestrian walkway along the MILWAUKEE RIVER in DOWNTOWN Milwaukee. SOCIALIST city planners first envisioned the RiverWalk in the early 20th century, and a segment was built outside the Gimbels Department Store in the late 1920s. In the 1980s, Mayor HENRY MAIER revived the idea and pushed for a connected system of…
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State Forests, Parks, and Trails

This colorful mural on Pierce Street marks an entry point to the Hank Aaron Trail.
Despite its urban location, Milwaukee is a beneficiary of Wisconsin’s investment in protecting natural areas. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources manages the state’s forests, parks, and trails. Three are housed in Milwaukee County: Hank Aaron State Trail, Havenwoods State Forest, and Lakeshore State Park. Winding through an area once home to Native Americans and,…
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Subcontinental Divide

This map from the U.S. Geological Survey illustrates where the Subcontinental Divide runs through southeastern Wisconsin.
A ridge created by the thawing Wisconsin glacier 10,000 years ago traverses eastern Waukesha County from north to south near the Milwaukee County line. It is a small segment of the Great Lakes Basin boundary, which encompasses all of Michigan and parts of Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, and the Canadian…
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Third Ward Fire of 1892

The fire in the Third Ward in 1892 demolished more than 440 buildings and displaced 2,500 people from the neighborhood.
At about 5:40 p.m. on Friday, October 28, 1892, spontaneous combustion in the Union Oil and Paint Company building on the Milwaukee River at Water Street, south of St. Paul Avenue, caused a fire. Strong winds swirling from the west and northwest pushed the fire east to Lake Michigan and south to Erie Street. By…
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US Bank Center

Photograph of the U.S. Bank Center from Lakefront Park taken in 1985.
The US Bank Center was constructed as the home of the First Wisconsin National Bank. In 1969 the company unveiled plans to move from its headquarters at 735 N. Water Street to a new downtown headquarters building at 777 E. Wisconsin Avenue. When finished in 1973, the surpassed Milwaukee’s CITY HALL as the tallest in…
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The old Wisconsin Avenue viaduct in 1988, showing the structures that originally surrounded it.
Milwaukee’s topography of rivers, valleys, and high bluffs created significant transportation challenges. Engineers in Milwaukee constructed bridges to allow vehicles and pedestrians to cross over waterways, while viaducts directed traffic across changes in terrain. During the late nineteenth century, innovations in iron and steel construction allowed viaducts to cover greater distances with multiple spans and…
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Photograph of a Union Steamboat Company vessel in Milwaukee Harbor, circa 1885.
The history of Milwaukee is anything but dry. Water, in fact, runs through it like a river, constituting an element so critical that imagining the community without it is virtually impossible. Whether for transportation, industry, recreation, sanitation, or simply as the backdrop for daily life, water is the fluid medium in which Milwaukee evolved from…
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A figured bundled up against the cold shovels the sidewalk on a snowy night in December 1978.
Milwaukeeans love to boast about their weather almost as much as they love to complain about it. I’m reminded of an old song by John Martyn, “Bless the Weather.” It’s a love song of lament—the refrain noting that what the weather giveth, the weather taketh away: “Bless the weather that brought you to me//Curse the…
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Wild Rice

This illustration depicts three Native American women knocking wild rice grains into their canoe with paddles.
Wild rice was and is a staple food crop for the Native American tribes of Wisconsin. Indeed, the Menominee, one of the major tribes in the Milwaukee area, were called “the Wild Rice People” by Europeans. Traditionally grown in shallows at the edges of lakes and ponds, wild rice is harvested in the fall by…
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Wisconsin Center

A 2012 image of the downtown convention facility that began its life as the Midwest Express Center and is now the Wisconsin Center.
Hoping to revitalize downtown Milwaukee, the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce spearheaded the drive in the 1990s to replace the outdated convention hall of the MILWAUKEE EXPOSITION CONVENTION CENTER AND ARENA with a larger meeting space. A team of six firms eventually developed the 189,000 square foot Flemish and German-inspired Midwest Express Center, which opened…
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