Browse by Subject

Showing 21-37 of 37 Entries


Milorganite was produced through the activated sludge process developed at the Jones Island Treatment Plant. This 1981 photograph shows the pump and mixing channel.
Milorganite is a commercial fertilizer made by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) from the bacterial remains of the wastewater treatment process. Before the twentieth century, Milwaukeeans disposed of sewage in area waterways. After many years of debate over sanitation, the Milwaukee Sewerage Commission was created in 1913 to address the problem. The Commission’s first… Read More

Nelson P. Hawks

Facade of the Nelson Hawks Inn, in sepia color. The two-and-a-half-story building features a covered porch and a balcony enclosed by balustrades. Two people stand in front of the building. One sits on a chair on the porch.
Upon opening the Hawks Inn in 1846, Nelson Page Hawks became one of DELAFIELD’s most prominent early settlers. Born in 1803, the entrepreneur transplanted his family to Wisconsin Territory from upstate New York in 1837 after working as a cabinet-maker, mechanic, inventor, merchandiser, and stagecoach manager.  Following a brief stay in Milwaukee operating the Fountain… Read More

North Point Water Tower

Photograph of the North Point Water Tower in 1985 with a temporary dragon sculpture mounted on it.
Opened in 1874, the North Point Water Tower encased a wrought iron standpipe to prevent ice from forming in the pipe. The standpipe relieved surges in water pressure from the North Point Pumping Station, which provided 16 million gallons of water daily to satisfy Milwaukee’s need for clean water. Charles A. Gombert designed the Victorian… Read More

Public Service Building

Postcard of the Public Service Building in 1908. The Public Service Building was a hub of Milwaukee's twentieth century transportation and electricity infrastructure.
The Public Service Building, designed by Herman J. Esser, opened in 1905 in order to coordinate Milwaukee’s transportation and energy provisions. The Beaux-Arts Neoclassical structure functioned as the MILWAUKEE ELECTRIC RAILWAY AND LIGHT COMPANY’S main office, central terminal, and training facility. The company’s horsecar and, later, electric streetcar network served Milwaukee’s neighborhoods and suburbs until… Read More


Railroad tracks continue to criss-cross the Milwaukee area, as revealed in this 1975 photograph of the intersection of Brown Deer Road and Highway 100.
As the Railway Age developed, Milwaukee enthusiastically welcomed the iron horse. Boosters recognized that participation in the emerging national network of railroads could provide local farmers and manufacturers access to wide markets and bring desirable goods and immigrants to the city, bolstering its economic growth. But the city failed to emerge as the railroad mecca… Read More

Roads and Streets

Men working on building the road at North 7th Street and West Wells in this 1913 photograph.
Generally, roads link distant places together, while streets provide access within a community. Before Europeans came to the Milwaukee area, Indian trails served as the way to travel from one place to another. They provided routes between what would later become cities and towns, like WAUKESHA to EAGLE or WEST BEND to PORT WASHINGTON. Many… Read More

S/V Denis Sullivan

Wide shot of the S/V Denis Sullivan with its six white-colored open sails on a body of water. Some sailboats and a blue sky are visible in the background.
The Sailing Vessel Denis Sullivan is a replica three-masted Great Lakes schooner. In the 19th century, schooners were the most common means of transporting bulk commodities on the Great Lakes. In 1991, a group of Milwaukeeans began recreating a three-masted schooner. They formed the Wisconsin Lake Schooner Education Association (WLSEA), a non-profit foundation with the… Read More


This photograph of men standing inside a sewer tunnel under construction provides a sense of scale and of the materials used in building them.
Sewage is a variable liquid comprising material from a variety of sources, including, but not limited to: human waste; industrial waste; runoff from household and manufacturing processes; animal waste and road runoff; and rainwater. Sewage that requires processing through chemical and biological means to eliminate toxins and germs is considered “sanitary sewage”; that consisting of… Read More

Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission

This map of the Milwaukee area's growth since 1850 suggests the challenge SEWRPC faces in the twenty-first century of checking urban sprawl and encouraging the preservation of the region's natural environment.
Since 1960, the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC) has prepared and published long-range, comprehensive plans to guide physical development in Wisconsin’s southeastern counties of Kenosha, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Walworth, Washington, and Waukesha. SEWRPC was authorized by an executive order from Governor Gaylord Nelson, recognizing that “problems of physical and economic development and of environmental… Read More

Street Naming and Numbering

In 1984, the City of Milwaukee renamed different sections of 3rd Street as Old World Third Street and Martin Luther King Drive, reversing a simplification of street name rationalization initiated earlier in the 20th century.
The city of Milwaukee combined three formerly competing villages when it incorporated in 1846. Because the villages had been striving to be unique, each had its own street layout and street-naming scheme. Juneautown, east of the Milwaukee River, was named for its French Canadian fur-trading founder, SOLOMON JUNEAU. Many of its streets were given the… Read More


As telecommunications networks developed, they depended less and less on humans to complete the system. This 1909 photograph shows bicycle-riding messengers who delivered telegrams to their final destinations.
Telecommunications technologies use electronic signals over cables and the electro-magnetic spectrum to allow people to send and receive information quickly over great distances. Milwaukee has a history of ever-changing technologies, with varying levels of competition and regulation of the services used to connect Milwaukee to the world. Telecommunication began in Milwaukee when the Erie &… Read More


A man sits atop a horse-drawn wagon carrying a metal tank. The wagon is labelled as belonging to the Heil Company, located in the Layton Park neighborhood.
The Milwaukee area has been a crossroads for travelers throughout its history as an inhabited place. Milwaukeeans and their goods have gotten around by foot, horse, and engine power, using transportation technologies ranging from wheeled wagons to trains, streetcars, automobiles, busses, boats, and ships. Milwaukee’s transportation routes link people together within the region and to… Read More

Water System

The North Point Water Works, shown around 1885, including the standpipe at the top of the hill on the right.
Cities supply water for domestic, industrial, and agricultural uses in response to concerns about quality and quantity. Milwaukee first implemented water supply for both domestic and industrial reasons; since then, quality and quantity demands have alternately dominated changes in the water system’s infrastructure. Water in Milwaukee was available from a private vendor as early as… Read More

Water Transportation

A tugboat pulls a sailing ship out of the Milwaukee Harbor toward Lake Michigan in 1885.
Native Americans, as the first inhabitants of the Greater Milwaukee area, were the first to use the lakes, rivers, and streams that dominate the landscape as a means of transportation. In Milwaukee in particular, they used the three connecting rivers and lakeshore as major thoroughfares for canoe travel and harvesting water-based food. Native peoples of… Read More


Photographs of watermills are rare because they were largely outmoded by the time photography became common. This undated photograph by Roman Kwasniewski shows a mill, bridge, and waterfall in winter.
Watermills, structures that rely upon water power to drive mechanical processes, were common features in 19th century Wisconsin settler communities. The earliest of these mills were often sawmills. In addition to processing wood for export, sawmills produced lumber for local use, allowing more ambitious structures to rise alongside the early log cabins. In 1834, Dr.… Read More

We Energies

The Lakeside Power Plant's turbine room is shown in this 1983 photograph.
Headquartered in downtown Milwaukee’s PUBLIC SERVICE BUILDING, We Energies is Wisconsin’s largest electric and natural gas utility. The publicly-traded company serves eastern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. A subsidiary of parent company WEC Energy Group, We Energies’ 21st-century portfolio includes coal, natural gas, nuclear, oil, and renewable energies. The firm dates back to THE MILWAUKEE… Read More

Wisconsin Gas Building

Postcard of the Milwaukee Gas Light Company Building in 1933. Note that its famous gas flame has not been added yet.
Designed by the local ESCHWEILER AND ESCHWEILER architectural firm, the Wisconsin Gas Building (also known as the Milwaukee Gas Light Building) opened in 1930. Located at 626 E. Wisconsin Ave., the Art Deco building originally served as headquarters for the Milwaukee Gas Light Company. It continued to do so through several rounds of corporate restructuring… Read More