Early Expressway Plans

Back in 1949 a study was completed that analyzed the best routes for expressways in the city. Many of the plans went ahead to be completed 15 and 20 years later while some were changed immensely. During the time period from these early plans to the time of final construction many things changed in the city. The post war building boom opened up many new tracts of the city which led to a radical shift in population. The late 1950s brought the death of the North Shore railroad line.

The following sketch shows a plan that incorporated the old North Shore railroad into the new expressway. This design gave the railroad its own right of way that got rid of the bottleneck on South 6th Street where the railroad ran previously. Unfortunately with the North Shore’s demise these plans were dropped.

Crystal Theater

The west side of downtown was the entertainment district in the early part of the 20th century. West Water Street, 2nd street, 3rd Street, and Grand Avenue had numerous variety, vaudeville, and early movie theaters. The Crystal Theater was a small vaudeville house at what is now 726 N. 2nd st. It played musical, comedy and dance acts. Slapstick acrobatics and trick riding were common as well as bawdy musicals. New shows were regularly scheduled with a variety of performers traveling from city to city.


Ad from November 1915.

The theater finally started showing films in August of 1925 with “The Folly of Youth” but lasted only a few years more until it closed, unable to match the larger and more popular movie theaters.

Monday Milwaukee Mystery

Today’s mystery is a mystery to me but is someplace downtown. There is not much in the way of clues except for the river behind the building and a bridge adjacent. This could be on the east side of the river or the west but where exactly?

Downtown Postcard View

This is an old postcard view of Sixth and Grand Avenue as it looked in the 1920s. The view looks east and shows two big theaters that once graced the Avenue. On the left is Saxe’s Wisconsin and on the right is the Palace Orpheum. The Saxe Wisconsin was in what was known as the Carpenter Building and had bowling alleys and a popular dance ballroom on the roof.

Monday Milwaukee Mystery

A new year and a new Monday Mystery. This old street view mystery is a picture from late 1957 somewhere downtown. Nino’s Steak Roundup offers charcoal broiled steaks fresh from the grill. Goldfish Uniforms is in the background. The buildings in the background remain although the Nino’s building and the one next to it are gone.

Where is today’s mystery photo located?

Monday Milwaukee Mystery

Here is a new Monday Mystery after a big holiday weekend. This week presents another mystery face on a downtown building. Which building does this bearded face reside?

Ziegler Candy

This advertisement from the early 1900’s was for Peerless Milk Chocolates which were made by the Ziegler Candy Company. A little known fact is that Ziegler Candy still exists and sells many of the candy bars that they have always been known for. The Giant Bar was a staple of many a Milwaukeean as they grew up in the 50’s. Stop by their little store at 9617 West Greenfield Ave. in West Allis and take a trip back to the past.

Monday Milwaukee Mystery

I received this photo from Ed a while back and thought I’d post it as a Monday Mystery. The streetcar is obviously the #10 and I’d guess the time as the early 1950s or late 1940s after a big snow storm. This is looking south but that is about all I’ll say for now without making it too obvious. Any guesses for today’s mystery photo?

Monday Milwaukee Mystery

Here is another mystery face on a building near downtown. It is very memorable so if anyone has chanced to see it they should know where it is immediately. What is the guess for this week’s mystery?

Preserving the History

Milwaukee is a city that has always maintained its ties to the past. Our cultural identity is tied in to our German, Polish, Italian, and many other ethnic roots. We attend the festivals to remind us of those roots and every day we see the reminders of our shared past on many streetcorners. Buildings that our parents and our grandparents and great-grandparents walked by and shopped at are still there in abundance. I have pictures that my grandfather took in the early 1920s in the Plankinton Arcade and the statue of John Plankinton that he snapped a picture of remains there for me to see as a link to that time when he walked in the same place. The apartments he lived in and the buildings he helped to build are also still there.

Unfortunately, many of the places he saw when he walked downtown are no longer there. Some were lost to fire, some to decay, some to new and improved development. Some were torn down for parking lots or just to save the owner from paying taxes on buildings they didn’t want to improve.

A few buildings that have been with us since the 1860s in East-Town are in danger of being lost forever to be replaced by a glass and steel hotel tower. The heritage that has been with us for 150 years is awaiting a decision on its fate. The Follansbee Building where Downtown Books resides is one of the important pieces of the fabric of the historic East-Town district.

Please make your voice heard in trying to make the developers of this property see how important it is for Milwaukee to keep these reminders of its past. Support the developers in making the proposed Marriott hotel integrate the past into its plans so that every one can be proud of this heritage. A public hearing on this development will be held in the committee rooms of City Hall during the Historic Preservation Committee meeting on Monday, December 13th at 4pm. Stop by and make your voice heard to say how important the past is to the future of Milwaukee.

More information on the development can be found in this Milwaukee Journal article. The history of the Follansbee Building can be read here.