Postcards: Milwaukee River, Looking North, Milwaukee, Wis. and Downtown View of Milwaukee River, Milwaukee, Wis.

These two postcards show the view of the Milwaukee River from about a block apart. The postcard on top was postmarked in 1936, and the view is north from the east side of the river on Clybourn Street. The second postcard is postmarked 1948, and it shows the view north from Michigan Ave.

On the left side of the river is the old Gimbels Department Store. This location opened in 1887, but this shot is of the building after 1923 when Gimbels tore down their building and rebuilt an eight-story structure. The building currently houses the American Society of Quality and a Residence Inn.

The tower on the right is the old Pabst Building which was built in 1892 and demolished in 1981. It was Milwaukee’s first skyscraper. That site is where the 100 East Wisconsin Building now stands, on the northwest corner of Wisconsin and Water Streets.

Just beyond that, with a tall sign on the side, is the First Wisconsin National Bank building. The bank remained there until it moved to its new 42-story tower on East Wisconsin Ave in 1973. This building, now known as the CityCenter, still stands on the southwest corner of Water and Mason Streets

The open lot on the left of the first postcard is the site of the Riverside Building, an office building perched awkwardly atop a parking garage. That building won’t be built for three decades at the time this shot was taken. In 2019, the building was redesigned for Rexnord.

In 1936, when the first postcard is dated, Mayor Dan Hoan appeared on the cover of Time Magazine. The magazine called Hoan “one of the nation’s ablest public servants, and, under him, Milwaukee has become perhaps the best-governed city in the U.S.” He was a socialist who’d been in office for 20 years. Milwaukee had managed to avoid the worst of the depression until 1932, and under Hoan, the city launched a number of work relief programs, built libraries and parks, and helped Milwaukee through the worst of the era.

If you study Milwaukee’s history and architecture, it’s easy to see the impact of the Great Depression and WWII in the 1930s and 1940s. While dozens of buildings were added to downtown in the first few decades of the 20th Century, relatively few were built from 1935 to 1950. Building picked up again in the late-1950s and exploded in the 1960s



First postcard: PLUS Code: 23PR+F4 Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Second Postcard: PLUS Code: 23PR+X2 Milwaukee, Wisconsin

First postcard: Approximate Google Street View Today:

Second postcard: Approximate Google Street View Today:

1948 Milwaukee River View

For today’s Gigapan view, this is something I posted previously but will post again. This view is looking southwest along the Milwaukee River from above the Dam that used to be just south of North Avenue. Much of Commerce Street can be seen in its industrial glory with coal yards and railroad tracks of the Beerline where condos now sit.

Monday Milwaukee Mystery

A little bit of a change for this week’s picture. This is a photo from the early 1910’s and shows a beauty spot on the Milwaukee river. Where exactly was this and what was the name of this park? This will be a tough one because this is a rare view so hints will be coming if everyone is stumped.

River Dam 1948

This is a crop from a larger picture that I have. The exact same picture can be see in the MPL Milwaukee Waterways digital collection here. It shows an area that has changed tremendously starting in the early 1990s and continuing today.

Originally the area was a recreational spot with boating and swimming and ice skating in the winter above the dam. This picture from 1948 shows many coal yards piled up in the train switching yards and also west of the Humboldt bridge. Rohn’s swimming school still stood although it didn’t last too much longer. By then, the runoff from the coal piles and other industrial pollution was making the area unfit to swim.