Milwaukee history

number1son, flickr

For more than a hundred years, the Basilica of St. Josaphat has been a landmark on Milwaukee’s South Side.

The building has been central to the spiritual life of the largest Polish Catholic parish in Wisconsin. But it has also been a tourist destination – drawing tens of thousands of visitors each year.

But as the years have passed, time and weather have deteriorated the Basilica's unique architecture. And this summer, an ambitious restoration project got underway on the building’s exterior.

Milwaukee Man Remembers His Friend, Muhammad Ali

Jun 10, 2016
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

As mourners gather today in Muhammad Ali’s hometown of Louisville for his funeral, an 86-year-old man in Milwaukee will quietly remember his friend’s life. 

Brady X McKinley shared his recollections of his friendship with the boxer known as "the greatest" at the north side business, McKinley Corporation.

McKinley met Muhammad Ali at a gathering of the Nation of Islam not long after Ali won a gold medal at the 1960 summer Olympics, but he had no idea who he was.

Remembering Wisconsin's World War II Prison Camps

May 9, 2016
Milwaukee County Historical Society

Europeans have just finished celebrating their 71st Victory in Europe Day. The day marks the official end of World War II in Europe. What you might not know is that it was a significant day for many enemy soldiers in Wisconsin as well.

The state held thousands of prisoners of war.

Milwaukee County Historical Society assistant archivist Steve Schaffer says there were 36 prison camps in Wisconsin during World War II. In Milwaukee, 3,000 Axis prisoners lived at Camp Billy Mitchell, where Mitchell Airport now stands.

It won’t shock you to learn that Milwaukee’s neighborhoods have changed a lot over more than a century’s worth of history. Some of that history is still visible today, like the former gas station that is now a coffee shop in Sherman Park or the reclaimed Victorian homes in the Concordia neighborhood.

PunkToad / Flickr

Reclamation and preservation of historical buildings can be part of an overall gentrification scheme. But historical preservation can also take place in the midst of other economic development. 

In fact, advocates for preservation say it can serve as a catalyst for growth.

ribarnica, flickr


If you grew up in the Milwaukee area a few decades ago, you knew it as “The Witch’s House.”  Tucked down a dead end road in Fox Point, the wild rumors were put to rest ten or fifteen years ago, as more became known about the house’s inhabitant, artist Mary Nohl.

The house sits behind a forest of trees and concrete sculptures on one side, and Lake Michigan on the other.  It’s nothing like anything else on the block or in the area.

Milwaukee County Zoo's History is Uncaged in New Book

Aug 1, 2014

The century long history of the Milwaukee County Zoo is as colorful as its animals and attractions. Over the decades, the zoo has collected and acquired diverse animals from all over the world and greatly contributed to the field of zoology.

"Gradually as they acquired more animals, the zoo developed slowly over time," says Mary Kazmierczak. "From 12 deer and an eagle to what we have today."

Thea Treiber

You've probably never noticed the low-slung, unassuming building on Calhoun Road in Brookfield.

PHOTOS: Remembering Milwaukee's General MacArthur

Jun 6, 2014

While today is the 70th anniversary of D-Day, 2014 also commemorates the 50th anniversary of the death of another World War II icon – with strong ties to Milwaukee.

Boswell Books

The line goes something like this: it was midnight in the city that keeps its secrets… Like all cities, there are quite a few out of the way and forgotten corners of Milwaukee. Some are hidden in plain sight; others take a bit of sleuthing. And as Bobby Tanzilo found out, some of them require no fear of spiders, heights, or closed spaces to access.

"We're trying to figure out what people are talking about, and specifically to Milwaukee, we're pitching Milwaukee and the bookstore as a place for, say, authors to visit over the next year," says Tanzilo.

It will be 128 years ago next Monday that the Bay View Tragedy took place. A fight for eight-hour work days took place around the country. With all of Milwaukee’s industry, the city’s employers did not escape the nationwide conflict between businesses and workers.

The Bay View Tragedy took place at Milwaukee Iron Company’s Rolling Hill, which was located approximately at South Superior Street and East Russell Avenue. It was not a spontaneous event; May 1st marks the beginning of the turmoil that led up to the tragedy.

Brian Stechschulte, flickr

Every summer, thousands of people come to Milwaukee to celebrate German Fest with a pint or two of Milwaukee’s German beer.

Paul Sabelman, flickr

Though the number of hotels and hotel rooms in downtown Milwaukee is growing, one hotel has remained front and center.

Looking Up at Milwaukee's Architecture

Sep 14, 2013
Eleanor Peterson, Lake Effect

While Milwaukeeans are rushing through the streets with their heads in their phones, there is a beautiful city of Germanic architecture standing by.

Not being from Milwaukee, one of the first things I noticed about this beautiful city was the character these buildings have. Whether the buildings are downtown or a little farther out, this 21st Century city has some strong 19th Century roots that can be told through their architecture.

It was loud, angry, and rough. Punk rock came of age in the mid-1970s and was a direct reaction to the over produced rock and roll of the time.