I came to Milwaukee in the fall of 1985 to start school at Marquette. I had been a prolific photographer in high school, but I was having such a great college experience that I didn't bother to get my 35mm camera gear out too much. But I did on this day for a walk down Wisconsin Avenue on a November afternoon. The words are from a write-up I did in 2007 when I started scanning all my old negatives. Click on any of the photos to make them bigger. Here's my post from 2007:
I think I was realizing that my photographic experiences were languishing at Marquette and decided to pick up the camera and take a walk down Wisconsin Avenue to see what I could capture. I was pretty familiar with the route because my roommate and I used to jog down to the lake, about a 4-mile round trip, quite often since we had arrived on campus. We'd usually pause on the Art Museum's terrace to check out the lake before we jogged back. For this walk, two of my Schroeder Hall buddies came with, as you can see from the photos. It's very interesting for me to see these photos today because over the years, especially when I worked downtown, I read a lot about the area's history. I know a lot about what buildings are there today, and even more about some of the historic buildings that are long gone. This roll of film is a nice little glimpse of what was there in 1985.
The first picture is from the corner of 12th Street and Wisconsin Avenue in Milwaukee. I am standing on the traffic island right in front of the little building that contained the University Store (U-Store) and Grebe's Bakery. The building is gone now, but I should get a current picture from the same spot. I think you'd see the new Al McGuire Center to the left and some new buildings downtown. The Y is now East Hall, and has a new cladding that makes it look like a more modern building.
The Marc Plaza opened in the 1920s as the Schroeder Hotel. It stands on 5th Street and Wisconsin. Sometime in the past ten years it became the Milwaukee Hilton. In that process they did a renovation that included adding on to the west side of the building and creating an indoor waterpark.
A building on Wisconsin Ave sees the end of its days. It looks like it was a nice little building long ago. At first I thought it was on the north side of Wisconsin Ave between 4th & 5th where the Midwest Convention Center stands today. But after looking at an aerial photo of the site in 2007, I recognize the parking garage in the background and realize this building was where the surface lot on the south side of Wisconsin Avenue is today (I was standing on the north side of the street shooting south.)
This is the Reuss Federal Plaza on Old World Third Street. The building with the speckles that you can see on the right of the reflection is the old Hotel Wisconsin.
This building is on the east side of the River just north of Wisconsin Ave. The empty lot to the right used to be the site of the Pabst Building that was built in 1891 and demolished in the 1981. The mural on the wall was made of slats and the image changed as you drove, jogged or walked past on Wisconsin Ave. Today that lot is the site of the 100 East Building, completed in 1989.
Now we are on the east side of the Milwaukee River, and I am taking a shot of the 411 Building at 411 E. Wisconsin Avenue. At the time I think the angles of the windows and the corners intrigued me, but the ironic part of this photo is that I ended up working on the 23/24th floors of that building from 1992 until 1999.
Now we arrive at the lakefront. During most of the twentieth century, Milwaukee did not embrace its lakefront. Early on there were train tracks that ran along the lake. That was replaced with Lincoln Memorial Drive, and McKinley Marina and Veterans Park were created from landfill. But you can see even in 1985, the downtown business district was still cutoff from the lake by this surface parking lot. The sculpture to the right is at the foot of Wisconsin Avenue, and you can see the Summerfest Grounds between the parking lot and the bridge. You can even see the old main stage to the left, mimicking the curve of the bridge. It used to face toward the city, but folks in West Allis and Wauwatosa complained that they could hear the music, so when Summerfest built the Marcus Amphitheater, they faced it toward the lake. Today, you would see a beautifully redesigned Summerfest entrance and the Calatrava designed (and CG Schmidt built) Art Museum would be on your left with park space above a parking garage connecting downtown to the lake.
Facing back to the west, I took a picture of the First Wisconsin Building. Well, that's what it was called then. They've been bought several times and now it's the US Bank building. The sun is going down behind it, so everything is sort of in silhouette. Look at those old buses!
We made it to the War Memorial's patio looking out over the lake. I got a nice shot looking north at Veterans Park and McKinley Marina beyond. And a couple shots of my walking companions on the patio.
Blog post in November 2022, updated from a page I made on the old Elf website in December 2007.