Situated on the western shore of Lake Michigan and known as as "Brew City" or "The Brew"
for having been home to four major brewing companies throughout its history note
. Milwaukee is also home to Harley-Davidson, a motorcycle manufacturer that is known just as much for their clothing line, hotel and restaurant chains, and making high-priced toys for wealthy executives
nowadays. One of the more interesting aspects about Milwaukee is that it's the only major American city to have ever elected three Socialist mayors
Milwaukee's status in the world of pop-culture has been a contentious issue for its citizens
. Never was this more obvious than in 2008 when a privately-funded bronze statue of Arthur "Fonzie" Fonzarelli
was erected along the city's Riverwalk to heavy controversy. Many residents feel that the city's portrayal as an urban Eagleland
in Happy Days
and its spinoff, Laverne and Shirley
was not only historically inaccurate note
, but has hurt the city socially and economically by stigmatizing it as a stodgy, blue-collar town. In fact, Garry Marshall
, the shows' producer, had never even stepped foot in the state of Wisconsin until the statue's dedication. So much of an issue is this locally that Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, upon being elected in 2004, quipped that one of his goals was to let the world know that "Laverne and Shirley don't live here anymore.
Milwaukee was incorporated on January 31, 1846 as an end to the violent "Bridge Wars" between three different settlements along the Milwaukee River: Juneautown, Kilbourntown, and Walker's Point. (This is still visible, however, in the streets: many that intersect at the Milwaukee River do not cross straight, but tend to angle on each side. North of the river the streets have names: these change into numbers once you cross the river, e.g. Water St. turns into 1st.) Although Milwaukee grew generously, in population and physical size, it never truly lost the feel of three separate towns; as the immigrants who came to Milwaukee tended to settle in ethnic clusters along those same lines, thus entrenching it for generations to come.
Sometimes referred to as East Milwaukee or simply, "The East." The east side grew out of the original Juneautown settlement into an Italian neighborhood, and is still home to a large number of Italian-owned businesses such as restaurants and bakeries.
Towards the end of The Sixties
, the east side's corner bars and coffee shops such as the Avant Garde became incubators for Milwaukee's growing counterculture that eventually centered on Brady Street. Predictably, this led to a wave of gentrification through The Nineties
, turning the surrounding area into a bourgeois bohemia
... especially on or near the lake. In turn, the original Brady Street scene has since moved west across the Milwaukee River into the neighborhood of Riverwest
The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee was founded in 1956 note
, and has since grown to boast one of the top film schools in the world. Many UWM Film School grads find work in Hollywood and over 100 episodes of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
have been shot by UWM alumni. The film school is also credited for the numerous film festivals that now call Milwaukee's East Side home, the biggest of which is the Milwaukee Film Festival, which takes place every September and into October.
The university's rapid expansion has also drawn the ire of older residents, who loathe how much of a college town East Milwaukee has become. This came to a head in the fall of 2012, when Milwaukee's Police Chief sent a letter to the university stating he considers UWM students to be "guests" and not citizens, which angered many students and non-students alike.
The original Juneautown is now known as Eastown, and makes up the eastern half of Downtown Milwaukee. It's most well-known landmark is the Brise Soleil
("Sun Breaker") of the Milwaukee Art Museumnote
Sometimes referred to as North Milwaukee or simply, "The North." The north side grew out of the original Kilbourntown as it was settled by Bavarian immigrants, many of whom fled what is now known as Germany after an unsuccessful revolution in 1848 and brought with them their beer and pro-labor politics... both of which would have a profound effect on Milwaukee's economic and cultural development.
Today, the north side is predominantly African-American, though the outer reaches have more of a racial mix, and is often stereotyped as a blighted Gangsterland
. This is understandably a point of contention for many local residents, as the north side is a fairly large area with its share of middle-class residents; and only a handful of neighborhoods are truly as bad as portrayed on the local news, where many of the stereotypes come from.
The original Kilbourntown settlement is now the western half of Downtown Milwaukee known as Westown (and sometimes referred to as "The West Side"). Marquette University, the oldest university in Milwaukee, is in this part of the city. It was also the scene of many of the infamous Jeffrey Dahmer
Unlike the other two "sides," this is the only side that's almost never referred to as _____ Milwaukee or "The ____." Presumably, this hasn't caught on due to the existence of South Milwaukee, a completely separate town just south of Milwaukee's border
, along with it having more separate suburbs than the north, which had the city basically swallow that area up in Milwaukee's last-gasp annexations of the 50's. It is also the hardest "side" to classify, as many neighborhoods that don't fit traditional south side definitions have emerged in the past two decades. Milwaukee's south side includes the following:
- Walker's Point: Sometimes referred to as the Fifth Ward or The Gayborhood, the third original Milwaukee settlement is now home to the city's LGBT night life. Walker's Point is also home to the "Polish Moon," a lighted clock tower that sits atop a local manufacturing plant (currently owned by Rockwell Automotion) and got its name because the neighborhood was largely Polish when it was first built in 1962. The Polish Moon is the largest four-sided clock in the world.
- Historic Third Ward: Wedged between Lake Michigan and the Milwaukee and Menomonee Rivers, the Third Ward was originally a community of Irish immigrants. An inferno wiped out the neighborhood in 1892, which became a warehouse district for most of the 20th century. The combination of a boom of high-rise condominiums early in the 21st century, and the emergence of MIAD as a premier art school turned the area into an art district almost overnight. As such, many smaller, independent boutiques and art galleries can be found here.
- Near Southside: Depending on the definition, this area could include Walker's Point, but it's usually used to describe the largely Hispanic community near Downtown centered on Caesar Chavez Drive (Walker's Point's western border). This area emerged in the 80s and 90s thanks to a wave of Mexican immigrants, who were later joined by many Puerto Ricans who moved up from Chicago and down from Riverwest.
- Far Southside: When The Beatles toured Milwaukee in 1964, John Lennon famously quipped that Milwaukee southsiders reminded him of Liverpudlian scousers. Indeed, most of what people think of as the "traditional" Milwaukee south side applies here as the area is marked by a now-aging population of blue-collar Polish and Serbian Catholics, many of whom pack into Serb Hall for the traditional Friday night fish fry. This area also tends to be more conservative, politically and socially, than the rest of Milwaukee, and (right or wrong) many of its residents draw comparisons to Archie Bunker... especially its infamous Alderman Bob Donovan.
- Bay View: Just down the lake from the Third Ward. Bay View wasn't part of Milwaukee until the turn of the 20th century, but its residents still consider Bay View to be socially and culturally different from the rest of Milwaukee, even more that usual. They even tend to list their addresses technically incorrectly as "Bay View, WI." Indeed, Bay View does retain a "small town" feel and its commercial center, Kinnickinnick Avenue, is not unlike many small town Main Street's (albeit, with a more urban and bohemian flair).
Famous people from Greater Milwaukee include Oprah Winfrey
, Les Paul, Steve Miller
, Gene Wilder, Heather Graham, Al Jarreau, Eric Benet and Speech (of Arrested Development... the hip hop group, not the TV show
Fiction set in the Greater Milwaukee Area:
- Lewis Black, a regular at Summerfest since 1991, has a monologue about drinking in Wisconsin where he tells a story about what happened one night after performing in Milwaukee.
- "Milwaukee" by Al Jarreau.
- "My Cousin In Milwaukee" was most famously recorded by Ella Fitzgerald.
- "213" by Slayer was written about the Jeffrey Dahmer murders and named after his apartment number.
- "My Projects" by Coo Coo Cal
- "Man From Milwaukee" by Hanson
- "What Made Milwaukee Famous (Made A Loser Out of Me)" by Jerry Lee Lewis
- In the Futurama universe, Milwaukee is the known as "The Most Romantic City on Earth" and the "Birthplace of Beer Goggles."
- In Aaahh!!! Real Monsters:
Airport employee: What's your destination?
Father: (excitedly) Milwaukee, Wisconsin!
Airport employee: Oh boy, sir, you are in for the thrill of a lifetime!