We set our Sights for a weekend visit in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the city of brewing and historic neighborhoods. It’s on the west side of Lake Michigan and about ninety miles northwest of Chicago.
The Pabst Mansion in the Avenue West neighborhood was decorated in grand style for the holidays. Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer founder Frederick Pabst and his wife, Maria, had this palatial home built in 1890. It was completed in 1892. The Flemish Renaissance Revival style of architecture reflects their German heritage.
Frederick Pabst was born in Saxony, Germany in 1836 and immigrated to the United States with his parents in 1848. At the age of 14, he began work as a cabin boy on a Great Lakes steamer. He worked his way up to Captain within seven years. For the rest of his life, he retained the title of Captain. Pabst gave up the sea-faring life a couple of years after his marriage to Maria Best. He then bought a half-interest in his father-in-law’s brewery, the Phillip Best Brewing Company. The name was changed to the Pabst Brewing Company after the Captain became the sole owner.
An interesting structure attached to the side of the house of the Pabst Mansion is the former Beer Pavilion. It was originally built for the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago to display Pabst Brewing Company products. The Pavilion was admired at the fair for its “beauty of presentation.” After the exposition closed, Pabst had the structure dismantled and re-built at his Milwaukee residence. It was used as a conservatory and furnished with wicker furniture and tropical plants.
Back in the day, Captain Pabst spent time during duck hunting season in the Bureau/Putnam County area where I live. He was known as Freddie at the lodge where he stayed on the Illinois River. On the last day of his visit, he always asked the lodge cook to make a cream pie for him to take home to his family in Milwaukee.
The Third Ward is home to Milwaukee’s Public Market. It’s a fun, busy place that includes shops for cheese, wine, baked goods, and the Spice House. For lunch there, try a lobster roll at the St. Paul Fish Market.
Over on the east side of town is the architecturally stunning Milwaukee Art Museum. It sits on the shores of Lake Michigan and grabs your attention as you approach. Inside, there are collections of American and European art, photography, etc. And right now through January 28th, you can get a glimpse of Paris by visiting a special exhibit called: Degas to Picasso, Creating Modernism in France.
You’ll find a row of Frank Lloyd Wright American System-Built Homes in the 2700 block of West Burnham Street. In the early 1900s, Wright took an interest in designing affordable housing for moderate income families. He created a series of “system-built” homes that were similar to later pre-fab houses. The lumber and other materials were cut in a factory and then assembled at the building site. Wright figured this would save on materials and labor, a savings that would be passed on to the consumer. Six of these American System-Built Homes were constructed side-by-side on Milwaukee’s Burnham Street in 1915-1916.
Today the non-profit group, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Burham Block, Inc., owns four of the six homes. The Model B1 has been restored, and you can tour it on open days. At the end of the block, the Model D is a work in progress, but also interesting to see. The restoration group is doing an excellent job, and if you’re a Frank Lloyd Wright enthusiast, this site should be included on your list.
Merry Christmas from Milwaukee!