In Depth During the 19th century immigrants from more than 30 European countries flocked to Milwaukee, bringing with them their skills, arts and cuisines. Germans were the largest group; as the decades passed their gemütlichkeit (hospitality) assumed Italian, Polish, Scandinavian, Irish and other national overtones.
Milwaukee's watery surroundings, while a boon to its eventual development as a river port, posed a few problems during its early years. A fierce rivalry developed over the question of payment for the Milwaukee River bridges that connected the villages of Juneautown and Kilbourntown. The Great Bridge War was settled by the legislature in 1845, but not before both factions angrily had torn down every bridge and the residents of Juneautown had trained a loaded cannon on Kilbourntown.
The new city of Milwaukee witnessed the arrival of the Forty-Eighters, refugees from unsuccessful revolutionary movements against German monarchies in 1848. This intellectual minority launched the city into new cultural and political directions, endowing the city with theaters, music societies, athletic clubs and Freethinker groups. They also established a reform tradition that later gave rise to Milwaukee's distinctive brand of socialism.
During the last half of the 19th century, the reference to Milwaukee as the German Athens was hardly an exaggeration. Only the Polish and Irish populations came close in number. English was almost never heard in some neighborhoods, especially on the northwest side. By the late 1870s Milwaukee had six daily newspapers published in German.
Public schools zealously enforced their requirement that German be taught from kindergarten on. Ever-popular were family picnics at such open-air beer gardens as the Schlitz Palm Garden. By the end of the century, however, German cultural allegiances had begun to fade. The decision of the Stadt Theater, pride of Milwaukee's German culture, to alternate plays in German and English was an indisputable sign of changing times.
In reality Milwaukee's northern European heritage never disappeared. Its influence survived, despite such setbacks as World War I's repressive effect on the German community and Prohibition's nearly fatal blow to the city's brewing industry. The period following World War II brought massive development.
Today, Milwaukee is the largest city in Wisconsin, and while formerly known as the “machine shop of America,” the service and technology sectors have experienced the most rapid growth in recent years. Some companies that call Milwaukee home include Harley-Davidson, Johnson Controls, Northwestern Mutual and Rockwell Automation.
But what really has made Milwaukee famous is beer. Though other industries have dethroned the king since 1889, the brewing industry remains synonymous with the city. Milwaukee’s beer heritage can be explored at Pabst Mansion, the Miller Brewery Tour & Visitor Center and smaller microbreweries in the city. Lakefront Brewery, 1872 N. Commerce St., and Sprecher Brewing Co., 701 W. Glendale Ave., offer tours and tastings; phone (414) 372-8800 and (414) 964-2739, respectively. While City Hall and the ornate Pabst Theater, built in the 1890s in the Flemish Renaissance style, reflect Milwaukee’s European heritage, the city’s newest icon is the Milwaukee Art Museum expansion with its unusual wings that open and close over a sunlit atrium on Lake Michigan's shore.
The 90-acre lakefront park area also boasts the science and technology museum Discovery World at Pier Wisconsin , and the 75-acre Henry Maier Festival Park, home to numerous ethnic festivals. In the heart of the city, visitors can stroll along the three-mile-long RiverWalk to restaurants and microbrew pubs. Stop at Wells Street along the river for a look at the life-sized statue of Fonzie – one of television's favorite characters from the show “Happy Days.”
AAA’s in-person hotel evaluations are unscheduled to ensure the inspector has an experience similar to that of members. To pass inspection, all hotels must meet the same rigorous standards for cleanliness, comfort and hospitality. These hotels receive a AAA Diamond designation that tells members what type of experience to expect.
The sales tax in Milwaukee is 5.6 percent. In addition there is a 9.5 percent tax on hotel rooms, a 3 percent tax on car rentals and a .5 percent tax on food and beverage purchases.
Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center, (414) 649-6000; Aurora Sinai Medical Center, (414) 219-2000; Columbia St. Mary's Hospital, (414) 585-1000; Froedtert Hospital, (414) 805-3666; and Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare-St. Francis Hospital, (414) 647-5000.
648 N. Plankinton Ave. Suite 425 Milwaukee, WI 53203-2501. Phone:(414)273-3950 or (800)231-0903
General Mitchell International Airport
Hertz, at the airport, (414) 747-5200 or (800) 654-3080, offers discounts to AAA members.
Amtrak, 433 W. St. Paul Ave. at the Milwaukee Intermodal Station, provides railroad passenger service to the city; phone (414) 271-9037 or (800) 872-7245 for reservations.
The Greyhound Lines Inc. terminal is at 433 W. St. Paul Ave. at the Milwaukee Intermodal Station; phone (414) 272-2156 or (800) 231-2222.
All taxis in Milwaukee use the meter system. The fare is $5 for the first mile, $2.50 for each additional mile and $1 for each additional person. Taxis can be ordered by phone or hired at taxi stands at most major hotels. American United is the city's major taxi service; phone (414) 220-5000.
The Milwaukee County Transit System, 1942 N. 17th St., operates 22-hour service throughout Milwaukee County and eastern Waukesha County. The fare is $2.25; $1.10 (ages 6-11, ages 65+ and disabled persons with ID). Exact fare is required. For schedule and route information, phone (414) 344-6711 daily Mon.-Fri. 6 a.m.-7 p.m., Sat.-Sun. 8-4:30 or TTY (414) 937-3299 Mon.-Fri. 8-4.