MILWAUKEE IS RICH WITH HERITAGE
"The Good Land" is what the Native Americans called this place. But the Milwaukee we know today grew from the collective heritage of three separate towns. Juneautown was between Lake Michigan and the east bank of the Milwaukee River, Kilbourntown was on the west bank, and to the south was Walker's Point. They were named for the "founding fathers" of Milwaukee—Solomon Juneau, Byron Kilbourn and George H. Walker.
Juneau and Kilbourn were often at odds, so much so that Kilbourntown produced maps that didn't include their lakefront neighbor and intentionally built city streets out of alignment with those of Juneautown. Because of this, the bridges connecting the towns had to be built at angles—a feature still seen downtown. Despite their differences, the towns came together to form Milwaukee by the mid-1800s.
When the German immigrants began to arrive in the 1840s, they brought with them their passion for the art of beer brewing. And over the next 100 years this heritage made Milwaukee the world’s leading beer producer. While it's no longer the city's major industry, its legacy is everywhere. Reminders of the old beer barons can be seen at the Pabst Mansion, Blatz Building, and Miller Brewery, where over eight million barrels are still produced annually.
A wave of Polish immigrants arrived soon after the Germans, and established Milwaukee's south side. Bringing their faith with them, they built many of the churches and steeples that shape the city's skyline. As Milwaukee grew into a manufacturing center other immigrant groups appeared, each giving rise to new neighborhoods. It's this constant introduction and development of new communities that we celebrate in our annual summer festivals.
Apart from the angled bridges, century-old breweries and Polish steeples you'll find countless buildings made of Cream City brick. The pale yellow-colored bricks were made from clay found in the city's Menomonee River Valley and their widespread use throughout the late 1800s inspired Milwaukee's "Cream City" moniker. The city's architectural heritage is also seen in the Historic Third Ward. The area was once a hearty Italian community and warehouse district; today it's known for its condos, restaurants and nightlife, steeped in history and housed in the original architecture.
As Milwaukee continues to thrive on the shores of Lake Michigan, its industrial past has given rise to an economy as varied as its residents. The neighborhoods of Milwaukee are as independent and diverse as ever, yet the city continues to come together and celebrate the culture it's built upon.