Urban spelunking: Historic Miller Caves excavate new role

“…This is where they kept beer cold,” says Kindra Loferski, guest relations manager at Miller Coors, while leading me down a brick corridor opening into the cool, dimly lit caves. “Mechanical refrigeration was not invented, so they cut large blocks of ice from local lakes and rivers. Pewaukee Lake was the primary source for the ice. They would bring it in by horse and wagon, and they would line the walls of the caves and cover it with sawdust and hay. Then they’d bring all of the wooden barrels of beer in here, and that would keep them cold through the really hot summer months.”

The temperature is pretty constant in the cave, which was apparently the largest in a system of caves that went about 600 feet deep into the bluff. All of the others have since been permanently sealed off, though you can still see entrances to at least three of them in the remaining cave…

Urban spelunking, but in actual caves! Continue reading “Urban spelunking: Historic Miller Caves excavate new role” on OnMilwaukee.

Urban Spelunking: Milwaukee Breakwater Lighthouse

…Very few have actually had the opportunity to stand atop its concrete foundation or peer out at the skyline from the top of its tower. So, of course, I had to try.

Though the art deco lighthouse, built in 1926 and automated 40 years later, is off-limits to the public, it is among the many lighthouses of which the the federal government is attempting to divest itself.

That made a visit possible…

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Freedom Tunnel

Today me and Meika went and explored an abandoned market. We climbed up an elevator shaft and got our feet wet in a tunnel and got chased by an angry security guard but we slid under a fence just in time and gave him the slip. Then we went thrifting and got some super rad stuff. Then we went to my house and ate sweet potato fries n gravy. A+ day.

Urban spelunking: The Milwaukee Club

…But the building, as it stands now, is larger. In 1893, the club hired former Mix partner Walter Holbrook to extend it 18 feet to the north. For this, he demolished the north wall and reconfigured the roof line and facade. Inside the building, the former exterior wall is marked, upstairs, by an interior wall, and on the first floor by a pair of iron columns supporting a structural cross beam.

Up the main entry staircase, below a dormer with a scalloped bottom, I’m in the tiled lobby, where Roehrborn meets me and we begin a tour in the library, which looks out on to Wisconsin Avenue and has an imposing portrait of Mitchell perched above the fireplace…

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Urban spelunking: Milwaukees oldest brewery building

…We had to traverse a low-ceilinged obstacle course of rusted and wet debris to get inside. Did I mention that course runs beneath four floors of caved-in building rubble? Yet walking into the remarkably preserved cream city brick cave with its barrel vault and cobbled floor was a revelation. Like stumbling into a Milwaukee secret, albeit a poorly kept one.

“You can see the sinkholes over there,” Spoerri says, pointing down the long, dark cave to a couple spots where the ceiling and the earth above it have fallen into the cave. “We’re probably standing right underneath your car,” he adds, referencing the pebbled area where I’d parked an hour earlier…

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Urban spelunking: A photographic waterways journey

We often look at Milwaukee’s rivers from the terra firma, but unless we’re avid boaters, we don’t typically look at the land from a river-going vessel. On a recent trip we left Pere Marquette Park and headed south on the Milwaukee River before going inland as far as our captain would take us – to the Potawatomi Bingo Casino and Marquette sports fields. Any further and he risked getting stuck in the mud as the water level drops dramatically.

Back along the Menomonee we went out into the harbor before turning around and going back to the dock.

What was most amazing to see was what a study in contrasts the waterways have become. In the recent past the scenery would typically have been almost entirely industrial. But now we see condos, restaurants, museums and more along even the Menomonee. Here are some highlights…

Get a unique perspective on your city. Continue reading “Urban spelunking: A photographic waterways journey” on OnMilwaukee.