Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Streets of Old Milwaukee, Beautifully Decorated for Christmas

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas! I'd been meaning to write this blog post before Christmas, but December was pretty busy for me this year. Still, I think you guys will enjoy seeing these photos now.

Do you remember The Streets of Old Milwaukee exhibit at our museum? Well, this year the streets were decorated for Christmas. I always feel comfortable in this exhibit and want to hang out there as long as possible, but it was extra warm and inviting this time. There was a golden glow cast on everything.

If these silhouettes in the streetcar windows were there before, I didn't notice them. I'm pretty sure there were some new  silhouettes in some of the windows this time. Since these shadows move, it really gives the illusion that someone is back there.

Mom standing by the streetcar:

This North Side Lumber & Fuel Co. building was a nice place to stand near. It was a cozy little area where there weren't many people. I try my best to take pictures where there aren't many people, but this exhibit always draws a crowd. I've heard that it has always been the museum's most popular exhibit since being created.

A peek in the window:

I just read an interesting article about this business and the donated paneling, light fixtures, and hardware. Those pieces are all from the original business! You might be interested in the first few paragraphs of this, anyway:

For Family Company Bliffert Lumber, What's Old is New Again

There's a Sendik's produce cart near the street car.

Most of these signs you'll see show the names of local businesses that still exist, although in different looking buildings. Sendik's and Northwestern anyway. I'm not sure about Klode.

Notice the wintery details the museum has added to this city. They've pooled "snow" around the bottom of the doors in a very realistic way.

A peek in one of the windows showed me a nice display of antique postcards and maybe posters. Posters, advertisements, or newspapers. It's kind of hard to tell. That Santa looks pretty tired, hey?

And I love the sentiment here: "I used to make those fool 'resolutions', but I've sworn off!" Looks like he's all stocked up with booze and cigars. I just noticed the illustration below him. That's a little creepy. A man's head on a beer bottle?

A peek inside the Usinger's sausage shop.

I love this old hanging sign.

Another cool attention to detail were these "icicles" hanging from the electrical lines.

You might remember this house as the one where the grandma was rocking in her chair on the front porch. This time she was inside. See those mounds of snow outside the house?

Maybe this is the reason Grandma is inside. This Quarantine notice was posted in the window. You might want to enlarge this pic to read it. It's a pretty intense message.

So peeking in the window, there's Grandma sitting near her granddaughter as the girl decorates the tree. Probably because of the dim light, Grandma's eyes really follow you. It didn't matter which window I went to, those eyes seemed to follow me there.

More of their lovely parlor:

Check out this postcard collection! I'm trying to figure out what the gold seal is. The best I can tell, it says "NATB 26 Bundes TurnFest Milwaukee 1893" So Grandma is German. "Bundes" translates to "Federal" which I guess explains that eagle. So some kind of federal festival?

I looked up "Milwaukee Bundesturnfest" and found this picture:

Ah, I found some info under the photo. That gold piece commemorated the 26th Federal Gymnastics Festival at Milwaukee in 1893. The people in the photo are doing iron bar exercises and there are 3,000 of them! That will be something to learn more about later...

Back to peeking in windows, here are a few cool ones:

Antique toys:

How cool is this hand sconce!? It looks like something that should be in Disney's Haunted Mansion.

The ticket booth to the old theater was nicely decorated. There are actually old silent movies playing on a loop inside the theater.

I'm outside of a recreation of The Pfister Hotel here. This hotel still exists in Milwaukee and is one of the more grand ones. If you look inside the patterned parts of those frosted windows, you'll see people in turn of the century clothes walking in the hotel lobby. It's very cool.

This building looks like a face to me. Two eyes with eyelashes, a nose and a mouth off to the side. This is the building with a nod to Miss Kittie.

You might remember that the upstairs is a recreation of one of her girls' rooms.

The Barbershop:

The Milwaukee Gaslight Company:

Do you see anyone sandwiched between the two buildings?


Even the cat was outfitted for Christmas!

If you climb up a staircase, you'll reach an upper floor photography studio. Every time I've looked in this place, there have been different people in different positions. It felt surreal to stand there with my modern camera taking a picture of someone using an old fashioned camera. We were lens to lens, and I couldn't help feeling he was taking a picture of me.

A general store with an old stove glowing away.

Wow, who would think Candy Buttons are that old? See the sign?
"In God we trust, all others cash"

I loved this! This illustration was hanging up in front of a lamp in the store. It reminded me so much of a nightlight I have:

My Midnight Moon Lithophane Nightlight

I wonder if this might be a lithophane. Wow, if it is, it's really finely carved. I thought it might be an old illustration printed on vellum.

I took this one through a wreath in the saloon window.

An upper floor stained glass studio:

You can see they have even made the streets themselves look how they would have with the cobblestones.

A view of the candy shop window:

Have you guys ever tried this Choward's gum? I've only had the violet. When I was a teenager I saw some of this in a Walgreens and was curious. It is actually floral in flavor. I'm not going to say I liked it or didn't like it, it's just different. I want to say it was geared towards smokers to freshen the breath.

More the candy shop's shelves.

This is one of the few mannequins in this exhibit that doesn't give me the heebie jeebies. He actually looks like a nice, realistic human.

How about this clock? I'd never seen one like this before. There are so many numbers on the face and a cool moon shape on the second hand.

You'll probably remember that as you leave The Streets of Old Milwaukee, you enter The European Village. There are miniature versions of houses there that are decorated the way they would be in different European countries. I just read on the museum's web site that these houses are decorated to look how they would have from 1875 to 1925, or the span of years when these different groups of people would have immigrated to the U.S. in great numbers.

There was an upside down spinning tree in the center of the village.

The Croatian House

The Polish House ~ This is my favorite. Look at that ceiling! Everything is so happy and bright in here.

The Czech House

The Norwegian House

This picture was the wallpaper on my computer for most of December:

The German House ~ I have a paper star ornament like the ones on this tree from my Grandmother. She happened to be 100% German and I wonder if she knew about the ornament's German connection when she bought it. I was drawn to it as a kid, and this has me thinking about how we might connect to traditions from our ancestry without even realizing it.

The Danish House

Exiting the European village, we saw a large collection of old European dolls. This Spanish doll is so beautiful.

I saw a few other dolls through the Streets of Old Milwaukee Exhibit, but they were more spooky. I thought you guys might be interested in those. This one would probably seem different if she wasn't creeping around in the shadows. I can't help thinking that she's going to look up any second.

And this one is nearly winking. I'd been joking about how scared I would have been if this eye had moved while I was looking at the doll! As it happened, I overheard a little girl somewhat near this doll's display saying how she was scared of dolls.

There was another exhibit in the museum that was based around the hidden secrets of Milwaukee. I took some pics of what the museum admitted was pretty much the worst kept secret around here during Prohibition: the speakeasies.

You can imagine that this door is in an alleyway, a portal to a secret bar. They even included that little sliding panel to look through. You could see the Prohibition exhibit from behind that panel or you could just walk around this wall to see it. :)

There were a few vintage bottles inside. A Pabst bottle and an Old Colonel Whiskey bottle. I don't know about Old Colonel.

And if you're interested in what those home brews were made in during Prohibition, here's an example of an old still.

And who could forget these classic songs?

There was also a wild dress on display. This isn't exactly what I'd call Flapper-wear. I don't know what I'd call this. Speakeasy clothes?

Well, I hope you enjoyed another stroll through The Streets of Old Milwaukee, seeing the Christmas decorations there and in The European Village. Not to mention that quick trip to the speakeasy.

I wish you all a wonderful 2017, full of good health and happiness!



  1. Thanks for sharing. Curious if the exhibit includes Cyril Colnik's blacksmith shop? His work is very prominent in the city and old mansions, like Pabst. Happy New Year

    1. Stephen ~ I don't remember seeing any blacksmith shops in the exhibit, although if they did add one, I'm sure it would be his. I double checked online, and I don't see anything about a blacksmith there. Although, I wonder if maybe some of the antique iron pieces in the exhibit were his designs. The Streets of Old Milwaukee is built in part from actual materials and antiques from around a century ago. So, it's very possible that some of his work might be involved. If I find anything out about that, I'll let you know.

      And if you find yourself in Milwaukee and want to see a great collection of Cyril Colnik's work, head to the Villa Terrace museum. Have you been there? I saw in your other comment that you've been to Milwaukee, so it's possible. And yes, I have seen some of his work at The Pabst Mansion! You've seen my Past Mansion blog posts, right? You must have been at the mansion at some point to know that. Milwaukee has wonderful ironwork examples and I've photographed many of them! There are many impressive gates.

      Happy New Year to you too! :)

  2. Wow, this was quite a trip for me! After a few photos, I realized I've been to this museum before on one of my GenCon excursions. Of course it would have been in August and not decorated for the holidays.

    1. Dex ~ Good! :) Oh, so you remember The Streets of Old Milwaukee! Very cool. I'm proud of our museum. It has a lot of great exhibits, and this is one of the greatest. I could be wrong, but I think this is the first time they've decorated the streets for Christmas. I heard they were doing some events for Halloween this year, but I can't remember what they were. I think they ought to do an old time trick-or-treat where you go door to door with these buildings. How cool would that be?

      The Streets of Old Milwaukee changes subtly from time to time. So even if you're a regular visitor, you'd notice some changes. The mannequins are moved and I think some antiques are changed out. I bet you'd notice a lot of changes since you were here. I'm thinking back to when Milwaukee held GenCon. Would that have been 10-15 years ago?

    2. The trick or treat thing would be very cool in that setting!

      I think the last time I was there was around 99. I know I have photos somewhere. I'll have a look this weekend and see if they're where I think they should be lol

    3. Dex ~ Haha! Well, I hope you know where the photos are because I'd like to see them! It would be neat to see photos of anything in Milwaukee in 1999.