In 1886, the Saloon and the Grocery Were One

You want a beer with those potatoes?

WE’RE CELEBRATING MILWAUKEE’S 175TH ANNIVERSARY BY DELVING INTO THE CITY’S HISTORY WITH A NEW PHOTO EVERY MONTH. FIND MORE HERE.

In 1886, when John Schroeder and his family posed in front of their South Side grocery store, today’s mega-markets would have seemed like visitations from outer space. Groceries were sold in bulk, there were no refrigerator cases – much less freezers – and the owners lived above their store.

But Schroeder was full-service nonetheless. In the modest addition on the left, he maintained a saloon that apparently attracted patrons even at midday. The combination was uncommon but hardly unique in 19th- century Milwaukee. Satisfying hunger on one side of the wall and thirst on the other, the proprietor doubled his opportunities for profit.

 

 

There were plenty of hungry, thirsty customers nearby. Perched on the southwest corner of South Seventh Street and West Lapham Boulevard, John Schroeder served a densely settled neighborhood of industrial workers, most of them from Poland or Germany. Mitchell Street, one block away, was already emerging as the South Side’s downtown, and Schroeder presumably attracted his share of traffic.

Today, Mitchell Street is still a center of commerce, but the neighborhood is predominantly Latino, and Schroeder’s grocery story and saloon is long gone, demolished decades ago for the widening of Lapham Boulevard.

TAKE A CLOSER LOOK

Photo courtesy of the Milwaukee County Historical Society

1. Pabst started bottling beer in 1875, but the barreled variety, delivered in ponderous horse-drawn wagons, remained the staple of the saloon trade.

2. Until Milwaukee’s street numbers were standardized in 1930, the South Side had its own system. What is now 1601 S. Seventh St. was originally 599 Second Ave.

3. Before Prohibition roughly two-thirds of Milwaukee’s saloons were “tied houses,” selling only one brewery’s beer. John Schroeder’s watering hole was clearly a Pabst house. 

IN COLLABORATION WITH MILWAUKEE COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY


 

This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine‘s May issue.

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