6 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Milwaukee History

High-rises, baseball history and really bad beer… facts about Milwaukee you might have missed.

Twice it has been home to buildings that were among the tallest in the country.

Legend has it that City Hall was the tallest building in the world between the time it opened in 1895 and 1899, when it was passed by New York’s Park Row Building. However, Philadelphia’s City Hall tower reached over 200 higher than Milwaukee’s, and was completed in 1894 – although the interior was not completed until 1901. But Milwaukee’s Newhall House hotel, completed in 1857, featured a cupola that peaked at somewhere around 135-140 feet tall, slightly taller than the Jayne Building in Philadelphia, which is considered to be the nation’s tallest building between 1850 and 1865.

Our Braves set a trend.

In 1953, the Boston Braves moved to Milwaukee and went from a moribund team that had a tiny following to a pennant contender that smashed attendance records. Following their lead, the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers moved west after the 1957 season to seek a Milwaukee-style attendance boom, forever changing the character of the National Pastime.

We weren’t always ‘Sconnies.

Since city father Solomon Juneau first arrived in the area, Milwaukee was a part of both the Illinois (1809-1818) and then Michigan (1818-1836) territories. The Wisconsin territory was established in 1836. It was granted statehood in 1848.

Our first beer was craft… but probably tasted horrible.

Before the first brewery was established here in 1840, local German immigrants were known to make their own kind of “beer,” a mixture of whiskey and vinegar dusted with limestone to give it a head. Let’s see an upstart local micro brew try to recreate that.

Our mayors last a long time.

Due to a sex abuse scandal, a refusal of the office, and an election, the city of Seattle recently went through a six-week period in which four different people served as mayor. By comparison, Milwaukee’s last four mayors cover a 57 year period, a remarkable period of stability for a major American city. The last elected mayor to be voted out of office was Dan Hoan in 1940 and the past century has only seen two elected mayors lose their job.

Our big brews all got started with different names.

Miller, Pabst, and Schlitz are names as synonymous with Milwaukee as Walker, Juneau, and Kilbourn. But each of these landmark breweries got started under a different name. Pabst was founded in 1844 as the Empire Brewery and later became the Best Brewery. It wasn’t until Jacob Best’s son-in-law, Frederick Pabst, took over in 1863 that the brewery was given its modern-day name. Frederick Miller bought the Plank Road Brewery, founded by another member of the Best family in 1879, for $8,000 in 1854 before putting his own name on the label. The Schlitz Brewing Company was founded in 1849 as the Krug Brewery. Joseph Schlitz was a bookkeeper for the company and took over operation of the plant when Krug died in 1956. Two years later, Schlitz completed the take-over by marrying Krug’s widow.