What Did Milwaukee Look Like 100 Years Ago? This New Project Wants to Show You

This new project will showcase Milwaukee’s history.

What did Milwaukee look like 100 years ago? A new Milwaukee County Historical Society project allows Milwaukeeans to peer straight into the city’s history and see for themselves.

Viewaukee, unveiled on Aug. 7, consists of 10, 5-foot-tall sets of binoculars stationed throughout the city. When visitors look through them, they will see a historic photo of the location as it was decades before.

Each station will also provide information about the photo and guide viewers to online resources with more info, encouraging a deeper dive into our local history. All viewing stations are free to use.

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Mame McCully, executive director of the Historical Society, said the most recent picture is about 20 years old and the oldest is over 120 years old. She said the project aims to provide a better understanding and appreciation of Milwaukee’s history to locals and tourists alike.

“Programs like Viewaukee allow the Society to meet people where they are and to help them explore the past, especially as it relates to their life and experiences today,” McCully said in a press release.

Construction management company CG Schmidt is the project’s presenting sponsor — the company is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.  

On Friday, an unveiling ceremony was held at the first station, located at the War Memorial Center. The second station, which provides a view of the downtown skyline, was also installed Friday.

The remaining binoculars will be put up throughout the rest of the month, and the website will be updated to reflect which locations are ready for viewers to check out.

Viewaukee has been in the works for over a year, McCully said — it was originally supposed to be launched in April but was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Each year, additional viewing stations will be installed, and the Society has planned themed routes that viewers will be able to follow throughout the city.

The 10 Viewaukee stations for 2020 are:

  • Milwaukee War Memorial, 750 N Lincoln Memorial Dr
  • Summerfest North End, E Clybourn St
  • Milwaukee Public Market Pocket Park (park to the west of Public Market), 407 N Water St
  • Milwaukee Riverwalk at the Marcus Center, 929 N Water St
  • North Point Water Tower, 2288 N Lake Dr
  • Miller Valley at the Historic Caves, 4251 W State St
  • The Milwaukee River, Wisconsin Ave Bridge & Riverwalk
  • 16th Street Bridge, Corner of 16th St and Clybourn St
  • Milwaukee City Hall, South of City Hall on Water St
  • Brady Street, 1240 N Brady St

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Elizabeth Johnson is an editorial intern at Milwaukee Magazine and a journalism major at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.