Milwaukee May 14, 2018
Most People Don’t Know The History Behind These 7 Famous Milwaukee Streets
Milwaukee holds history
everywhere you look: our buildings, our parks, our restaurants. You may have noticed that our streets are often named after people, and this is because they were named in remembrance of men who had important positions, or have done great things for the greater good of the city and the people in it. Let’s sink into the history behind these seven iconic streets in The Good Land.
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1. Kilbourn Avenue
Byron Kilbourn was one of the three leading founders of Milwaukee. In 1834, he was looking for a port city on the shores of Lake Michigan. He decided that Milwaukee’s shores would do, bought land, and sought out to turn "Kilbourntown" into a real city. He ripped out trees and paved streets and sidewalks. Being a civil engineer, he helped build the city with roads and bridges. Kilbourntown, Juneautown, and Walker’s Point all combined to become Milwaukee in 1846.
2. Juneau Avenue
You’ll see this name all over our city, from parks to high schools and statues. Solomon Juneau was the city’s first mayor, and is often given credit as one of the first founders of the city, along with Byron Kilbourn and George Walker. He arrived in Milwaukee in 1818, married and had 17 children. He went on to leave the city and establish another town, which no mayor had done. What was formerly Division street was named after Juneau in 1885.
3. James Lovell Street
Love space? Think Apollo 13. James Lovell was the commander of the ill-fated ship, and a Milwaukee native! His love for space went all the way back to Solomon Juneau High School in which he attended. He built ships that didn’t quite make it to space, but his passion was obvious. After attending UW-Madison for two years before being accepted into the U.S. Naval Academy, and ultimately a record-breaking career.
4. Farwell Avenue
Leonard James Farwell was Wisconsin’s youngest governor. He started the largest wholesale hardware business in the Midwest in Milwaukee in the 1840s, which led him to much wealth. This street doesn’t have the brightest history though, as Farwell lost everything, including his wife. Farwell Avenue was named in 1854, right before his business crashed in ‘57.
5. Milwaukee Street
This street is one of the original village streets mapped out by Juneau in 1835. The name "Milwaukee" has been translated from Native languages to mean "the good land." Though it originally ended in "ee," there was a debate if the spelling of Milwaukee would end in "ie." The Milwaukie Journal even spelled it with "ie," but after some time, "Milwaukee" had been standard, especially after one of our city’s natives moved and founded Milwaukie, Oregon.
6. Chicago Street
This downtown street was actually build upon a marsh. The street was named by founder Juneau, and for awhile, there was an effort to rename the street because there was confusion between the name and the city, but no one was ever fully convinced.
7. Whitnall Avenue
The founder of our parks system was Charles Whitnall. After growing up in the same Milwaukee homestead on what is now Whitnall avenue, he became an important part in starting the county park commission. Though he served on the commission for 40 years before retiring, his vision of natural parkways is what founded the amazing parks system we have today. Gordon Park, across the street from their original home, is named after his son.
Did you know the history behind any of these streets? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section!