Lakefront Looking North, 1880s
Oh, what a view Juneau Park offered back then.
Our last three photos were shot from Juneau Park and looking south. This photo was taken near Juneau Ave. and looks north. It dates from the mid-1880s.
The tracks of the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad are visible just above the beach One structure will be very familiar: on the horizon is the water tower located at the eastern end of North Ave. Note the lack of any trees on the bluff here thanks to lake erosion. In the foreground are hints of public improvements, but little was spent on that back then.
In 1881 a massive book aptly titled the History of Milwaukee described the Milwaukee public park system and it was meager. The crown jewel was Court House Square, now Cathedral Square, which is just one acre. The square that is now Zeidler Park was just being landscaped and Walker Park, in Walker’s Point, was completely unimproved. The largest park at this time was Kilbourn Park, the area near the reservoir gifted by Byron Kilbourn, the park in Riverwest that North Ave. curls around.
But around this time improvements were being made to a new green space, Juneau Park. At its center would be a 5-feet-by-15-feet sculpture of city founder Solomon Juneau, created by artist Richard Hamilton Park, best known for his Actor’s Monument to Edgar Allan Poe in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The Juneau sculpture was paid for through a gift to the city by Charles T. Bradley and William H. Metcalf, and the memorial was unveiled on July 6, 1887 by Juneau’s granddaughter, Hattie White.
The foreground of this photo is the northern end of the new park which would be very popular for people to enjoy a leisurely stroll. Back then there was no line of trees on the eastern end, so the bluff afforded a wonderful view of the lake.
Jeff Beutner is a collector of photographs, postcards and stereoviews of old Milwaukee. This column features these images, with historical commentary by Beutner.