Milwaukee Public Museum
Press Release

Historic Milwaukee Companies Help Reimagine the Milwaukee Public Museum’s Streets of Old Milwaukee

If the popularity of the Milwaukee Public Museum’s Streets of Old Milwaukee (Streets) exhibition is any indication, there are few cities more proud of their beginnings than Milwaukee.

By - Oct 19th, 2015 01:44 pm

Milwaukee—October 19, 2015—If the popularity of the Milwaukee Public Museum’s (MPM) Streets of Old Milwaukee (Streets) exhibition is any indication, there are few cities more proud of their beginnings than Milwaukee. Part of what makes Milwaukee great is that many of the companies that were successful during Granny’s day have not only continued to thrive, but have been committed to making our community a great place to live and work.

“We’re incredibly lucky to live in a city that not only has a storied history, but has such passion and respect for that history,” said Dennis Kois, President and CEO of the Milwaukee Public Museum. “Streets has itself become a beloved part of Milwaukee’s history. We’re grateful that so many corporations and citizens have stepped forward to help us preserve and enhance this Milwaukee classic. Those who love it will find more to love, and generations of new visitors will discover a memorable, engaging experience that will gracefully last another fifty years.”

The Streets of Old Milwaukee will be presented by the Rexnord Foundation. Visitors will enter Streets through a new, life-sized street car, sponsored by the Rexnord Foundation. Through the clever use of technology, the street car will appear to rumble down the tracks and travel back in time to Milwaukee’s yesteryear. Inside the new courtyard, Rexnord is also represented as the Falk Company, which will have a foundry building.

Including the Streets of Old Milwaukee presenting sponsorship, Rexnord and its foundation have provided funding to MPM for nearly seven decades. This unique partnership has made a truly significant impact in the quality of life for our community. Not only have their philanthropic contributions helped support the conservation and daily operations of the Museum, but the foundation has supported the construction of MPM’s Rain Forest exhibit in addition to the enhancement of the Streets of Old Milwaukee. 

Additional major sponsors include Balistreri Owned & Operated Sendik’s Food Markets; Bliffert Lumber and Hardware, represented as North Side Lumber & Fuel Company; Badger Meter; We Energies Foundation, represented as The Milwaukee Gaslight Company; Lynn Chappy; and The Stackner Family Foundation.

“The Streets of Old Milwaukee hold a unique place in our hearts, especially for those of us who explored them as children,” said Margaret Harris, Sendik’s family co-owner. “It is an amazing place to use your imagination, as well as learn about the rich history of Milwaukee. We are proud that our family is a part of such a wonderful and lasting Museum legacy.” The Sendik’s legacy began in Milwaukee in the late 19th century when Salvatore Balistreri came to Milwaukee and started his grocery career in the great tradition of the European street vendors. Streets’ reimagination will reflect the earliest history of this Milwaukee staple with a grocery cart, like Balistreri used, in the new courtyard. Each item on the cart was specifically chosen to reflect the season of time and the palates of the neighborhood being visited that day.

In the 1960s, MPM asked North Side Lumber to participate in the Streets of Old Milwaukee; the owner of the company, which was chartered in 1904, wasn’t interested in what he believed would be an exhibit with a short lifespan. The decision was a story passed down through the Bliffert family for generations – sometimes on a stroll through Streets! When Streets reopens in December, North Side Lumber will be a storefront in the new courtyard. “That is not a mistake I wanted us to make twice,” said Eli Bliffert, Vice President, Bliffert Lumber & Hardware, and the great grandson of the man who turned us down. “Our long term success is entirely dependent on the community we serve. As a family, and as a company, we are committed to the community that is Southeastern Wisconsin.”

“Badger Meter is very pleased to support the Streets of Old Milwaukee. This exhibit has not only thrilled generations of visitors but has also educated them about this great City’s history,” said Rich Meeusen, Chairman, President and CEO of Badger Meter. “As a 100 year old Milwaukee company, it is appropriate for Badger Meter to be a part of this wonderful exhibit.” Not only has Streets reimagination meant big things for the new entrance, but big things are happening for some of your favorite Streets residents as well. Badger Meter is making life easier for everyone’s favorite Granny by giving her the opportunity to have the city’s water flow directly into her home. Take a peek inside the basement window of Granny’s house and you’ll see a vintage Badger meter from 1905, used to monitor the flow of water into each home.

“We’re delighted to contribute to the reimagination of one of Milwaukee’s beloved attractions,” said Gale Klappa, Chairman and CEO of We Energies. “Our company’s gas lights lined the streets of Milwaukee in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  So, it’s only fitting that we support the effort to revitalize this important exhibit.” That’s right, the Milwaukee Gas Light Co, today known as We Energies, kept the lights on for Granny and all of our Streets’ residents. During Streets’ era, the Milwaukee Gas Light Company provided gas for all the lighting and cooking needs in Milwaukee. Established in 1852, the Milwaukee Gas Light Co. had over 6000 residential meters installed, 1000 miles of gas lines, and 3000 street lights across Milwaukee by 1890.

Additional financial support for Streets was provided by Roundy’s Supermarkets, Inc., Usinger Foundation, Inc., CG Schmidt, Inc., Marcus Hotels & Resorts, The Pfister Hotel, Northwestern Mutual Foundation, Kristin and Julian Jackson / Loeks Family Fund, and the Toepfer Security Corporation.

MPM has raised over 1 million dollars for the reimagination project. Streets of Old Milwaukee will reopen to the public on December 11, 2015. For more information on the Streets of Old Milwaukee, go to

About the Milwaukee Public Museum

The Milwaukee Public Museum is a natural and human history museum located in downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The museum was chartered in 1882 and opened to the public in 1884. MPM has three floors of exhibits that encompass life-size dioramas, walk-through villages, world cultures, dinosaurs, a rain forest and a live butterfly garden, as well as the Daniel M. Soref National Geographic Dome Theater & Planetarium. The museum houses more than 4.5 million objects and hosts some half a million visitors each year.

The MPM is operated by Milwaukee Public Museum, Inc., a private, non-profit company, and its facilities and collections are held in trust and supported by Milwaukee County for the benefit of the public.

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