Well, the morning is cold, but the weatherman promises clearing, so we’re going to take the chance and walk to the Historic Third Ward. The (Milwaukee) River Walk is indeed unique. Notice the sculpture on the wall. Along the way, a bronze Fonzi is available to kiss. Even the manhole covers are each a unique design.
The gate to the Historic Third Ward is (on the side we came from), the Public Market, not yet open when we first come through. When we come back later, it turned out to be a grocery store of yesteryear, with many individual stalls not quite demarcated from each other, but each an independent purveyor of foodstuffs. Kyle and Suzie would like it – there are spices in all sorts of combination and mixture for use in cooking. Chocolates of every variety overwhelm the senses to the point where it is impossible to choose just a small assortment. (An interesting thought – how about a chocolatier that interviews the client about their desires in chocolate and then presents only those that fit the description: for me, it has to be dark chocolate, so immediately all milk chocolate is gone. Then I say I like cherries in combination, and so all chocolate that don’t involve some cherries are not visible, and so on until the chocolates presented are few enough that a selection could be made. Would this decrease the desirability of the experience?) Anyway, meats, cheeses, noodles and a variety of fruits and vegetables; all are available in great abundance. But that is later.
We are in the Third Ward to see the architecture – that is what the it is famous for. It is perhaps four streets wide by four deep; not a very large area. The area is plenty large enough to house a variety of business fronts, and buildings. However, it is the seemingly similar building structures that make it unique. But as we walk through, the similarity is not as clear as I had imagined. Yes, there are lots of brick fronts (and rears). The buildings rise vertically from the sidewalk, none are set back; none have overhangs. But the window treatments, the height, the cornice decorations, awnings, balconies, front doors all work together to establish uniqueness in the similarity.
Gwen finds a friend to ask directions of, but he is mute. On one side of the district is the Milwaukee River view, much more vivid now that we have become attuned to the minute differences in the district itself. We walk back to the Market (not open yet), and then beyond to see a bit more variety in architecture.
Where to eat an early dinner? We ask the bellmen at the door, and they are all anxious to help. The consensus is a pub on 3rd St, which serves authentic Wisconsin fare, and locally sourced beer. When we arrive, we are practically the only ones there, but we are a bit early. Something we never do is order a “starter” – we don’t typically have enough room for it. However, we have been anxious to try cheese curds, and the only way it is available is as a starter, so we order it. Their specialty de jour is a jalapena cheddar brat, so I order that, and Gwen has a large chicken salad. The cheese curds are deep fried and come with a ranch style dressing. It is really good! As is the bratwurst, complete with pretzel dough bun and sautéed onions. It was excellent as is, but then I added the hot mustard, and it got even better! Such a large meal left us gasping a bit, but we did manage to make it back to the hotel. The weather had brightened considerably, so we have high hopes for the rest of the day, and tomorrow.
After lunch, we take the car out to the Pabst Mansion, really the retirement home for the great entrepreneur and his wife. Captain Frederic Pabst, best known now for the beer which bears his name, was a Captain-pilot on Lake Michigan before he decided that business was too dangerous for a long career. He bought into his father-in-law’s brewery, and found he had not only a head for brewing beer, but the business sense to make it one of the largest such companies of its time. He didn’t limit himself, however, buying and running a resort on Whitefish Bay, buying up and rebuilding Milwaukee theaters (the Pabst Theater is still open for business), and helping to start the Wisconsin National Bank. The Pabst Mansion is in the middle of what is now the Marquette University campus, although at the time it was built (between 1890-1892), it was in a rural area. The house is not the size of some of the more ostentations businessmen of his era, but it is certainly large enough for the Captain, his wife, and their granddaughter. They had eight children, but only four made it to adulthood, and one of those didn’t survive long after having her first child. The Captain persuaded his son-in-law to let him adopt the girl. The son-in-law was an immigrant, but without further reason to stay, ended up going back to Germany, his country of origin, to live out his days. He doesn’t come back into the story again.
The house reminded me of the mansion we visited in Chicago not so long ago, in that it was almost the quintessential “four up, four down” arrangement (well, maybe better described as “six up, six down”), with wood everywhere and everything finished in a highly decorated style. The music room is paneled in mahogany, but the dining room next door is white oak, so the pocket doors that enable separation is two-sided, with mahogany and oak on their appropriate side. The ceiling decorations are of the period as well, with tin panels in the music room, and painted motifs on the other ceilings. The floors are wood parquet with multicolored woods arranged in various designs depending on the room. The stairs up to the second floor are wider than one expects, leading to a landing half-way up that is projected back into the room, with no apparent reason other than that it was possible to do. Off the room with the stairs up was the Captain’s “retreat”. In addition to his desk the walls were paneled in dark woods, hiding something like 14 cabinets in which he “hid” his beer steins, his cigar humidor, his paperwork, and somewhat surprisingly for a beer baron, his wine racks. The dark wooden ceiling was partitioned into four triangles, each with a word, and then an explanatory sentence in German expressing the four tenets of his philosophy. The kitchen reminded me of the kitchen in the Frank Lloyd Wright house we visited in Chicago last time we were there. There are lots of work areas, not too many appliances (I’m sure there were the appropriate ones for the day, but they were not in evidence). It does have three ice boxes, and the place where the large stove and oven was located is now the location of a breakfront cabinet.
Not too long after he and his wife died, the estate was purchased by the Catholic Archdiocese, and for 67 years, the place housed the Catholic Archbishop and church officials. The rooms (and all their decorations) were painted white. One of the bedrooms upstairs still was in that condition, I suppose just to show the difference. In the 1970’s, the place was sold to the Wisconsin Heritage, Inc., which has over time converted the rest of the house ito its historic colors and decorations. A very interesting house of its time, and while the tour was not very articulately led, it was fun to see the details of the place.
Tomorrow, it’s on to Madison!