When people visit downtown Milwaukee, a lot of them comment on how many old buildings they see. Actually, what they see is a fraction of what once was. Milwaukee has managed to replace its history with parking structures, sports venues, and bland concrete buildings. I still love my home town, but the remaining buildings only give you a slight feel for what it must have been like in the late 1800’s.
I’ve often tried to imagine what it was really like. There are some photo collections on the websites of the Milwaukee Public Library and the UWM Library. There are literally thousands of pictures to look at, but for this post I was only interested in pictures from the 2nd ward, specifically within a 2 or 3 block radius from where my 2nd great grandparents Fritz & Dora Rathkamp lived. The thing that really caught me off guard were the pictures of the Exposition Building which was built in 1881 and destroyed by fire in 1905. I had no idea this building was part of Milwaukee’s past.
Shown below is an embedded Google Map. If you click on the blue balloons, you will see pictures of buildings that are long gone positioned over the corresponding locations. The map is interactive, so go ahead and click on some of the balloons, zoom in and out, and move the map around. If you click the link below the map, you will be taken to the actual Google Maps page where you can drag the “little man” onto a street to enter into Google’s street view. Have fun!
View Milwaukee’s 2nd Ward, Late 1800’s in a larger map