Flashback to the 1920's
A Trip Down Memory Lane
Today, Milwaukee is an up and coming, busy city with construction & cranes everywhere you look. A city with sports, shows, nightlife and much more; there is always something to do! Whether you’ve lived in Milwaukee your whole life or just spent a weekend here, we can all agree that there’s a lot to love about this beautiful city.
Amongst the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, it’s not often that we reminisce on the history of our city and think about what Milwaukee was like in the 1920’s. Life was much different then, and as a hotel that was built in 1928, we love to take a trip down memory lane and live vicariously through the photos & stories.
According to the Chudnow Museum of Yesteryear, “Milwaukee in the roaring twenties was a bustling metropolis which people of all backgrounds called home. Its politicians kept the city clean and efficient, and people were free to seek a variety of ways to entertain themselves. The Great Depression would soon bring a halt to this prosperity, but for the people of Milwaukee in the 1920s their future was bright and their city thriving. According to the 1920 census, Milwaukee was the 12th largest city in the nation at 457,147 people. The civic leaders acknowledged that much of the city's development had been haphazard. They therefore proposed redesigning streets, public buildings and parks for ease of use and beauty mimicking the great cities of Paris and London among others.”
Bringing Back the Streetcar!
Milwaukee created the original streetcar system using horse-drawn carriages in 1860. The system continued to grow in the late 19th century and into the early 20th century, culminating in a large network of electric streetcars.
From an interview with Tim Brown who serves as We Energies’ historian, he states that “Milwaukee's early electric rail company morphed into today’s utility giant - We Energies. Back during the industrial boom, he says, the City needed an electric streetcar system to carry people to jobs. It really expanded opportunities for everyone in the area by being able to get to employment from where they live,” Brown says.
Since many people could not afford cars, the streetcar was a popular way to get around for a few generations. Whether you wanted to go downtown, go shopping, or to a restaurant for dinner, you jumped on the streetcar instead of driving your own car. Overtime, buses and other modes of mass transit became popular and eventually the electric company decided it was time to take out the tracks. In 1958, the city’s last streetcar route was closed.
Here we are today, 158 years later, and Milwaukee is bringing the streetcar back! Construction of the new streetcar line began in April 2017. As of March, 2018, more than 90% of the track has been installed along the initial line. According to Wikipedia, “The first of five vehicles arrived in Milwaukee from Brookville on March 26, 2018, and is to begin track testing in April. The first car delivered was 67 feet long, weighing 83,000 pounds and is expected to carry 120 to 150 passengers.” We are very excited to have this unique way of transportation back in our city!
If you’re planning a trip to Milwaukee, be sure to ride the streetcar through the streets of downtown and reminisce on all of the history that our city has to offer!