How Milwaukee built its iconic lakefront

How Milwaukee built its iconic lakefront

600 456

Milwaukee’s iconic lakefront has been in a constant state of change throughout our history.

The might of Lake Michigan’s water has defined our shoreline, but over the last 150 years, humans have certainly added to it.

Through a process and technique called “landfill,” city crews had piled on rocks, bricks, ash and even street pavers along the shoreline to keep the waters at bay.

In fact, as OnMilwaukee’s Bobby Tanzilo discovered, if you walk the shoreline you can spot pieces of cream city brick, even remnants of buildings that used to stand in Milwaukee.

In addition to the landfill along the shore, humans also defined the green space, beaches and roadways along the lakefront as seen today.

“If you’re an 80 or 90 year old person, you’ve seen a whole lot of changes down by the lakefront,” Bobby said in this week’s podcast. “Most of that land that’s down there at the bottom of the bluff . . . was created by man and woman.”

Lincoln Memorial Drive seen from just south of Mason Street in 1930 in a J.B. Murdoch photo. Photo courtesy of Wisconsin Historical Society, via OnMilwaukee.

Listen to this week’s episode for the full story of how Milwaukee built its beloved lakefront.

Like what you hear? Subscribe!

Get all of 88Nine’s podcasts delivered right to you weekly at We’ve got podcasts about music, food and film, with fresh episodes dropping every week! And don’t forget to check out our new podcast “By Every Measure,” a six-part exploration of systemic racism in Milwaukee.

Support from our community makes stories like the one you just read possible. Make a gift to support the team behind the programming you use and enjoy!

88Nine Radio Milwaukee