Milwaukee, then and now

Milwaukee, then and now

Story: Bobby Tanzilo Photography: Adam Levin Design: Jason McDowell

Published January 16, 2019 at 9:02 a.m.


There are few more interesting juxtapositions than two photos of the same location taken decades apart. We can see how the site once looked and how it's changed over the years.

Thanks to Adam Levin, who runs the Old Milwaukee group on Facebook, we have a series of these photo sets to share with you here.

Levin collected the vintage images and then shot his own "now" photos.


6th Street and National Avenue

PHOTOS: Left: Willam D. Middleton. Right: Adam Levin © 2019.

The bones of the Royal Theater survive on 6th Street, just south of National and the street remains a major transit route, though without the interurban North Shore Line cars, like the one seen in this July 1961 image.

1st Street & Pittsburgh Avenue

PHOTOS: Top: Unknown. Bottom: Adam Levin © 2019.

Look at the traffic in this shot looking south along 1st Street from  Pittsburgh. Though the filling station at right is gone, you can get good tacos from the Mazorca food truck there now.

20th and Mitchell Streets

PHOTOS: Left: Unknown. Right: Adam Levin © 2019.

The photo of the parade passing 20th and Mitchell, which Levin believes dates to the 1950s, was discovered in the basement of the former Adams TV, 1988 S. Muskego Ave., along with old prescriptions from when the building was a drugstore.

David Bowie records at 37th Street & National Avenue

PHOTOS: LEFT: Robert J. Cavallo. Right: Adam Levin © 2019.

In 1974, while on tour, David Bowie stopped at Star Studio in Milwaukee to record overdubs for the film of the last concert with The Spiders from Mars ("Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars"). The studio looks much the same today. You can read the full story here.

The Ambassador Hotel Cocktail Lounge

PHOTOS: Top: Ambassador Hotel postcard view. Bottom: Adam Levin © 2019.

The Ambassador Hotel's cafe looked pretty swanky with all that Midcentury Modern furniture. It looks great again, though with updated fixtures.

Downer Avenue and Kenwood Boulevard

PHOTOS: Top: UWM Archives. Bottom: Adam Levin © 2019.

Three views of a familiar site to UWM students: the east side of Downer Avenue just north of Kenwood Boulevard. The first is from 1925 and the second from 1954.

Eagles Club bowling alley

PHOTOS: Top: The Rave. Right: Adam Levin © 2019.

Yes, the lower level of The Rave was once the Eagles Club bowling alley. The lanes are gone but some of the wood survives in bartops.

Water & Wells Streets

PHOTOS: Left: Unknown. Right: Adam Levin © 2019.

The changes on this stretch of Water Street are significant but, thankfully, City Hall remains.

Marc’s Big Boy at 12th & Mitchell Streets

PHOTOS: Left: Milwaukee County Historical Society. Right: Adam Levin © 2019.

The former Marc's Big Boy near the Modjeska Theater was a beloved feature of what was long Milwaukee's second-busiest shopping street in its heyday.

Mockingbird Hill overlooking County Stadium

PHOTOS: Top: Unknown. Right: Adam Levin © 2019.

Back in the day, hospital patients and staff could get free baseball from the bluff on the Veterans Administration grounds just south of County Stadium. That all ended in the 1970s when the stadium was expanded and the view was lost.

Plankinton Arcade

PHOTOS: Left: Postcard view. Right: Adam Levin © 2019.

Once alive with activity, like bowling, dining and drinking, the Plankinton Arcade was home to both the Red Room Bar and the Green Room Restaurant. The Red Room, which closed in 1960, claimed to be the world's largest one-floor billiard parlor and bowling alley. These floor tiles are pretty much all that remain of those good-time establishments.

Telephone House at 2nd Street and National Avenue

PHOTOS: Top: Ray Szopieray Kodachrome slide, 1975. Bottom: Adam Levin © 2019.

The beautiful Telephone House building wasn't wearing its best outfit by the time it was lost to fire in 1986. The northeast corner of this Walker's Point intersection has been a surface parking lot ever since.

Looking east along Michigan Street from near Plankinton

PHOTOS: Left: Unknown. Right: Adam Levin © 2019.

The 1965 "then" photo offers a tantalizing and infuriating reminder of what we lost so that a huge chunk of Michigan Street could become a parking garage in 1982.

6th Street & Oklahoma Avenue

PHOTOS: Left: Unknown. Right: Adam Levin © 2019.

This scene looks pretty similar to how it appeared in the July 1948 photo above, but with one major exception. The super-handy North Shore Line electric train service to Chicago no longer exists.

All photographs and credits provided by Adam Levin.

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