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Author: Carl Swanson

Milwaukee Notebook: Buses, bikes, and forgetfulness

Milwaukee County Transit System buses feature front-mounted bicycle racks. Users simply fold them down, secure their bikes, and, quite often, forget they put them there. In 2009, all Milwaukee County Transit System buses received front-mounted bike racks. The racks are extremely popular – more than 100,000 bikes are carried each year. Although it hardly seems possible, it’s quite common for a bus to return to its depot at the end of the day with a forgotten bike on its rack. Last year about 120 bikes were lost, an average of one every three days. Most are reunited with owners. Strangely, some...

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Milwaukee Notebook: Milwaukee’s lost business district

Fine buildings are reminders of a once thriving and prosperous business district. The six blocks of Martin Luther King Drive between Burleigh Street and Keefe Avenue are like many on Milwaukee’s north side. There are churches and liquor stores. There is a public school and a private choice program school. There are vacant buildings and vacant lots. There is nothing to show this street’s history extends back hundreds of years to Wisconsin’s first inhabitants. The street follows the route of an ancient Indian trail connecting Chicago and Green Bay. One of two historic trails to Green Bay (the other...

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Milwaukee Notebook: Riverwest’s hidden landmark

The massive brick structure on the bank of the Milwaukee River in Riverwest is part of the city’s water utility. When it entered service in 1924, its massive pumps set a world record. On a stretch of the Milwaukee River once home to both ice houses and a lost neighborhood, only one structure remains – a five-story-tall, windowless brick building. Although well maintained and surrounded by neatly mown lawn, no sign identifies it and its purpose isn’t immediately obvious. Here, at the foot of East Chambers Street in Riverwest, the city built a record-setting engineering landmark. This 92-year-old building is the...

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Milwaukee Notebook: Wilkie James and the measure of greatness

Garth “Wilkie” James, brother of the famed novelist Henry James, is buried in Milwaukee’s Forest Home Cemetery. The five children of Henry James Sr. include some of America’s greatest thinkers. Henry’s oldest son and namesake, Henry James Jr., wrote 22 novels, hundreds of short stories, and many volumes of biographies, travel writing, art criticism, and memoirs. A second son, William James, became an eminent philosopher and educator and is considered the father of American psychology. A third son, Robert, a promising artist and writer, was plagued by alcoholism throughout his adult life. Sister Alice taught history but suffered from...

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