30.10.16

SPEAKING OF THE MONUMENTS WE'VE DESTROYED.

The lakefront station of Chicago and North Western in Milwaukee was the best of both worlds for a budding train enthusiast, as it was just south of Juneau Park, where a bluff was the perfect place to watch fireworks, sometimes launched from the boat basin, and on one occasion, from a car ferry.  Here's what it looked like before the city started filling in the lake for additional parkland, roads, and the boat basin.


But there weren't enough roads, and part of the urban renewal or modernization or what have you involved running an expressway along the lakefront (tonight I'm not going to litigate the ways that project failed, and the fallout of undoing it in places.)  There's nothing like a railroad right-of-way for running an expressway, and the North Western Depot had to go.

At the time, the railroad would probably be happy to be rid of the station, and of the passenger service.  This image, from just before trains moved over to the new Union Station (now the Intermodal Passenger Station) shows how the railroad was making money from surplus real estate.


Image retrieved from Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.  Unattributed photographer.

That framing once supported a neon sign blurbing the dieselized Twin Cities 400.  At night, circuitry gave the impression that the wheels were turning.  But after the Twin Cities 400 came off, the sign might have been an expensive bit of misleading publicity.  (There's a neon tribute, inspired in part by the sign, now in place north of Milwaukee.)

This article, from the Milwaukee Journal's Green Sheet (the section that included the comics, and that was cause for sibling rivalry claiming dibs thereon) uses the occasion of the demolition of Milwaukee's current lakefront transportation center to reflect on the demolition, after serious preservation efforts, of the North Western Depot.
[Landmarks Preservation official Robert] Perrin, the city development chief who finally argued for the depot's demolition, acknowledged that it was a loss to the city.

"By tearing these things down, gradually the city becomes denuded of its architectural identity. Eventually, Milwaukee will look like any other city."
That happened often in those days.  The transportation center (mostly a parking deck) will come down to make space for a 44 story apartment tower.  Perhaps some of the people moving up from the middle class will occupy space there.  But they won't have a 75 minute Commuter 400 with the best griddle cakes on earth leaving from lake level.

No comments: