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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014

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The 1922 launch of the USS Milwaukee.
The 1922 launch of the USS Milwaukee.

Down in the Milwaukee Deep

If you've ever wondered how low Milwaukee can go, wonder no more. Even though Lake Michigan isn't even the deepest of the Great Lakes, Milwaukee is as deep as you can get in the Atlantic Ocean.

There a spot 100 miles northwest off the coast of Puerto Rico that is called the Milwaukee Deep – alternatively, the Milwaukee Depth – and it's the deepest spot in the Atlantic Ocean. The Milwaukee Deep is located within the Puerto Rico Trench, a low spot where two tectonic plates meet along the boundary between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.

No, this low spot in the Atlantic is not named for Milwaukee because it's full of High Life. Rather, it got its name from a U.S. navy Omaha class cruiser called the USS Milwaukee, which, in 1939, discovered the Milwaukee Deep.

The ship recorded the submarine depression as being at 28,680 feet. Thirteen years later another ship took a reading of 28,560 feet, a figure considered to be nearly identical to the USS Milwaukee's datum.

What's at the bottom of the sea in the Milwaukee Deep? According to Brittanica.com, "Its bottom is covered with mud, sand, rock, and shells."

The USS Milwaukee – one of five ships thusly named – was launched in 1922 and was transferred on loan to the Soviet navy in 1944 and rechristened the Murmansk. It was scrapped in 1949.

In case you're interested, there's also a science fiction thriller called "Milwaukee Deep." Just sayin'.

There you go, a free bit of New Year's Eve party small talk for you.

"Portside: A Little Left of Porter" debuted last winter, when Big Bay offered it on draft. But this year marks the the porter's first appearance in bottles.
"Portside: A Little Left of Porter" debuted last winter, when Big Bay offered it on draft. But this year marks the the porter's first appearance in bottles.

Big Bay's limited Portside porter is in bottles this winter

Shorewood's Big Bay Brewing Co. has just launched its third limited edition brew and this one is perfectly timed for winter.

"Portside: A Little Left of Porter" debuted last winter, when Big Bay offered it on draft. But this year marks the the porter's first appearance in bottles. It's available all winter long.

I tried it over the weekend and it's a malty dark beer laced with chocolate and coffee flavors, but it's also smooth and sweet, so even if you don't normally like porters, you might give this one a try. It's medium bodied and will go great with that Christmas goose.

"We know that craft beer drinkers actively seek out new flavor profiles and ... Porters are a good fit for long, cold winters like the ones we have in Wisconsin," said Big Bay co-founder and managing partner Jeff Garwood.

The company's other limited edition craft beers were Long Weekend IPA and a wheat beer called Summer Tide.

Whether or not we see it, Milwaukee is changing a little bit every day.
Whether or not we see it, Milwaukee is changing a little bit every day.

Sometimes we don't see Milwaukee changing right before our eyes

The other day, I accompanied Andy Tarnoff to the Milwaukee County Historical Society to check out the "Milwaukee in Miniature" exhibit which has Ferdinand Aumueller's tiny recreations of mostly disappeared Milwaukee landmarks.

Seeing the show reminded how much Milwaukee has changed in the nearly 30 years I've lived here; how the razing of some buildings and the construction of others has altered the cityscape.

But I also was reminded later that same day that change happens all the time and sometimes little things we see every day and take for granted can quietly flicker and go dark and often it takes a long time to realize; it can require waiting to see a cumulative effect.

That thought struck me as I drove west on I-794 through Downtown and I suggested that my older kid show the younger one what we used to call the "changing light tower," which referred to the modest light show that used to illuminate the tower atop 606 E. Wisconsin Ave.

As an aside, like most children, mine are very observant, and so we have lots of kid-generated names – some obvious and some less so – for Milwaukee landmarks, such as:

  • The old beer place = Pabst
  • The new beer place = Miller
  • TV tower = the tower atop the Downtown Hilton City Center
  • Light-up window place = Milwaukee County Historical Society
  • Lighthouse library = Central Library
  • Dinosaur museum = Milwaukee Public Museum

But, we couldn't find the changing light tower that used to be something that hypnotized my eldest in the past. The tower is still there, but it's unlit.

When did it go dark? Has it been days? Weeks? Months? Sure, it's a small facet of the night skyline Downtown, but it was one of ours. What else has changed right before our eyes that we haven't noticed yet?

Read more...
Let's bring back a piece of Brew City history, Milwaukee!
Let's bring back a piece of Brew City history, Milwaukee!

How can we bring Koch's diaries back home?

If you read my meanderings on historic Milwaukee buildings, then you know who Henry Koch is.

Born in Germany, Koch is among the most influential architects in Milwaukee history. In addition to many great public schools like Golda Meir and Eighth Street Schools, Koch designed such buildings at City Hall, The Pfister, Turner Hall, Gesu Church at Marquette, the newly refurbished Wells Building and the Ward Theater at the V.A.

During the Civil War, Koch served as a draftsman under Gen. Philip Sheridan.

While researching Koch, who died in Milwaukee in 1910, I discovered that a Canadian bookseller is offering Koch's Civil War diaries for sale for $12,000. The manuscript is described, in part, as:

"Seven notebooks in full brown calf, dated between November 1863 and October 1866. ... The notebooks contain narratives and numerous hand-drawn maps mostly in Virginia. ... Various positions of Sheridan's headquarters (May 30-31, 1864 and Sept. 23, 1864) are also identified. ...Among the maps are those showing the location of the Battle of Five Forks, (April 1, 1865. Charles Town in present day West Virginia, with map references to John Brown. Harper's Ferry is only 11 miles away to the Northeast. As well Appomattox Courthouse with a sketch of the McLean House where Lee surrendered to Grant."

If that doesn't sound like a page – or seven notebooks – of Milwaukee history, then consider that ...

"The final pages of the last notebook contain his architectural sketches and made shortly after he returned from the war to Milwaukee."

Alright, Milwaukee, how can we raise $12,000 to bring these notebooks home to Koch's adopted American hometown?