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Introducing the kids to the "witch's house."
Introducing the kids to the "witch's house."

Goodbye, "witch's house"

No Milwaukee high school experience, including my own, was complete without a trip or two to the "witch’s house." 

At the time, I knew little about the house, other than it was a lakeside cottage in Fox Point with a yard surrounded by barbed wire and packed with whimsical and spooky sculpture. 

I would later find out about (and fall in love with) the creator of the art, Mary Nohl, who lived there until her death in 2001.

At some point, I stopped calling the funky cottage "the witch’s house" and, instead, referred to it as "Mary Nohl’s house." Nonetheless, I was honored to be a part of Joe Skow's 2012, 20-minute documentary "Pilgrimage To the Witch's House."

News emerged today that the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, which owns the home and its contents, will dismantle the house this summer and rebuild it in the Sheboygan area.

Both through word of mouth and personal experience, I learned that the neighbors were not fans of the house because of the traffic it drew to the suburban, residential neighborhood.

Hence, it’s no surprise that these neighbors were uninterested in agreeing to the zoning changes required to open the house to the public.

On one level, I get the opposition. The house is in a residential area. It’s on a dead end street. There isn’t a lot of room for cars and traffic.

But that doesn’t mean I like it. Or that I agree with it.

This is more than a house – it is a museum of one woman’s life work – and it is extremely rare to have objects displayed in the place where they were originally created. Being thus displayed creates an unmatchable energy linking the art to its environment.

This was part of the Hamilton Wood Type & Print Museum's heartbreak when forced to leave its space last year. 

If the house could stay intact and be zoned so that it could open as a museum, there would be finite hours of operation and designated parking. This would eliminate a large portion of drive-by traffic because it would remove the mys…

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The Nite Owl will remain open from today until "sometime around Thanksgiving," according to Nite Owl owner, Chris Roepke.
The Nite Owl will remain open from today until "sometime around Thanksgiving," according to Nite Owl owner, Chris Roepke.
The diner is friendly, welcoming and smells like cheeseburgers.
The diner is friendly, welcoming and smells like cheeseburgers.
The regular cheeseburger and fries.
The regular cheeseburger and fries.
Current Nite Owl owner, Chris Roepke.
Current Nite Owl owner, Chris Roepke.
Eat!
Eat!
Extra seating.
Extra seating.
Drive in, walk in or sit down at the Night Owl.
Drive in, walk in or sit down at the Night Owl.

Whoo re-opened today? The Nite Owl!

After closing for the winter, the Nite Owl Drive-In, 830 E. Layton Ave., opened for its 66th season today.

The iconic diner with the asymmetrical sign on the roof calls itself the Home of The Jumbo Burger and features both a walk-up window and a small attached diner.

The menu includes classic diner fare such as hamburgers, cheeseburgers, a Swiss and mushroom burger, grilled cheese, fish dinner, fries, onion rings, shakes and malts. 

Nite Owl accepts cash only, but there is an ATM at the gas station next door.

Chris Roepke is the third generation owner of the family business. His grandfather was the original owner, then his dad and uncle managed it for decades until he took over operations about eight years ago. His dad, John, is 74 and still works there as a cook.

Milwaukee’s Mark Lewandowksi was among a rush of people who came out to reunite with the Nite Owl.

"I’ve been coming here since high school. That was a long time ago," says Lewandowski. "In the winter, I go to Kopp’s, but they have a better burger here."

The diner is cozy and retro cute with black-and-white-tiled floors, booths, tables with red-cushioned ice cream chairs and an old potbelly stove that was originally in a turn-of-the-century caboose.

"My dad always liked that in here," says Roepke, who started working at the Nite Owl when he was 10.

The walls are covered with vintage signage, old newspaper articles and signed photos. At one time, there was an autographed Elvis Presley photo, but it was stolen about eight years ago.

Apparently, in 1977 when Presley came to perform in Milwaukee, his plane landed in the airport across the street and he noticed the Nite Owl’s neon sign. He then ordered $75 worth of food and sent back the autographed photo.

"It’s heartbreaking that it's gone, but maybe someday it will find its way back," says Roepke. "And that’s why everything on the wall is screwed down now."

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The OnMilwaukee.com staff couldn't resist a photo op with The Fonz.
The OnMilwaukee.com staff couldn't resist a photo op with The Fonz.
A trip to the Domes is not complete without this shot.
A trip to the Domes is not complete without this shot.

5 popular spots to snap a Milwaukee photo

If you have lived in Milwaukee your entire life or even for a long stretch of time, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to avoid having your photo taken – or taking someone else’s photo – in one of these classic locales.

Personally, I'm guilty of posing on or near all of these places.

Zoo train: A few years ago, OnMilwaukee.com held a contest and created a gallery of zoo train photos. Many Milwaukeeans not only had pictures of themselves on the train, but of their kids, as well. Aw.  

Bronze Fonz: I have seen a few inappropriate, late-night Bronze Fonz shots on Facebook, but I’m not (only) talking about those. The Fonz statue is a shutterbug magnet, day or night. Smile and say, "Tuscadero!"

Big guitar at Summerfest: This photo hot spot is new to the local photo game since the large sculpture has only been on the grounds for a few years, but it quickly became a summertime profile pic fave. Prior to that, photos on the Sky Glider or, back in the day, in front of the fountain (now the splash pad) were quite plentiful.

Waterfall at The Domes: Hey, we don’t have many waterfalls in these parts so we gotta document 'em when we can. I couldn’t resist myself recently. 

La Perla pepper: Even though it may not be the most flattering photo, if you ride the pepper, someone is going to capture you doing it. And you really must ride the pepper once in your life. It is, after all, a rite of passage for uber Milwaukeeness. 

Where else do we love to photograph ourselves, Milwaukee?

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If you believe Pabst belongs in Milwaukee, there is a new online petition you can sign.
If you believe Pabst belongs in Milwaukee, there is a new online petition you can sign.

Update on the effort to bring Pabst home

Nearly two weeks ago, Carolynn Buser asked the question "Should Milwaukee buy PBR?" In the post, she linked to a Facebook page called "Milwaukee Should Own Pabst Blue Ribbon" that was created by Nichali Ciaccio shortly after hearing that the 170-year-old brewing company was for sale again.

Ciacchio went on vacation and Riverwest’s Susie Seidelman took over administration on the page, which, within 20 hours, had more than 1,000 people join. There are now approximately 2,300 likers.

Seidelman was also contacted by Bridget Byrnes, the great-great-granddaughter of Pabst founder Capt. Frederick Pabst, who offered to build a web site for the cause.

Seidelman and dedicated friends have made more strides toward the goal of bringing the company back to Brew City. After meetings at the Public House in Riverwest, research, creativity and hard work, there is a plan.

The concept is to base Pabst ownership on the Green Bay Packers' model. The NFL team is community-owned, its profits go back into the team and its ownership agreement prevents future purchase, reorganization or relocation.

Seidelman sees acquiring Pabst as a piece of a broken puzzle.

"This will create a sustainable revenue stream for the City of Milwaukee to use toward solving the city’s most pressing problems and creating opportunity for all the City’s residents. And let’s not forget about the jobs – we want those to come home, too," she wrote on the web site.

In her web copy, Seidelman proposed that the City of Milwaukee agrees to fiscal sponsorship and to incorporate Pabst as a non-profit community organization. 

Seidelman believes this is a way to improve the economy which has contributed to segregation in the city.

"Would bringing Pabst back solve these problems? Not in and of itself, no. Would it be a step in the right direction, offering an innovative inroad on making these problems better? Absolutely," she says. "Pabst belongs here, plain and simple. We made this beer what it is. It’s ti…

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