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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014

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Piggsville still a secluded community in the Valley


To the south, 150,000 cars each day fly past on I-94 with the lights of Miller Park casting a glow into the night sky. To the north, 500,000 cases of beer roll out of Miller Brewing Company daily, en route to thirsty drinkers for miles around. To the west runs the main rail line between Milwaukee and Minneapolis, as well as the schizophrenic Menomonee River, which can morph from a trickling creek to raging torrent with one storm. Only to the east lies an immediately adjoining residential neighborhood, Merrill Park, and that's way up the hill.

So what's in the midst of all this? An enclave, barely four blocks wide by six blocks long, called Piggsville, The Valley and Valley Park: a snug, tight-knit neighborhood seemingly hiding from the rest of Milwaukee.

Only a few city streets connect directly to The Valley, one of them being the low-lying alternative to the sweeping Wisconsin Avenue Viaduct, who's graceful, sweeping arches provide a handsome northerly frame to the neighborhood and provide a boundary between it and the adjacent Miller brewery buildings. Numerous businesses, including four grocery stores, once called the neighborhood home.

Today, The Valley consists primarily of single-family homes and duplexes built in the classic Milwaukee bungalow style and a myriad of architectural styles from the early 1900s.

At the turn of the century, the area was a town called Piggsville, named for an adjacent pig farm. Then, as now, it was strategically located: along a river and major rail line, Milwaukee was a mile to the east; to the west was an emerging town that had recently changed its name from Harts Mills to Wauwatosa.

Milwaukee annexed Piggsville in the 1920s, as the then-version of sprawl was beginning to hit. Today, its surroundings being so well-known, it sits secluded in the midst of activity.

"It's an island, almost like Mayberry in Milwaukee," says two-time neighborhood resident Ken Thom, who frequents the Valley Inn, the only remaining neighborhood business. "People here stick together like glue. You come home and you find your neighbor shoveled your walk for you. Good and unique people live here, and many have been here for generations."

Thom, along with any others, were enjoying playoff basketball and some great thin crust pizza on this particular night at the Valley Inn, which has been around in various incarnations since Miller was starting to experiment with bottling its beer several blocks north.

The bar, located at 40th and Clybourn, was an ice cream parlor during Prohibition and became Leo's Valley Tap until Leo Hutterer, its owner at the time, passed away in 1984. Today his children continue the business, maintaining a low profile city-wide while being the dominant place to gather in the neighborhood.

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Talkbacks

Walloon | April 25, 2007 at 2:34 a.m. (report)

Thank you for writing a story about Piggsville, the neighborhood that time forgot. The Fourth Base was one of my favorite taverns, a small sports bar in an equally cozy corner of Milwaukee.

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OMCreader | June 9, 2006 at 2:30 p.m. (report)

George T Horvat said: Piggsville(officialy)was the west side of the menominee river. I was born on the valley side (east bank of the river)in 1938 and my parents moved to Piggsville that same year where we resided until we were forced to sell our properties to the city because they wanted to tear down the wisconsin avenue viaduct and build a new one. Because north 42nd street was the only way in or out of Piggsville, you can see why we were forced to move during the demolution and construction. Ironicaly, the people who lived in The Valley all those years that I was there used to make fun of the name Piggsville and all of us who used to live there. There were a lot of fights between the two sides of the river in those days. Now that the name Piggsville has become "chick." The valley people have claimed it for their own and wear it like a badge of honor. P.S. They also lie a lot about the past. They never were Piggsville and they know it. If you ever talk to them, Tell them that the Horvats, the Papps, the Lechers, The Klemacks, The Stankies The Bielinskies the Millers the Lambs the Gukiches and the Kalluses are calling them the liers that they are. They know who we are. You can check with the Milwaukee Historical Society if you doubt me.

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