The Streets Of Old Milwaukee reopens today in the Milwaukee Public Museum after being closed for renovation since August. We stopped by for a sneak peek and for a chat with "Granny," who has sat in a rocking chair on the porch of her house for 50 years.
She has changed in appearance quite a bit over the years, as reflected in this photo from the Milwaukee Public Museum:
During the renovation, Granny received a full makeover, including new face paint, hair style and clothing. She also gained a Twitter account, MPMGranny.
Jaclyn Kelly, one of the museum’s educators, is Granny’s social media voice.
"The public has enjoyed the novelty of interacting with Granny through Twitter," says Kelly. "And she helped the public understand we were just refreshing the exhibit and not making too many changes."
Recently, Granny came to life as a real person. Local actress Debra Babich dresses in identical garb as the mannequin counterpart and makes appearances at the museum and in the community.
Babich, who studied theater at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and has acted in New York and Chicago, worked at the museum as one of the pirates in the 2013 "Real Pirates" exhibit.
Albert Muchka, the museum’s curator of history collections / senior collections manager, shared volumes of background information about Granny. She’s a highly educated woman named Hannah, who is of German descent and was born between 1820 and 1830 in New York. She moved to Milwaukee to marry into a prominent German family.
"Granny is a composite of several people," says Muchka. "She is not based on one person."
What is it about Granny that makes her so loved by museum guests?
"It’s been an evolution. She has accrued popularity over the years," says Muchka. "She’s the only figure that’s outside of one of the homes in the fictitious neighborhood. People just love the heck out of her."
Go here to read about a new Streets of Old Milwaukee app.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.