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 grew up on Milwaukee's East Side and today, she lives in the Walker's Point neighborhood with her partner and two sons.
As a full time senior writer, editorial manager and self-described experience junkie, Molly has written thousands of articles about Milwaukee (and a few about New Orleans, Detroit, Indianapolis, Boston and various vacation spots in Wisconsin) that range in subject from where to get the best cup of coffee to an in-depth profile on the survivors of the iconic Norman apartment building that burned down in the '90s.
She also once got a colonic just to report on it, but that's enough on that.
Always told she had a "radio voice," Molly found herself as a regular contributor on FM102, 97WMYX and 1130WISN with her childhood radio favorite, Gene Mueller.
Molly's poetry, essays and articles appeared in many publications including USA Today, The Writer, The Sun Magazine and more. She has a collection of poetry, "Topless," and is slowly writing a memoir.
In 2009, Molly won a Milwaukee Press Club Award. She served as the Narrator / writer-in-residence at the Pfister Hotel from 2013-2014. She is also a story slam-winning storyteller who has performed with The Moth, Ex Fabula and Risk!
When she's not writing, interviewing or mom-ing, Molly teaches tarot card classes, gardens, sits in bars drinking Miller products and dreams of being in a punk band again.