Milwaukee is a tavern town and it’s pretty much always been that way, but saloon life has always been about more than just the beer.
From liquid refreshment to tables laden with free food to political meetings to concerts to post-funeral memorials to bar dice to wings to darts to billiards to sheepshead and more, saloons have been the stage on which many have lived their lives in Brew City.
Here is a selection of vintage photos and videos of Milwaukee taverns, courtesy of the Old Milwaukee Facebook group, selected with the assistance of group founder and moderator, Adam Levin. Thanks to the contributors for sharing these gems!
John Trost’s (undated)
Trost’s saloon, built in what is called the Boomtown style and possessing a large wraparound porch, also served as a post office for Trostville (later Trost's Corner), in the 1890s. In addition to saloonkeeper, Trost was also the postmaster. The rural junction in the Town of Wauwatosa was around the area of what is now Lisbon Avenue, Center Street, 60th Street and Appleton Avenue. (Trost family photo)
Koszewski Buffet (undated)
This saloon, which also obviously served food (and Schlitz), was on Muskego and Maple, at what is now 1804 S. Muskego Ave. The building survives and this photo includes an interesting group of characters, political posters and, reflected in the window glass, nearby St. Vincent de Paul Church. Plus, it had a telephone! (Stephen Koszewski photo)
Jack’s Tap (early 1930s)
You may know this place as D.I.X. or Timer’s, around the time Prohibition ended, when these photos were taken, it was Jack Muhich’s saloon. In the first photo you can see Jack’s daughters Charlotte and Shirley next to a keg with their grandfather Frank Sinur. Frank had owned the bar before selling it to his son-in-law, Jack. Note the Schlitz-branded chair.
In the second photo, Frank’s son Stanley Sinur is behind the bar. Jack owned ran the bar until his passing in 1981, at which point it was sold and became Timer’s. According to Frank’s great-grandson (and Jack's grandson), James Pintar, who shared the images, “my grandpa bought the current bar and back bar from his father's tavern, Reno Gardens, at 908 S. 5th St.”
The Balcony Inn (1933)
This great interior shot of Art Janik’s tavern at 33rd and Lincoln commemmorates “Bootleg Day,” Aug. 23, 1933, according to a notation penned directly onto the photo, which also includes the first names of the customers on hand to celebrate. Janik – who served as president of the Milwaukee Tavern Owners' Association in the 1930s – operated the place from 1931 until 1937. The 21st Amendment, which repealed the 18th Amendment (Prohibition), was passed on Dec. 5, 1933. (PHOTO: Courtesy of Wisconsin Historical Society)
Eddie’s Log Tavern (undated, likely 1930s/early ‘40s)
This postcard image shows tavernkeeper Eddie Wisinski behind a distinctively shaped bar at his saloon at 3105 W. Forest Home Ave. Wisinski operated the bar from at least 1934 until his death in 1965. The tavern operates today as Brew City Tap.
Casey’s Tavern (1941)
This great photo, loaded with detail, shows the interior of Casey’s Tavern, run by submitter Jayme Kistner Beyrer’s grandfather, who can be seen behind the bar. The tavern, now gone, had many names over the years, including Otto’s Bar, Flo’s Tap, Roeder’s Tap and finally Peaceful World before the then-vacant two-story building was damaged by fire in 1972.
The Unity Bar (early 1940s)
John Ferraro, who shared the photo, noted that, “My grandmother Adeline Ferraro was in the tavern business for 40 years mostly in Downtown Milwaukee. This image shows my grandmother (far left) along with my mother, grandfather, great-grandmother and friends in front of her tavern, The Unity Bar, located at 1124 N. Water St. She also owned The Water Front, located where the Performing Arts Center is now located. Her last tavern was Adeline's Snug Harbor on Highland Water.”
Erv & Clara’s (1963)
Ervin and Clara Stelloh took over the West Milwaukee tavern at 3812 W. Lincoln Ave. in spring 1963 after the death of Hattie Lipinski, who had run it with her husband Al. Later known as Limey’s, it’s now called Lincoln Station. Fortunately, Erv captured this 8mm footage during their run there.
Lenny’s Tavern (1965)
Erv Stelloh also seemed to take his camera with him to other bars, filming this footage a couple years later at Lenny’s Tavern, 1200 W. North Ave., now demolished. These films were digitized by Levin.
Nolde’s Tavern (1966)
Greg Kulis shared this photo of his in-laws, Bob and Lucille, with Syl and Jenny Nolde in front of Nolde’s Tavern at Brady and Warren. Sylvester Nolde took over the saloon in 1954 and ran it until 1978. The bar is now home to Nomad World Pub. You can read a history of that site here.
O’Reilly’s Irish Inn (1977)
This Rich Diemer photo offers a fleeting glimpse of O’Reilly’s Irish Inn (left), which closed in 1999, making way for The Eastsider (now Baccanera). Before Jack Devlin opened O’Reilly’s there, it was the North Oak Inn and earlier still, it was run for many years by Alfred Ray. It should be noted that O’Reilly’s dates back to 1945 and occupied at least two other East Side sites before it landed on the corner of Oakland and North.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.