February 28, 2020
Finding statues and monuments to famous people or events in a city’s history can be a fun scavenger hunt. Here’s some famous Milwaukeeans that have been immortalized for the ages in statues (plus one that should be). Track them down, grab a selfie, and learn a slice of Milwaukee history.
Solomon Juneau: Juneau was a French furtrader that was the founder of Juneautown, which merged with Walker’s Point and Kilbourntown to become the City of Milwaukee. Juneau was Milwaukee’s first mayor, the founder of the Milwaukee Sentinel, and the city’s first Postmaster. His cousin, Joseph Juneau was the founder of Juneau, Alaska. Solomon Juneau died in 1856 and this monument was constructed in 1887.
Location: Juneau Park (on the Oak Leaf Trail).
Reginald “Da Crusher” Lisowski: Born and raised in the city of South Milwaukee, the wrestler known as Da Crusher showed a lot of pride in his blue-collar roots and developed a wrestling persona of a beer-swilling tough guy. The “Wrestler that Made Milwaukee Famous” wrestled from the 1950s into the 80s for the AWA and WWF. He died in 2005. A successful crowdfunding campaign led to Da Crusher’s statue being unveiled in 2019 at a fun Crusher Fest featuring music and wrestling. Location: Near the intersection of Milwaukee Ave and 11th Ave in South Milwaukee.
The Bronze Fonz: Aaaaay, this guy ain’t a real Milwaukeean, but he played one on TV. The 1970s sitcom Happy Days took place in 1950s Milwaukee (though of course it was actually shot in Hollywood) and Henry Winkler played the show’s most well-loved character, the cool leather jacket-clad Arthur Fonzarelli aka “The Fonz.” Following suit of other cities (like Minneapolis’s statue of Mary Richards from The Mary Tyler Moore Show) “the Bronze Fonz” was unveiled in 2008, to a somewhat mixed reception. Location: On the Riverwalk near E. Wells Street, across the street from the Milwaukee Repertory Theater.
Gertie the Duck: Gertie’s story was a big hit in 1945, as World War II was ending. A reporter for the Milwaukee Journal noted that a mallard was nesting underneath what is now the Wisconsin Avenue bridge and it caused a sensation-- visitors stopped by to see the ducks as a Wisconsin Humane Society officer kept watch over Gertie and her six ducklings. Life and Readers Digest ran stories. After Gertie and her family survived a storm, they were moved to a window display at Gimbel’s Department Store before being transferred to the Juneau Park lagoon. The mallard inspired a children’s book and a wooden toy. A statue of the duck family was added to the bridge in 1997.
Location: Wisconsin Avenue bridge.
Statue of a Milwaukeean that should exist, but doesn’t: Harry Houdini: Born Erik Weisz, the famous magician who would call himself Harry Houdini was born in Hungary, his family moved to Appleton, Wisconsin, where his father was a Rabbi of the Zion Reform Jewish Congregation. In 1882, the family moved to Milwaukee, where they stayed until they moved to New York City in 1887. It’s here in Milwaukee that Houdini cut his teeth on practicing magic and the acrobatics and athletic endurance that made his acts so death-defying, including magic performances on the Wisconsin Avenue bridge at age 12. C’mon, that’s a better Riverwalk claim to fame than Fonzie or a damn duck, right? Someone’s got to get that crowdfunder rolling. Location: Nowhere...yet.