Stop #1 on our journey around Milwaukee’s many neighborhoods is where I called home for my first 1.5 years living back in the big city. It goes by many names: East Town, Juneau Town, Downtown, and it’s the financial and commercial hub of the state.
East Town is in fact made up of two separate neighborhoods: Juneau Town (green) and Yankee Hill (yellow). The entire East Town is bounded by I-794/Clybourn on the south, the Milwaukee River on the west, Ogden on the north, and the lake on the east. You won’t find noticeable boundaries between Juneau Town and Yankee Hill, but they do offer differing feels.
Juneau Town is Downtown-proper. The tallest building in Wisconsin is here (US Bank), as are the Santiago Calatrava-designed Milwaukee Art Museum, Cathedral of St John, Jazz In The Park and Bastille Days, the historic Milwaukee City Hall, and many more icons of Milwaukee. Juneau Town is the oldest part of present-day Milwaukee, having been the location where Solomon Juneau (one of Milwaukee’s three founders) built his first cabin and established a trading outpost. It still houses one of the oldest Catholic churches in Milwaukee (Old Saint Mary) and the classic (and haunted) Pfister Hotel.
The biggest names in Wisconsin business are in its borders: Northwestern Mutual, US Bank, BMO Harris, and Johnson Controls for just a sampling. Its streets are narrower than other neighborhoods, and combined with the tall buildings give this neighborhood more of a “big city” feel than any other place in Wisconsin. The views, too, cannot be had in any other place in the state; whether it’s City Hall’s tower, the Pfister’s Blu, or the Milwaukee Athletic Club’s rooftop patio.
A lot of art is found here: the MAM, Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, Pabst Theater, and many smaller venues. The younger crowd has moved into areas of Juneau Town too, with concentrations around the MSOE campus, Cathedral Square’s burgeoning young professional scene, and the boisterous Water Street.
Yankee Hill is East Town’s quiet enclave. It’s here you can still find classic hotels and homes from Milwaukee’s old rich barons (and even more just north along the lake in the Lower East Side). This area is slower than Juneau Town, and significantly more residential. Neighborhood mainstays include The Plaza, Astor, and Knickerbocker hotels, as well as one each of the best, worst, and infamous bars in MKE.
414 words cannot do the face of Milwaukee justice; you’ll have to visit East Town yourself.