Less Robert Downey Jr., more 19th century Milwaukeeans.
The Pryor Avenue Iron Well, located near the corner of Wentworth and Pryor in Bay View, has been a fixture on the near south side since 1882. When constructed, it dove down 1500 feet and spouted up on pressure alone to provide water to residents and fire hydrants in the area. In the 1980s the well was renovated to run on an electric pump, and now draws water from 100-200 feet below the street. In 1987 the City of Milwaukee designated it as a city landmark, and the Bay View Historical Society followed suit in 2013 after a complete restoration of the monument surrounding the well. Today it remains the last public well in the city.
The Pryor Avenue Iron Well is so-named because of the iron content in the water. It’s easy to see the iron stain around the base of the fountain.
In the last few months, the Well has been featured in the local news– but it’s not because of the iron in the water; it’s the strontium that’s caused public health concerns. Recent test have shown elevated levels of the naturally-occurring element, though it should be noted that their findings are a guideline and the water should still be safe to drink for the average, healthy adult. Unrelated fun fact: strontium is used in magnets and is what gives fireworks their red color.
Despite the government warning, I dared to drink.
While I was hoping for the strontium to taste like red pop-rocks, all I got was an overwhelming taste of…well…iron – like if your lip bled while you drank from a bubbler. I don’t know if I expected something else (freshness like the dew on a crisp Irish morn?), but it’s no misnomer: the Pryor Avenue Iron Well is indeed on Pryor Avenue, is still a functioning well, and tastes like iron. I certainly got my money’s worth (it’s free).