Our “Primary Highways” series continues apace with the state of Wisconsin. We begin with the state capital, Madison, which I wrote about during last year’s protests. We begin with a image of those protests. It looks very cold there, but also quite exciting. Some of us watched these protests in the hope that it would be the start of a resurgent progressive movement.
[Photos by Lost Albatross (Emily Mills) on flickr. Shared under Creative Commons license.]
In the eastern section of the capital, we encounter aptly named “Badger Interchange”, in which no fewer than three major interstates converge, I-90, I-94 and I-39. The interchange also includes state highway 30, a short freeway that connects to downtown Madison.
Highway 30 ends at US 151, which traverses the isthmus that holds downtown Madison and separates lakes Mendota and Monona. I don’t know of too many other cities concentrated on an isthmus like that. Certainly, the location between the two lakes makes for interesting views and architectural opportunities. Consider this view from Lake Monona featuring the State Capitol building book-ended symmetrically by large buildings and standing behind Frank Lloyd Wright’s Monona Terrace.
The city is also hope to the University of Wisconsin, and an arts and music scene. It might be a good place to play as part of that mythical “upper Midwest tour” that I keep saying that I want to do.
It of course did not take long for us to encounter a building by Frank Lloyd Wright, a native of Wisconsin. His summer home and studio, Taliesin, is in Spring Green, west of Madison. We take US 14 west from the capital through a green hilly landscape – it’s not hard to see why this might been inspiring for Wright’s prairie style architecture, with its use of horizontal lines and low angles that reflect the expanse of the landscape. Taliesin Preservation, Inc. now occupies the estate and is dedicated to the architect’s legacy.
If we head north from Madison along I-39 to its end near the city of Wausau, we can see several examples of Prairie School architecture, including additional Wright houses. This one has a more distinctly modern feel than Taliesin, with more emphasis on straight lines.
We return to Madison again, and this time stay with I-90/I-94 westward after they split from I-39. The highway goes by Wisconsin Dells, which looks like a major tourist trap. But the name actually comes from the interesting sandstone rock formations along the Wisconsin River. Skip the amusement parks and head to the river.
[Dells of the Wisconsin River taken in May of 2002 by Amadeust]
These formations which are vaguely reminiscent of the higher-elevation features in the southwest, were supposedly cut during catastrophic flooding as an ancient lake drained. The wide river and lush green vegetation, however, make it quite a different environment.
It was along I-90/I-94 that I also had a chance to sample Wisconsin’s famous dairy products in its basic form: milk out of a carton at a truck stop. I was skeptical that it would really be that much different, but I have to admit that the chocolate milk was better than anything I had in college (or public school before that). My time on that trip was limited, so I didn’t have a chance to explore the real product I was interested in: cheese. Of course, one can get Wisconsin cheese here in California, and I can live vicariously through blogs like Cheese Underground until I get a chance to go back.
Next, we head east from Madison on I-94 towards the state’s largest city, Milwaukee. As we approach the city, we pass through the Zoo Interchange, one of the states oldest and busiest. It currently serves as the junction of I-94 with I-894, the “Zoo Freeway” and US 45. I like the name “Zoo Freeway”. Of course, the name of both the freeway and interchange derives from proximity to the Milwaukee County Zoological Gardens.
I-94 continues towards downtown, passing through another large interchange, the Marquette Interchange with I-794, I-43, and US 41. It does look like a complicated tangle.
Heading north on I-43 from the interchange, we exit at WI 145 to see the former Pabst Brewery Complex, a shrine to contemporary hipsterdom.
[Taken by Jeramey Jannene, on September 8th, 2005 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (CC BY 2.5)]
The complex closed in 1997. I have to admit, the derelict buildings of the brewery appeal to me at least as much the beer would have. Another great place to photograph, and this one is the National Register of Historic Places so it can’t be torn down (at least, I don’t think it can). Sections have in fact been reopened recently as a “Best Place” and there is a major redevelopment project planned for the entire complex. It is certainly possible to have modern, functioning business inside of a post-industrial shell, so I hope this place does not lose its charm in the development process. I would love to hear from people in Milwaukee about what is happening here.
Just to the east, we approach the downtown area and the Milwaukee River. The urban riverfront has pedestrian access via the Riverwalk.
[Image from Wikipedia. Licence:http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/]
This looks like a great way to see the city and its connection to the river, with buildings coming right up to its edge. The walk continues is segments north and south, including into the historic Third Ward with its older buildings, wedged between the river and I-794 (the Lake Freeway). We can travel along the lake on I-794, and then continue north on city streets back into the downtown. Here we can see the spectacular modernist wing of the Milwaukee Art Museum (designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava) jutting out onto Lake Michigan.
Milwaukee’s traditional architecture is more of the decorative style we see from American cities that grew in the early 20th Century, but also reflects the city’s German heritage (along with the beer).
From Milwaukee, we head north back into the state on US 41 towards Lake Winnebago, the state’s largest inland lake and the only lake in the U.S. named after a recreational vehicle. Along the lake, we pass the well-known towns of Fond du Lac and Oshkosh. This sunset view is looking from the east side of the lake towards Oshkosh, which is hidden below the setting sun.
US 41 passes the town crossing over Lake Butte des Morts (named for a nearby Native American burial ground) and the Fox River, continuing around Lake Winnebago and heading northward towards Green Bay.
There is one primary reason most of us are familiar with Green Bay: it is home of the successful NFL team, the Green Bay Packers, and the only major team is non-profit and community owned. And quite successful, too. Their fans wear cheese-shaped hats. You can see the approach into downtown Green Bay on US 41 via this video:
We turn south onto I-43 (which ends in Green Bay) over the mouth of the Fox River and come to the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary, a large urban nature preserve. It is an opportunity for people in the city and beyond to see wildlife up close, in addition to being a center for the rehabilitation of local wildlife. Of course, we must feature one of the wild cats.
US 41 continues north along the western side of the Bay of Green Bay (as distinguished from the city of Green Bay), passing by more natural landscape before entering into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
Wisconsin does not have much shoreline on Lake Superior compared to its neighbors – in particular, Michigan extends quite a bit westward along the south shore of the lake, but it does have the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. We can get there from Michigan on US 2, passing along the edge of Chequamegon Bay before turning north onto WI 13 along the waters edge to the Apostle Islands. In addition to wildlife and great views of Lake Superior, the islands have unusual “sea caves”, such as these at the edge of Sand Island.
In some ways they resemble the Dells that we saw much earlier in this article. We conclude with this lighthouse on the same island, one of several here that guide ships along this edge of the Lake Superior.