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Highway 145 Trunk Tour

  • Northern terminus: Washington County, at I-41 and U.S. 45 in Richfield
  • Southern terminus: Milwaukee County, at U.S. 18/Wells Street in downtown Milwaukee
Distance: 25 miles

Counties along route 145

  • Washington
  • Waukesha
  • Milwaukee

STH-145 “How diverse can a road get in 25 miles? Let’s find out.”

WisMap145_200wQuickie Summary: State “Trunk” Highway 145 is about every kind of road one can possibly be in Wisconsin. It’s a two-lane road winding past farm fields, a multi-lane suburban sprawl connector, a six-lane freeway heading into a major city, a boulevard in city neighborhoods, a city street cutting through areas that have seen better days and some that are renewing, a new boulevard built to replace a torn-down freeway, and a downtown throughfare serving major attractions, including major arenas and museums… all within 25 miles.

The Wisconsin Highway 145 Road Trip

The Drive (North to South): Highway 145 follows U.S. 45’s former path from Richfield into Milwaukee. Starting at the I-41/U.S. 45 interchange in Washington County (now known as the “where Cabela’s is” place, if you need a compass to help with your State Trunk Tour trips, well, I’m pretty sure they’ll have some available), Highway 145 meanders through the countryside for its first few miles. Open spaces and farms adorn either side, but on certain hill crests the distant – but not for long – skyline of downtown Milwaukee beckons.

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Highway 145 starts when Pioneer Road, a local road cutting through Washington County, meets up with I-41 & U.S. 45 where they split (northbound) or come together (southbound) in Richfield. The area has become a boomtown in recent years and sports one of the few Cabela’s in Wisconsin (pictured below). Office parks, retail stores and gas stations have popped up, as well as a series of roundabouts. A LOT of roundabouts. Once you navigate your way through these (and trucks are plentiful, so be sure to yield) and cross U.S. 45, Highway 145 more or less parallels the I-41/45 freeway into Germantown, but is much more interesting.

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After the brief start in the town of Richfield, Highway 145 enters Germantown (pop. 20,100), rated by Money Magazine in July 2007 as the 30th most appealing city, town or village to live in the United States. Much of Germantown is newer, developing city but it retains history in a downtown area that began as the settlement of Dheinsville.

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Dheinsville was established by the Dhein family in 1842, The Bast Bell Museum features Wisconsin’s largest bell collection – over 5,000 bells. Sila Lydia Bast, for whom the museum is named, lived in Germantown from 1900 to 1992 and collected them all. Highway 145 cuts right through the Dheinsville Historic District at the intersection with Holy Hill Road (once Highway 167). , which serves as Germantown’s original “downtown” area approaching Holy Hill Road.

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Germantown’s downtown is just down the road. A turn west onto Main Street brings you past some of the town’s original buildings with a German flair. Stop in Jerry’s Old Towne Tavern and karaoke if you have the courage. The Germanic tradition of Germantown is also reflected in some of the cross-street names like Freistadt Road.

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It’s not super clear in this picture, but downtown Milwaukee is visible while you’re still in Germantown. The downtown skyline is about 12 miles away as the crow flies. Left of those buildings, some of the high-rise lakefront condos running along Milwaukee’s East Side can also be seen. Click on the picture for a larger view; trust us, it’s out there.

From Germantown, Highway 145 darts down growing suburban streets and crosses the corner of Waukesha County in Menomonee Falls (pop. 32,647), Wisconsin’s largest “village” (they haven’t gotten around to applying for city status yet.) “The Falls”, as locals call it, serves as corporate headquarters for the Kohl’s Corporation, Cousins Subs, and even Strong Funds before Eliot Spitzer got his hands on them. It’s also home to a major Harley-Davidson engine plant. Highway 145 grazes Menomonee Falls’ northeast corner and briefly meets up with Highway 100 before heading down the Waukesha-Milwaukee county line on a new alignment designed to accommodate the growth from new suburban-style office buildings that are sprouting up in this area.

Milwaukee

From there, Highway 145 hooks up with U.S. 41/45 and enters Milwaukee (pop. 592,887), Wisconsin’s largest city and 28th largest in the United States. This route hits a cross-section of the city and includes some of its best – and worst – parts.

**History Note**
Highway 145 from the Menomonee Falls-Milwaukee city limit was originally slated to be a freeway all the way to downtown Milwaukee and the lakefront. It would run southeasterly from the Granville Interchange (today’s I-41/U.S. 45/Highway 145/Good Hope Road interchange at Park Place) to the Capital Court Shopping Center – now called Midtown Center. It would then turn southerly along 60th Stret to Appleton Avenue and follow Appleton and Lisbon Avenues to the northern end of the Stadium Freeway (U.S. 41) at 47th & Lisbon. From there, it would run easterly as the Park West Freeway between North and Meinecke Avanues from 46th Street to 20th before heading southeast along Fond du Lac Avenue again to 12th, where it intersects with I-43. It was to continue as the Park East Freeway along the northern edge of downtown Milwaukee to the lakefront, and then turn south to meet up with I-794 and the Hoan Bridge. The section from the Granville Interchange to 68th Street & Hampton Avenue was completed in 1967 and remains to this day; the Park East segment from I-43 (then U.S. 141) to Jefferson Street was completed in 1971 and was torn down in 2002. Today, Highway 145 follows the freeway segment to 68th & Hampton and then Fond du Lac Avenue to downtown, where it becomes McKinley Avenue. Highway 145 was adjusted to head south on 6th Street from there to end at Wells.
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Entering Milwaukee and Milwaukee County, Highway 145 junctions with U.S. 41 & 45 before jumping onto its own (way underused) freeway stretch that angles into the city through the northwest side. These twin office buildings, known as Park Place, hold the world headquarters of A. O. Smith Corporation and a number of other firms. At the end of the 145, you’ll see a lot more office towers.

The twin office buildings amidst a sprawling complex of restaurants, hotels and parkland are part of the Park Place development, where A.O. Smith moved their corporate headquarters and a number of emerging companies have set up shop. A suburban-like office complex set in the City of Milwaukee, Park Place was originally designed in 1980s and after a period that saw little growth, has recently expanded like donuts on a jelly injector. Dretzka Park, which lies to the north of the complex, covers a huge area of real estate and serves as a great place to relax or play golf – and that includes frisbee golf, since Dretzka has one of the better courses for that growing activity.

The exchange Highway 145 has with I-41/U.S. 45 and Good Hope Road is called the Granville Interchange, named after the Town of Granville, which was the last holdout from the City of Milwaukee’s aggressive annexation campaign in the 1950s. Although Milwaukee’s city boundaries have been unchanged since 1957, some residents of the former Town of Granville held out with their mailing address, tax filings and more until well into the 1960s. Through this area, Highway 145 stays a six-lane freeway for about four miles past the complex around Park Place, paralleling Fond du Lac Avenue (once State Highway 55 waaay back when). During that run, especially around 91st Street, you get a pretty cool view of Milwaukee’s downtown in the distance. The angle from the northwest makes for a good vantage point.

145sbby91st_800Highway 145 was upgraded in northwestern Milwaukee as a freeway in 1966. The original plan was for the freeway to extend (as U.S. 41) all the way downtown. It was stopped at Hampton Avenue, pending other construction projects, and has been blending into Fond du Lac Avenue ever since. Consequently, it’s more lightly traveled than other Milwaukee area freeways.

 

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Once over the 91st Street interchange, downtown Milwaukee shows up on the horizon. You’re headed straight toward it for the rest of the way.

Shortly after the 76th Street/Grantosa exit, Highway 145 merges back onto Fond du Lac Avenue, the same street it was back in Germantown. It remains a boulevard past the former site of Capitol Court, one of the first indoor shopping centers in Milwaukee – and for that matter, the country – to open up. Capitol Court dated back to 1956; changing demographics and shopping habits changed the development and today it’s an area called Midtown Center, a series of big-box stores with some “main street” designs for smaller retailers. This is a busy area of the city, and traffic can be heavy as you approach 51st Street and Highway 190 (Capitol Drive). Highway 145 continues southeast through denser neighborhoods. This is an area that has seen better times, as evidenced by the condition of some of the surrounding buildings. There are some great old architectural pieces along the way, though. Some were banks built in the late 1800s, others were grand old houses – some of which are still kept in great condition.

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Highway 145 as Fond du Lac Avenue is a boulevard for several miles, past Midtown Center and Highway 190 (Capitol Drive). It then goes through some of the city’s densest and oldest neighborhoods.

**PASTY ALERT**

This area features a lot of cellphone stores, wig shops and taverns where a random venture may be too much of an adventure, but a must-stop for fans of the Cornish delicacy known as a pasty need to check out Reynolds Pasty Shop (3525 W. Burleigh Street, 414-444-4490). Established in 1956 and still going strong, Reynolds packs in the beef, potatoes, carrots and spices in a delicate, flaky crust and does a brisk business with customers from all over the city. It’s primarily a carry-out business, perfect for road trips, and pasties are designed to eat with one hand – also perfect for road trips. There’s a small triangular block bounded by 36th Street, Burleigh Street and Fond du Lac Avenue (Highway 145), and Reynolds is clearly visible from Fond du Lac Avenue. You can park on the street or in the municipal lot in the triangle. A regular pasty costs $3.79 and they have a variety of side fixin’s, including gravy and cheese.

As you approach 20th Street/Highway 57 and North Avenue (one of the many five- and six-point intersections on this stretch), Fond du Lac Avenue widens again into a boulevard and downtown beckons. Barbecue and deli lovers, however, take note: you have two outstanding choices within blocks. First, a quick jog eastward (left) onto North Avenue to 17th Street will bring you to Jake’s Deli, a Milwaukee institution that is open for lunch only and draws fans of corned beef, pastrami and matzoh ball soup for hundreds of miles. Just a bit further down at the light with Walnut Street, you can duck eastward (left) briefly to Speed Queen BBQ (Walnut & 12th, 414-265-2900), which has some of the best pork, ribs, beef and turkey in the Midwest.

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Redone as part of the mammoth Marquette Interchange project finished in 2008, you can see some artistic touches as you go under I-43 on the way into downtown Milwaukee. The Pabst Brewery complex is visible to the right.

Those murals:
The murals along Highway 145 under I-43 tell quite a story. Here’s a story on it from WTMJ-TV (Channel 4) in Milwaukee that aired in February, 2016:

Continuing down Highway 145 you reach an interchange with I-43, which provides connections a-plenty. Downtown beckons straight ahead. Just past the interstate, the street becomes McKinley Boulevard and offers another terrific view of downtown Milwaukee. To the right is the old Pabst Brewery complex, which cranked of millions of barrels of beer annually until it was shuttered in 1996. The area is being redeveloped, with a complex of hotels, university space, restaurants, offices and condos. To the left is one of the MillerCoors/Leinenkugel breweries, which is easier to spot from I-43 but nonetheless is right there. Further east, the old Schlitz Brewery is just north of McKinley on 3rd Street, aka Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. Yes, if there was ever an epicenter for past and present breweries, this is it. Today, the Schlitz complex is a business park that includes the world headquarters of Manpower, Inc.

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A panorama of downtown greets you on Highway 145, which descends via McKinley Boulevard before turning south onto 6th Street. In the distance is the U.S. Bank Tower, a 42-story office building that has remained Milwaukee’s tallest since 1973. The white tower in the foreground is The Moderne, a 30-story condo and apartment building that adds a punch to the north end skyline and is the tallest building in Wisconsin west of the Milwaukee River.

Sports and Entertainment Venues Abound

Highway 145 turns south onto 6th Street, going past the BMO Harris Bradley Center, home to the NBA Milwaukee Bucks (for now, until the new arena opens in 2018), the American Hockey League Milwaukee Admirals, soccer with the Milwaukee Wave, and countless concerts and shows. On the next block south, the Milwaukee Theatre originally opened in 1909. The building had fallen into disrepair by the late 90s; a renovation completed in 2003 refurbished the facility and it now boasts a 4,100-seat theatre and, architecturally, a half-domed rotunda lobby ringed by three levels of walkways. Today it hosts a variety of shows. Next door to the Milwaukee Theatre along Kilbourn Avenue is the U.S. Cellular Arena, a 12,700-seat facility that opened in 1950 as the Milwaukee Arena. The original home for the Milwaukee Bucks when they started play in 1968, the Arena now hosts the UW-Milwaukee Panthers basketball team and various concerts and shows. It was also the site of the only Beatles concert in Wisconsin, when the Fab Four played the Arena on September 4, 1964.

On the next block east, Major Goolsby’s is one of the better known sports bars in the country, while on that same block (along Kilbourn Avenue, between 3rd & 4th Streets, 2-3 blocks east of Highway 145), Major League Baseball’s American League came into being in what was the Republican Hotel back in 1900. Today, the city’s major newspaper, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, operates here.

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Heading south on 6th Street, the final stretch of Highway 145. The skywalk ahead connects MATC (the Milwaukee Area Technical College) and parking facilities with the Bradley Center.

Highway 145 ends at Wells Street, which is also U.S. Highway 18. The Wisconsin Center, the city’s primary convention center, is to your left; Wells actually continues under it as a two-block long tunnel on its way to the lakefront. The Milwaukee Public Museum is one block to the right along Wells Street. The Museum contains an IMAX Theater and a series of permanent exhibits: natural history and the Streets of Old Milwaukee are prominently displayed, along with a popular butterfly exhibit.

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At Kilbourn Avenue, looking east from Highway 145 reveals the side of the Milwaukee Theatre, with the U.S. Cellular Arena behind it. Further down the street is the Hyatt Regency Milwaukee. Major Goolsby’s and the American League founding site are both across the street from the Hyatt.

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The impressive Milwaukee County Courthouse was completed in 1931 and holds most county offices – and a lot of lawyers.

JUUUST BEYOND THE END…

Although Highway 145 ends at Wells Street, you can continue south on 6th Street to the Harley-Davidson Museum. The epicenter of everything that rocks on two wheels, the museum opened in 2008 and showcases the past, present and future of motorcycles. Harley’s history is traced to its 1903 beginning, the restaurant Motor is a great place for lunch, dinner or evening beverages, and the gift shop has more Harley stuff than previously thought humanly possible.

The Harley-Davidson Museum is located in east end of the Menomonee Valley, which is bisected east-west by Canal Street. Following Canal Street west, away from the H-D Museum, brings you past a power plant and to Potawatomi Bingo Casino, one of the largest casinos in the Midwest and a mecca for Milwaukee gamblers.

One final recommendation, at the southern end of the 6th Street Viaduct, is the Iron Horse Hotel. Opened in 2008, the Iron Horse has rapidly become a popular boutique hotel in Milwaukee, catering to Harley riders, business people, and more recently actors and musicians…it’s become the hip place to stay, drink and eat, both in their bar and at their restaurant, Smyth. The Iron Horse is located 1/2 mile south of the Harley-Davidson Museum at a large roundabout just north of where Highway 38 begins; you can’t miss it!

The southern end of Highway 145 at U.S. 18 (Wells Street) is in close proximity of everything in downtown Milwaukee. Check it all out! We’re happy to help with suggestions, just contact us!

145sbend_800The end of the road for Highway 145, along 6th Street at Wells. To your left will be the Wisconsin Center; to the right, the Milwaukee Public Museum is just a block down. Behind you is the Milwaukee Theatre and the BMO Harris Bradley Center, the heart of the city’s entertainment district. Straight ahead less than a mile is the Harley-Davidson Museum. Less than a mile beyond that is the start of Highway 38, which will take you to Racine. There’s really no end to this stuff!

 

CONNECTIONS
North Terminus:
Can connect immediately to: I-41, U.S. 45
Can connect nearby to: Highway 60, about 3 miles north; Highway 167, about 1 mile south

South Terminus:
Can connect immediately to: U.S. 18, I-43, I-94
Can connect nearby to: Highway 32, about 1 mile east; Highway 38, about 1.5 miles south; Highway 57, about 2 miles northwest; Highway 59, about 2 miles south

Events on this Tour

  • Milwaukee Air & Water Show

    Jul 15, 2017

    Milwaukee Air & Water Show [caption id="attachment_2146" align="alignright" width="300"]20130803_122308 An "M" for Milwaukee at the Milwaukee Air & Water Show we snapped from Back Bay Park on Milwaukee's East Side.[/caption] The Milwaukee Air & Water Show, sponsored by Waterstone Bank, offers one of the top air shows in the Midwest along the city's gorgeous lakefront. The Navy Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Squadron will return and headline the show! The Blue Angels’ six demonstration pilots fly the F/A-18 Hornet at over 34 locations throughout the U.S. each year, where they still employ many of the same practices and techniques used in their aerial displays when formed in 1946. Other exciting acts to perform in Milwaukee’s skies this July include the U.S. Army Golden Knights Parachute Demonstration Team, Team Aerostars, Firebirds Xtreme, Lucas Oil Airshows and the A-4 Skyhawk. Water acts scheduled for this year’s Milwaukee Air & Water Show include Tony Demattero’s “Hustler 50 Raceboat” and Gene Greber's MTI Racing Team on the Wake Effects Champion Superboat. Gary Burtka will perform an exciting Jet Ski freestyle show, and the Water Show Ski Team will show off their skills. The Milwaukee Fireboat and a demonstration from the U.S. Coast Guard Rescue Helicopter will show the crowd their detailed skill when dealing with crisis on the water. In addition, Seven Marine outboard boats will take their talents to the western waters of Lake Michigan to show off power and speed. Milwaukee Air & Water Show, two planes You can watch from Bradford Beach and many other areas along Milwaukee's lakefront for free. Ticketed areas offer the closest proximity, the best views, hosted narration, the best access to concessions, and great seating. This is definitely a benchmark summer event in Milwaukee! U.S. 18, Highways 32, 36, 38, 57, 59, 145, 190 and more all bring to within eye (and definitely ear!) shot of the show. Address: 2272 N. Lincoln Memorial Drive Milwaukee, WI 53211 (414) 482-2069 Website
    Friday, July 14th Air Show Practice Food & Beverage Air Show Exhibits Air Show Box Office 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. 10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
       
     Saturday, July 15th Air Show Box Office Water Show Daily Air Show Navy Blue Angels            8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. 10:00 a.m. Noon – 4:00 p.m. 3:00 p.m.
       
     Sunday, July 16th Air Show Box Office Water Show Daily Air Show Navy Blue Angels   8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. 10:00 a.m. Noon – 4:00 p.m. 3:00 p.m.

Route 145 Facts

  • • HIghway 145 was originally to exist as a freeway all the way to downtown Milwaukee, as a combo of the Fond du Lac, Stadium North, and Park Freeways. After work was halted in 1972, the stretch beyond 68th & Hampton was cancelled in 1978.
  • • Fond du Lac Avenue, most of which is followed by Highway 145, was an original plank road leading northwest out of Milwaukee.
  • • Highway 145 leaped across the Milwaukee River on the Park East Freeway and ended along Broadway and Milwaukee Streets from 1972 to 2002; the Park East bridges were torn down in 2002 and Highway 145 was re-located south along 6th Street.

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