Quickie Summary: State “Trunk” Highway 190, a.k.a Capitol Drive, is a major east-west throughfare in the Milwaukee area. Starting as a charming little street leaving the charming village of Pewaukee, it rapidly becomes a six-lane highway going through the booming area of Brookfield. It cuts through the heart of Milwaukee’s north side, and some rough areas, before crossing I-43 and entering re-emerging neighborhoods like Riverworks and Riverwest. Upon crossing the Milwaukee River, you’re suddenly in the tony suburb of Shorewood, finally ending along a beautiful vista at Atwater Park overlooking Lake Michigan. Truly a transitional highway from start to finish.
The Wisconsin Highway 190 Road Trip
The Drive (West to East): Highway 190 is known as Capitol Drive for its entire length and was named in 1947 after U.S. 16 was re-routed south to enter Milwaukee on Blue Mound Road. It’s always been a major thoroughfare in the area and today is multi-lane for almost all of its length, expect for the western and eastermost mile. We begin at the westernmost mile… just before the technical start of Highway 190, along the waters of Pewaukee Lake.
This is the center of Pewaukee (pop. 13,195), which surrounds the eastern end of seven-mile long Pewaukee Lake. The main street fronting the lake was recently rebuilt with a series of storefronts that feature everything from a bike shop to a sub shop to an upscale piano bar. The beach bustles with swimmers and sunbathers all summer, and lake homes – both new and old – stretch along the north and south shores of the lake. The boating theme is appropriate; Pewaukee holds the world headquarters of Harken, Inc., a leading manufacturer of sailboat hardware and accessories.
Highway 190 heads east out of downtown Pewaukee and under Highway 16, which goes south to I-94 at GE Medical’s massive complex and west all the way to La Crosse and Minnesota. It used to continue east along Capitol, but now it’s 190’s turf and has been since 1947. The “new growth” area of Pewaukee is on either side for the next several miles, past chain restaurants, sprawling commercial and office complexes, the crossing of Highway 164 (which has moved around a bit over the last few years) and into some open territory for a few miles before suburbia hits again.
Just over the Fox River and some marshlands, open soccer fields are in view. This must mean it’s Brookfield (pop. 40,000 and climbing). This is a booming money town; it’s equalized value is third-highest in Wisconsin, behind only Madison and Milwaukee. Yet, it has its history and notable figures, too: Caroline Ingalls, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s mother (remember “Little House on the Prairie”?) was born in Brookfield back in 1839; Al Capone had a hideout in Brookfield in the 1920s; even Oprah’s mom lives here now. This city sports three NFL players (Joe Panos, Joe Thomas and Matt Katula) and Olympic medalist Kip Carpenter – and strip malls… lots and lots of them. Capitol Drive is less strip-mally than its neighbor to the south, Blue Mound Road (U.S. 18), and the new developments here take on a nicer look, as evidenced by the Shops of Brookfield at the intersection with Brookfield Road.
Microbrewery Alert. Just south of Highway 190/Capitol Drive, a little under a mile via Brookfield Road, is the “old” downtown Brookfield. They’re working on having it come back, with small shops and restaurants popping up. You’ll also find the Biloba Brewing Company on Pleasant Street just off Brookfield Road, which opened in 2014. With beers like Smokin’ Gramma and Dark Side of the Brew, microbeer lovers will want to make a stop.
Along this section through Brookfield, Highway 190/Capitol Drive is a wide boulevard with a speed limit of 50; many mis-read it as 65 or 70. On a high hill at the light with Calhoun Road, you can see the flashing radio towers close to Lake Michigan and, if trees aren’t blocking your view, a glimpse of downtown Milwaukee to the southeast – about 12 miles away as the crow flies. Under the underpass with Pilgrim Road and past Lilly, commercial structures line your way until you approach 124th Street.
At 124th Street, you enter Milwaukee County and the city of Wauwatosa (pop. 44,798). First settled in 1835 and originally called Hart’s Mills, Wauwatosa was renamed in the 1850s; the name is Potawatomi for “firefly” (or maybe “glow worm” or “lightning bug”, since the term for those flying flashlights varies.) Just east of 124th Street, a massive Harley-Davidson plant is to the north, where they make a large percentage of the engines and other major pieces of our favorite hogs. Milwaukee’s western “bypass”, the Zoo Freeway (U.S. 45), crosses over Highway 190 at this point. Wauwatosa is somewhat of an “edge city”, with the Mayfair shopping complex just south along Highway 100. To the south before Highway 100 is Currie Park, where one of the world’s first airliners took its maiden flight in 1919. Today, the only man-made things flying around Currie Park are golf balls, since it has a nice course. There’s also a dome that can be used for practice during bad weather – which is often five months of the year.
The border zigzags around here, but around Grantosa Drive is the city limits of Milwaukee (pop. 596,000), Wisconsin’s largest city, the 28th largest city in the United States and home to so many things a special section on the State Trunk Tour site tells you about it all. Milwaukee holds the World Headquarters of companies like Northwestern Mutual, Harley-Davidson, Rockwell Automation, A.O. Smith, M&I Bank, Manpower, and more; it even holds the Office of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball. Highway 190/Capitol Drive is the main east-west route through the city’s north side, an area that only skims the surface of everything Milwaukee has to offer.
Easily accessible from Capitol Drive, the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Completed in 1961, it was one of Wright’s last works and is on the National Register of Historic Places. To reach it, follow Grantosa Drive north to Congress. The Church is at 9400 W. Congress.
The area Capitol Drive goes through between Appleton Ave (U.S. 41) to 20th Street isn’t the most scenic in the world. There are, however, some good eats in the area. One Milwaukee landmark, popular with all for generations, is Kitt’s Frozen Custard at 70th Street (414-461-1400).
Kitt’s opened in its present form in 1950 and has stayed authentic ever since; thankfully, they haven’t changed much. Kitt’s features burgers and malts, grilled cheese sandwiches, fries and rings, and of course, frozen custard. Sure, some worry that the neighborhood isn’t entirely safe, but the only altercation of note at Kitt’s was when Milwaukee’s Deputy Police Chief Monica Ray got into a scuffle with an employee in the early 2000s. Kitt’s is open all year ’round, so warm up or cool down whenever you wish. Further east, Capitol Drive intersects with Highway 145 (Fond du Lac Avenue), where Midtown Center is a rebuilt shopping complex to your south. Capitol Court Mall was built there in 1955 and was torn down in the early 2000’s to make way for a newer type of commercial development that has done quite well in its place. There’s not much for travelers and sightseers, but plenty for locals in need of items. Further east, tree-lined neighborhoods begin to take over. Crossing Sherman Boulevard and meeting up with Roosevelt, this is where the nicer area of the traditional North Side has been. Duck under the railroad tracks, though, and a huge open area is to your south; this is where A.O. Smith’s original factory was located and a manufacturing complex that has cranked out everything from auto parts to water heaters in one form or another for over 100 years. Now in redevelopment phase, the “30th Street Industrial Corridor” is being viewed as the next generation in manufacturing for Milwaukee, and it’ll be interesting to see what transpires.
Back on the other side, there’s potential traffic clogging at intersections with Teutonia Avenue, Atkinson Avenue and 27th Street, but good eats lie nearby: Soul food fans love Mr. Perkins’ Family Restaurant (read a review here), which is at 20th and Atkinson, visible from Capitol Drive. Overflowing plates of greens, smothered and fried chicken, catfish, black-eyed peas, cornbread, pie and a variety of breakfast items have delighted patrons since 1969 at this family-owned joint. They have variety: pigs’ feet and chitterlings are on the menu, but so are salmon croquettes. At 20th Street, Highway 57 joins Capitol for about one mile. At this point, the houses on either side of the boulevard are beautiful, well-kept examples of Milwaukee bungalows. The neighborhood dates back to the 1920s and was the traditional “dividing line” for Milwaukee’s older, poorer neighborhoods (to the south) and the new, post-World War II growth (to the north.)
Highway 57 heads north along Green Bay Road and Highway 190 crosses I-43 before ducking under Port Washington Road and entering an area known as “Riverworks”. An industrial corridor for literally centuries now, you’re just south of the World Headquarters for Koss Headphones (just up Port Road) and north of a series of old factories, some of which are being retrofitted for new uses. Some are new manufacturing, some are becoming art galleries. Redevelopment has been going on all over this area before reaching Estabrook Park.
At the park, you’ll see three tall communications towers (the ones visible from Brookfield earlier) that host most of the Milwaukee area’s radio and TV station antennas. The fact that they’re on Milwaukee’s East Side is one reason why the broadcast outlets here can often be heard across the lake in Michigan; it’s a straight shot. At Estabrook Park, Highway 190/Capitol Drive crosses the Milwaukee River and ducks under a former railroad line that now hosts a recreational trail, so don’t be surprised to see a railroad bridge with bicyclists and roller bladers visible on it.
|State Trunk Tour Tidbit:|
|The WITI-TV Tower (the grey metal one) along Highway 190 in Estabrook Park is 1,078 feet tall. When it was completed in 1962, it was the tallest free-standing tower in the world. It stands about 450 feet taller than Milwaukee’s tallest building, the U.S. Bank Tower.|
Past the bridge, you enter Shorewood (pop. 13,763), a charming suburb that was once known as “East Milwaukee.” Shorewood is where former U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist grew up; it’s also where the movie Airplane! was made possible, since directors Jerry Zucker, David Zucker and Jim Abrahams also grew up here. So it’s high court or high comedy: choose your favorite.
Shorewood is a coffee shop-laden village where many residents walk to get what they need. Like Brookfield is the modern-day suburb, Shorewood is the more traditional American suburb. Great shopping is available along Oakland Avenue, starting north from Capitol Drive; continuing east, you return to the small two-lane street style that Highway 190 began with back in Pewaukee. It ends with Lake Michigan in full view at the intersection with Lake Drive (Highway 32); a turn in either direction is filled with tree-lined neighborhoods with beautiful homes. Milwaukee is to your south; other “North Shore” suburbs are to the north. Or, you could get out of your vehicle, walk east and enjoy the beach along Atwater Park. Not bad!
Events on this Tour
[caption id="attachment_2146" align="alignright" width="300"] 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. 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.