“From the Grass Under The Roof to the Grass On Top of the Roof”
Quickie Summary: State “Trunk” Highway 57 takes on a lot of identities as it connects Milwaukee, Green Bay and Door County. Originally slated to the be interstate highway that I-43 eventually became, 57 begins in Milwaukee at the Mitchell Park Domes (where plants grow under conical glass roofs) and ends in Door County’s Sister Bay by Al Johnson’s restaurant, where goats graze on the grass-covered roof. Along the way is Milwaukee’s North Shore, access to some of Sheboygan County’s best golfing, shops and sights in numerous towns between Plymouth and Green Bay, and of course the Door County’s north peninsula, where Highway 57 runs the Lake Michigan (read: quieter) side.
State Trunk Tour: Highway 57 Road Trip
The Drive (South to North): Highway 57 begins as 27th Street in the City of Milwaukee (pop. 602,000), at a junction with Highway 59/National Avenue. Historically, this is U.S. 41. From 1926 until about 1962, U.S. 41 continued north; when they opened the Stadium Freeway a little over one mile to the west, U.S. 41 would cut west via National to join the new freeway. That ended in 1999. So now, it’s just the start of Highway 57. Here, you’re about 2 1/2 miles from downtown, on what’s known as the near South Side. Miller Park is only about 1 1/2 miles to the west. This is a busy area!
A few blocks north is the first tourist attraction, the Mitchell Park Domes & Horticultural Conservatory. Are the three domes like beehives or a huge bra factory? It depends on who you ask, but either way, the 85-foot high domes each host their own climate and consequently, their own species of plants. There’s a Tropical Dome, featuring banana and cacao trees and fruit-bearing plants from papaya to avocado and guava. Colorful tropical birds glide happily between the plants, so for winter-weary Milwaukeeans, this can be like a mini tropical vacation – minus the beach or hurricanes. An Arid Dome offers up a variety of desert plants, including a series of cacti.
Plants include American and African varieties along with a series of flora and plants from Madagascar, the section of which was dedicated in 1984 by the Ambassador from Madagascar himself. Finally, a Show Dome features seasonal shows (depending, of course, on the season) and an annual holiday exhibit in December, complete with a “garden railroad” display that’s one of the largest in the Midwest.
Mitchell Park was one of the original Milwaukee County parks, was the home of original European settler Jacques Vieau (whose son-in-law Solomon Juneau would go on to be the official “founder” of the City of Milwaukee), and overlooks the Menomonee Valley, which runs about 3 miles and features abrupt hills on the north and south sides. It’s like Milwaukee’s little answer to the Grand Canyon. The Menomonee River runs through the valley, once a land of wild rice and marshes before 19th century development turned it into a series of stockyards, rail yards, tanneries and the like. Today, the Valley still hosts some heavy industry but is undergoing dramatic changes. It still serves as an imposing geographic divide, however, between the north and south sides of Milwaukee, so much that Highway 57 as 27th Street leapfrogs the Valley on a viaduct completed in 1910. The view from the 27th Street Viaduct has changed dramatically over the decades, and today Miller Park dominates the westward view and Milwaukee’s downtown skyline – as well as several other viaducts – dominate to the east. The bustling Potawatomi Hotel & Casino, with its 20-story hotel completed in 2013 and expanded further in 2018, is right down in the valley and is one of the largest casinos in the Midwest.
At the north end of the viaduct, I-94 is accessible via St. Paul Avenue (just follow the signs) for accessing downtown, the ballpark, the Valley, or other nearby neighborhoods. Highway 57, meanwhile, continues north into Milwaukee’s north side, first as 27th Street, then jogging east on Highland Avenue (U.S. 18) for one-half mile before heading north again on 20th Street. At Lloyd Street, an interesting piece of baseball history lies to the east a few blocks, for professional baseball was once played at the Lloyd Street Grounds, where the Milwaukee Brewers once played – at least an earlier incarnation of them. Further north, Highway 57 crosses Fond du Lac Avenue (Highway 145) and goes through the heart of Milwaukee neighborhoods, some of which have seen better days – in some cases, those better days were pre-1900. Frankly, this is an area that should be traversed during the day only.
There are, however, some good eats in the area. First, a quick jog eastward (right) onto North Avenue to 17th Street – only 3-4 blocks – 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. At the light with Walnut Street, you can duck eastward (right) briefly to Speed Queen BBQ (Walnut & 12th, 414-265-2900), which has some of the best pork, ribs, beef and turkey in the Midwest. Further north, soul food fans love Mr. Perkins’ Family Restaurant (read a review here), which is at 20th and Atkinson, just north of where Highway 57 turns east onto Capitol. 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.
Upon reaching Capitol Drive (Highway 190), Highway 57 jogs east along this major thoroughfare, and 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 old neighborhoods to the south and the new, post-World War II growth to the north.
Just before I-43 past 11th Street, Highway 57 turns north to follow Green Bay Road, an old post road and military trail that today is a major thoroughfare north of Capitol. Past some industrial areas to Hampton, lovely parkland begins to show itself as Lincoln Park lines Green Bay Road to the east. The Milwaukee River begins to parallel Highway 57 here, although most of the time not closely enough to be seen.
*** Brewery Alert ***
Just east of Highway 57/Green Bay Road here via Glendale Avenue you’ll find the Sprecher Brewing Company. Originally founded in 1985 in Milwaukee, it was the first microbrewery licensed in Wisconsin since the repeal of Prohibition. Sprecher features 6 year-round brews and 14 seasonal and limited release beers, including a market-leading line of gluten-free selections. They also make seven varieties of popular sodas, including a terrific root beer and a cream soda. Best of all, they offer tours! Times vary and tours cost anywhere from $1 to $3, depending on your age – which also determines which free samples you get.
Leaping over an interchange with Silver Spring Drive, you enter the burb of Glendale (pop. 13,367). Along this stretch, many of Glendale’s major employers have offices, including Johnson Controls‘ headquarters. This part of the Milwaukee suburbs are referred to as the “North Shore”… well-to-do areas of Glendale, River Hills and into Brown Deer, where it leapfrogs Highway 100/Brown Deer Road.
Brown Deer (pop. 12,000), which incorporated in 1955 from the Town of Granville. CNNMoney ranked Brown Deer 19th nationally on its rankings of “Best Places to Live – Where Homes Are Affordable” in August, 2013. Brown Deer holds the World Headquarters of Badger Meter, an international powerhouse in the world of metering and measuring water, which lies right along Highway 100. Its golf course in Brown Deer Park, just to the south, was once regular PGA stop. Brown Deer was originally settled in 1832, when the post office was called Ten Mile – meaning ten miles north of downtown Milwaukee. The origin of how it changed to Brown Deer is open to speculation – including one story that a deer jumped through a saloon door and broke up a card game in progress (no word on whether that deer ended up mounted on the saloon’s wall.)
|State Trunk Tour Tidbit:|
|There’s this professional golfer named Tiger Woods… ever heard of him? He played his first golf tournament as a pro in Brown Deer Park at the then-Greater Milwaukee Open in 1997.|
Brown Deer sprouted up near the Milwaukee River and early railroad lines – which are all still there save one rail line, now part of the right-of-way for the Brown Deer Recreational Trail, a paved bike and walking trail that connects to other major trails in the area, like the Oak Leaf in Milwaukee County and the Interurban in Ozaukee County. This trail follows the path of an old interurban train, which once shuttled passengers between Milwaukee and Sheboygan.
Just off the modern-day intersection with Highway 57/Green Bay Road lies the original village of Brown Deer. Today’s Brown Deer and Green Bay Roads have been relocated for modern-day traffic; their original intersection (now called Deerwood & River) marks the village’s main crossroads, where you’ll find a few original buildings and some more recent ones, such as Zi’s Sports Bar & Eatery – renamed in 2015 after being called Prime Time for decades – which appeared on TV on a (very) short-lived ABC series called A Whole New Ballgame, which featured Corbin Bernsen, Julia Campbell, Tom Kind and John O’Hurley (later of Seinfeld and Dancing With The Stars fame) and set in Milwaukee. The show lasted for like six weeks back in 1995.
One centerpiece of the village from 1884 until 1972 was the Brown Deer School, which on the National Register of Historic Places and now sits just north of Highway 100 in Brown Deer Village Park. It’s that charming “old-school” school – now called the 1884 Little White Schoolhouse – that you can explore as a visitor. Kids can even come in and learn for a day, 19th century style complete with writing on slates.
A sizeable commercial corridor marks the north end of Brown Deer before the road become a two-lane again into Ozaukee County and the City of Mequon (pop. 23,820). Consistently rated as one of the “Best Places to Live in the United States” by Money Magazine (and there’s a lot of money in Mequon), the city has a lot of high-end homes, some plotted on acre-plus lots and others amidst forested neighborhoods. Highway 57 as Green Bay Road forges through woodsy areas with a speed limit of 35. Fans of volleyball, beverages and Animal House would find a good diversion by taking Donges Bay Road west 1/2 mile to Libby Montana, a bar/restaurant/sports complex along a former railroad that now serves as the Interurban Recreational Trail. Owned by actor Mark Metcalf, who played both Douglas C. Neidermeyer in Animal House and the “Maestro” on Seinfeld, he owns Libby Montana with his ex-wife, Libby. Clever, no?
ALTERNATE ROUTE ALERT. Highway 57 was re-routed in the early ’90s to turn east with Highway 167/Mequon Rd.) to then follow I-43 north to Saukville near Port Washington. While this can save significant time and you can follow the current map, the best way to see Ozaukee County communities is to follow 57’s original route, as described below. The old and new 57 routes meet up again just before Port Washington.
Following “Historic Highway 57”
From Highway 167/Mequon Road, go historic and continue north into the little village of Thiensville (pop. 3,254), known locally by some as the “worthwhile square mile.” Mequon is Wisconsin’s fourth largest city by area, while Thiensville is 1/46th of Mequon’s size. Nestled right along the Milwaukee River, Thiensville features the charming and compact layout of a small Midwestern village, while Mequon is a more spread-out version of a nice suburb. Highway 57’s original route as Green Bay Road goes into the heart of Thiensville.
Following Highway 57’s traditional route past Thiensville, continue onto Main Street, which becomes Cedarburg Road. This brings you right into the ever-popular Cedarburg (pop. 10,908), a place chock-full of history. Highway 57’s old route brings you to the lovely limestone and Cream City brick buildings holding a bevy of shops, small restaurants, and unique places to see.
For example, there is the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts & Fiber Arts in Cedarburg. Yes, fiber arts. It’s the first time I’ve heard of it, too.
*** Winery Alert ***
Another popular stop is the Cedar Creek Winery, a well-noted regional winery located in a restored 1860s woolen mill, where at one point they literally made white socks for the Chicago White Sox. It’s been a winery in one form or another since 1972, using the underground limestone cellars to ferment and age their over 15 varieties of wine. Tours are available at select times.
*** Brewery Alert ***
If you’re more of a beer person, check out Silver Creek Brewing (N57 W6172 Portland Rd., 262-375-4444), in a former grist mill built in 1855. Next door is a charming old Wadham’s gas station, part of a bygone era of stations known for the red pagoda roofs. It’s right off Historic Highway 57 on Portland.
Cedar Creek flows through Cedarburg on its way to join the Milwaukee River and provided significant water power for the mills that helped Cedarburg grow in the 19th century. Some of these mills – in fact 5 of them – dating back to 1864 host 30 shops and galleries between them in an area known as Cedar Creek Settlement, a great starting or finishing point for an excursion through Cedarburg. A number of good stores line Historic Highway 57, too, including the Screamin’ Tuna Surf Shop, Cedarburg Homebrew & Wine, Creekside Books (home of the Walter the Farting Dog book series) and more.
Grafton – a Blues capital??
To continue on this Historic Highway 57 part of the State Trunk Tour, follow County V as Wisconsin Avenue out of Cedarburg and into its neighbor, Grafton (pop.11,380). Originally called “Hamburg” prior to its 1846 charter, Grafton flipped its name to “Manchester” from 1857 to 1862 before changing back. So far, it’s stayed “Grafton” ever since. Originally a lumber town, Grafton has hosted a series of industries ever since, including the famous Paramount Records from 1917 to 1932. It was right here where 78 rpm records were pressed and distributed to the nation, allowing artists such as Lawrence Welk, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Tom Dorsey and Louis Armstrong to inspire future music generations and lay the seeds for the R&B and Rock ‘N Roll Eras. Between 1929 and 1932 alone, over 1,600 songs were recorded in Grafton at a make-shift studio that was formerly a chair factory; the output accounted for about 1/4 of the so-called “race records” of the era.
Historic Highway 57 (still as County V) goes right through Grafton’s downtown, much of which also abuts the Milwaukee River. After crossing the river along Highway 60, you can re-join Highway 57’s current route via 60 to the east or V to the northeast to I-43 northbound. At the junction with I-43 and V, you also have the option of following Highway 32 northeast into Port Washington. Highway 57 itself bypasses the Ozaukee County seat, following I-43 north to the west of the city (32 and 57 hook up again before too long.)
So that’s the end of the Historic Highway 57 segment in Ozaukee County, now we’re back on the regular mainline!
For a few miles, Highway 57 heads along I-43, over an interchange with Highway 33 and then splits away from the Interstate to head straight north as a four-line highway all its own. This alignment was originally going to be “Interstate 57”, a straight-shot I-route from Milwaukee to Green Bay. Had it gone through, the I-57 that terminates on the south side of Chicago would have continued through to Milwaukee and followed this section all the way to Green Bay. That meant I-43 would not have been built, isolating Sheboygan and Manitowoc and possibly bringing heavier development to the cities we’ll be going through. But as you’ll see, some areas are getting development anyway.
As I-43 heads east to follow the Lake Michigan shore, Highway 57’s four-lane, 55 mph northward push takes it past several small towns, including Fredonia (pop.1,934), which means “free gifts” or “the land where things are done freely.” Hmmmm… that’s worth checking out….
Wisconsin and Flag Day
Neighboring Waubeka, in the Town of Fredonia, stakes claim as the birthplace of Flag Day. Waubeka is an unincorporated town about one mile west of Highway 57 along the Milwaukee River. The first recognized formal Flag Day observance took place at Stony Hill School (follow County H to County I to find it) in 1885. It was held by Dr. Bernard J. Cigrand, a grade school teacher in town. He eventually made his way to Chicago, became dean of the University of Illinois-Chicago, and persuaded President Woodrow Wilson in 1916 to officially proclaim June 14th as Flag Day in the United States. Stony Hill School has been restored and the area is home to the National Flag Day Foundation.
|State Trunk Tour Tidbit:|
|Waubeka, in the Town of Fredonia just west of Highway 57, is where the first official Flag Day celebration was held in 1885. It was proclaimed an official national holiday in 1916. Today, all 27 star configurations of the U.S. flag are on display at the National Flag Day Foundation Americanism Center.|
Just north of Fredonia at Jay Road, check out Cedar Valley Cheese (W3115 Jay Road, 920-994-9500), which carries over 300 varieties of Wisconsin cheese. Their speciality is the string cheese, along with the mozzarella and provolone they make in the adjacent Cedar Valley Cheese Factory. Further north into Sheboygan County, Highway 57 intersects with Highway 144 and grazes the edge of Random Lake (pop. 1,551). The lake – which is apparently not very specific – is 209 acres and the village claims it’s the second largest lake in Sheboygan County. The village’s website claims no “fast food”, stoplights, parking meters, billboards or strip malls. With Highway 57 coming through as a 4-lane expressway here, that could change by the time you read this.
Next up is the tiny village of Adell (pop. 517), birthplace of American cabaret singer Hildegarde. She was born here in 1906 and raised up Highway 57 in New Holstein, which will be coming up later. Eleanor Roosevelt proclaimed her the “First Lady of Supper Clubs”; the Gershwin song “My Cousin from Milwaukee” is about her; she was a founding member of AFTRA, SAG, and Actor’s Equity; Revlon even named a shade of lipstick and nail polish after her. She hung out a lot with close friends Katherine Hepburn, Greta Garbo, and West Allis native Liberace and lasted a long time in show business… her autobiography was called Over 50 … So What! She lived to age 99, so she was over fifty for almost half a century.
So we know where Hildegarde is from… so where’s Waldo? It’s next up on Highway 57 during a brief junction with Highway 28. Waldo (pop. 450) doesn’t last long… one intersection and a hop over the Onion River and that’s it. The ride is quick on this stretch as you approach the Mullet River, which is just kind of funny, period.
The next place Highway 57 grazes without entering is the City of Plymouth (pop. 7,781), accessible via County C or Highway 23, which is essentially here a 4-lane expressway going east-west across Sheboygan County. Look for the 23/57 intersection to become heavily built-up in the coming years, by the way. Plymouth is almost ridiculously charming, as is nearby Sheboygan Falls.
Site of Wisconsin’s first Cheese Exchange, Plymouth originally served as a stagecoach stop and transportation has played a big part in its history ever since. Nowadays, racing fans can enjoy dirt track racing in Fair Park in Plymouth throughout the summer (we’ll get to Road America in a minute.) If you prefer the arts, the Plymouth Arts Center on Mill Street downtown features an eclectic mix of exhibits. This is also a city where they drop a cheese at midnight as opposed to a ball, like in Times Square in New York.
A big cow in Wisconsin? You’re kidding! Nope. Plymouth features Antoinette, a large Holstein cow, as a local landmark to salute the area’s dairy industry. Erected in 1977 (perhaps while disco music played in the background), Antoinette stands 20 feet high and weighs 1,000 pounds. Can you imagine how much milk she’d give if she was real?
At the north end of Plymouth, you cross Highway 23, which offers access to nearby destinations, including Sheboygan Falls, Sheboygan and the Wade House. The Wade House was built in the 1850’s by settler Sylvanus Wade (it was decided “Wade House” was easier than “Sylvanus’ House”) that served as a stagecoach inn for quite a while. Included on the Wade House grounds is one of the nation’s best collections of carriages and Civil War Reenactments.
Past Plymouth, Highway 57 heads straight through the “great wide open”, bending northwest slightly as Highway 32 joins in just inside the Manitowoc County line. Two crossings of the Sheboygan River and a few miles send you to a junction with Highway 67 and Kiel.
Kiel (pop. 3,450) bills itself as the “little city that does big things.” What are those big things? I’m working to find out. Situated halfway between Lake Michigan and Lake Winnebago, Kiel sits on the Sheboygan River and dams it in the downtown area, about where Highway 57/32 crosses it for the third time. This is where I stumbled across a brat fry – which, of course, requires stopping and imbibing. On the other side of Kiel, 57/32 heads northwest again, into Calumet County (technically, you’re now in the Appleton-Oshkosh metro area – even though Highway 57 doesn’t go near either city.)
Just a few miles later, along the Canadian Pacific railroad tracks is New Holstein (pop. 3,301). Where is the “Old” Holstein? We have an answer: the Holstein region in Germany, which is where many of the town’s founders came from. Remember our discussion of Hildegarde back from Adell? New Holstein is where she was raised, before hitting the big time. New Holstein also “sired” Edward Schildhauer, who was the chief engineer on a little digging project (the Panama Canal) and three NFL players (Ken Criter of the Broncos and Bob Schmitz of the Steelers and… grumble grumble… Vikings.)
So is the glass half empty of half full? At Optimist Park, you should know the answer. It all began in 1974 – not a majorly optimistic time – on land purchased partially to prevent encroachment of the adjacent wastewater treatment facility. Sound good so far? In 1995, they moved to Sled Hill Park with, as the city website notes, a “small warming shack and a homemade Optimist Sign.”
Optimism can pay off, however: today, Optimist Park has a Chalet Building, a real sign, park benches, memorial trees and a landscaped terrace. The sledding hill remains and is very popular.
The Timm House is a local landmark that served as the home of one of the city’s founders. Built in the Greek Revival style in 1873, it was expanded in 1891 and was donated by Timm’s ancestors to the local historic society in 1974. See the story to the right, and you’ll have a new appreciation for the $1.2 million restoration that was just completed several years back.
|State Trunk Tour Sidebar: The Timm House Story:|
|Check out what the heck happened with this historic city landmark:
“The house had a major roof leak that forced an end to the house tours in 1998. An architectural assessment was performed on the house, and the cost to reconstruct the house was estimated between $116,020 and $126,220. Before the roof was repaired, there was a broken pipe in the dining room. The break happened in January 1999. It dumped 500,000 gallons of water through the first floor and into the basement. The rising basement waters extinguished the furnace, causing the water in the pipes and the radiators to freeze, then burst. City water meters knew there was a problem somewhere in the city, but no one could find the source of the leak. A volunteer at the house discovered the leak. The volunteer arranged for a heating repairman to stop the flooding. When the repairman left, he slamming the door closed. The door frame was so swollen that the volunteer was stuck inside. She had to go upstairs and call for help through a front window.”
Next up in this string of cool little Wisconsin cities is Chilton (pop. 3,708), Calumet’s county seat. Chilton features several things to check out, including the Ledge View Nature Center, which can take you through a butterfly garden, high up on a 60-foot observation tower or way down in a series of caves featuring crawl passages, fossils and places called the Bat Room and Wayne’s World. In Mother’s Cave, it’s all crawling. One area called “the Squeeze” recognizes the size of Wisconsinites; you have to fit through a box simulation of the Squeeze before you’re allowed into the cave. Its position on the Niagara dolostone reveals more fossils (coral reefs used to exist there), and they tap the area for maple syrup in the spring months. You can also rent snowshoes and cross-country skis, but it’s best to try doing that in the wintertime. Ledge View is accessible off Highway 57 by taking Irish Road (just before entering Chilton) south to Short Road.
*** Brewery Alert ***
Like an increasing number of Wisconsin communities, Chilton has a local brewpub. Rowland’s Calumet Brewery (25 N. Madison Street, via U.S. 151) features 17 different beers, including interesting names like “Bitter Bitch Belgium Ale”, “Fat Man’s Nut Brown Ale” and a “Total Eclipse”, a monstrously malty opaque beer. Varieties of the beer are also available in liquor stores and restaurants in locations around Chilton and out to places like Manitowoc, Elkhart Lake, Plymouth and Appleton. Rowland’s is along U.S. Highway 151, which runs through Chilton and joins Highway 57 & 32 for a brief spell.
Northward from Chilton and over the interestingly-named Killsnake River (there must be a story in there somewhere), Highway 57 opens up a bit and becomes quite the straightaway for a while, perfect for traversing quickly. It’s also perfect for county sheriffs. One speed zone is in Hilbert (pop. 1,089), birthplace of jazz musician Bunny Berigan in 1908, the last year the Chicago Cubs celebrated a championship (couldn’t resist). Fox Lake (along Highway 33) also claims Berigan and their hometown son, since he grew up there for more of his life before hitting New York and the big time. Berigan’s marker is in Fox Lake, but Hilbert is where he first left any marks at all. In Hilbert, Highway 114 provides access to High Cliff State Park, a beautiful vista high atop Lake Winnebago, which only lies about 7 miles west of this point. A little further up is Forest Junction, whose “junction” claim started with two major railroads intersecting; now Highways 57 & 32 cross U.S. 10 here, making it an increasingly popular bedroom community for people working in Appleton and Green Bay. After all, their slogan is “You CAN get there from here.”
What you get to just past Forest Junction is Brown County and another junction (a relatively new roundabout, actually), this time with Highway 96 in Greenleaf. A rail trail parallels Highway 57 in Greenlead, and the Trail’s End Restaurant hints that you just might be at the end of that trail. Highway 96 accesses Denmark and I-43 to the east and Wrightstown and Appleton to the west. We’re heading north toward the heart and soul of Packer Country.
Civilization emerges in the form of DePere (pop. 22,310), a suburb of Green Bay. It’s pronounced “d’peer”, which a lot of Sconnies also say they fish off of. Split by the Fox River, the name DePere is French (no doy), coming from the term “Les Rapids des Peres”, the “Rapids of the Fathers”. A mission was established here waaaay back in 1671 by French Jesuit priests, led by Father Claude Allouez, whose name adorns the bridge that Highway 32 uses to split from Highway 57 and enter downtown DePere before heading into Green Bay west of the Fox River.
St. Norbert College lies on the west bank of the Fox River. St. Norbert started in 1898 with a single student; today it has over 2,000 and continuously ranks among the best comprehensive colleges in the Midwest, and this author can tell you their alums are loyal. I’ve run into them watching Packer games at Leff’s Lucky Town in Wauwatosa, and instead of Packer gear, many wear St. Norbert College gear – the “Green Knights'” colors are a variation of green and gold, after all, and the Packers have been conducting training camp here since 1958 – the year before Vince Lombardi showed up.
|State Trunk Tour Tidbit:|
|The training camp relationship between St. Norbert College and the Green Bay Packers is the longest between a team and a school in the NFL, dating back to 1958.|
Meanwhile, Highway 57 takes the name “Broadway” and goes through neighborhoods in the village of Allouez (pop. 15,470). This is where Vince Lombardi lived when he coached the Packers and where political commentator Paul Gigot graduated from high school. Along this stretch, the Fox River parallels Broadway just to the west.
From Allouez, Highway 57 enters Green Bay (pop. 104,717 and a.k.a. “Titletown U.S.A.”) Green Bay is Wisconsin’s oldest city and – not sure if you heard about this or not – are the smallest city to host a National Football League team. They’re called the “Packers” and…what, you’ve already heard about them? Okay.
Green Bay is also the headquarters of ShopKo Stores and Schneider National (admit it, you know the commercials and you’ve seen the “big orange trucks”). Famous people from Green Bay include Tony Shalhoub of Monk fame, ESPN SportsCenter anchor John Anderson, comedian and Mystery Science Theater 3000 creator Joel Hodgson, Pat MacDonald of the group Timbuk 3 – you know, “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades”? – that group. Naturally, Green Bay is home to tons of atheletes too, among them NFL stars Curly Lambeau, Jerry Tagge, Ted Fritsch Jr., Arnie Herber and Aaron Stecker, as well as baseball pitcher Bob Wickman.
Just past the interchange with Highway 172, Green Bay’s southern freeway bypass, you’ll find the lovely Heritage Hill State Historical Park. Still technically located in Allouez, this 48-acre outdoor museum lives up to its name. Over 30 historic structures and endangered buildings are perched on a hill overlooking the Fox River in an area that once served as a prison farm. Log cabins from the fur trade era, original stores and public buildings, even buildings from the original Fort Howard are all located here and available for exploration. Populating the grounds in summer are live historic interpreters – many in period attire – to help illustrate what these buildings are all about. More and more fun events take place throughout the year here, too.
Highway 57 runs along the east side of the Fox River; paralleling on the west bank is Ashland Avenue (Highway 32). For train enthusiasts, the National Railroad Museum (2285 S. Broadway), features over 70 locomotives and train cars, including the world’s largest steam locomotive, known as “Big Boy.” So that’s west of the river.
For Lambeau Field seekers on this route, the “frozen tundra” lies about 2 miles west of Highway 57; you can access it via the Highway 172 freeway and Oneida Avenue or Highway 32/Ashland Avenue north (one exit gives you both options), or taking 172 to I-41 north to Exit 167 (ahem… Lombardi Avenue), or just by following Highway 32 from back in DePere in the first time and cutting over on Lombardi. Trust me, you WILL be able to find Lambeau… guide signs are everywhere and the stadium is hard to miss.
Running through nice neighborhoods on the east side of Green Bay as Monroe Avenue Highway 57 ducks under Mason Street and suddenly, Highway 54 joins you for the ride into downtown Green Bay.
** Triple Brewery and One Distillery Alert! **
Green Bay calls itself “Titletown”, so when some guys decided to start up a brewery there, it only made sense to call it the Titletown Brewing Company. Coincidentally – or perhaps not – Titletown Brewing started in December of 1996, right before the Packers’ first Super Bowl victory in nearly three decades. Located downtown on Dousman Street/U.S. 141 just west of downtown and the Fox River, Titletown occupies a classic old railroad station built in 1899. Titletown brews Packer-backer beverages such as the Johnny “Blood” Red and Canadeo Gold as well as a great root beer called Sno-Cap, which uses Clyde the Penguin as its mascot. Trains, football, beer, food… definitely a good stop on the State Trunk Tour. Meanwhile, across the street Hinterland Brewing started the year prior in a former meat-packing warehouse (yes, how the “Packers” got their name) and brews up their popular Packerland pilsner, several IPAs, an English-style ale, and a number of seasonals. They’re parlayed their success into a gastropub down in Milwaukee and an affiliation with a restaurant up in Fish Creek in Door County. They offer tours on Saturdays – get details here!
Meanwhile, in the Titletown District, you’ll find Badger State Brewing Company, a relative newcomer with a great selection of in-house craft brews and others from across Wisconsin. And just over on Mike McCarthy Way, you’ll find the Green Bay Distillery. It opened in 2011 with a classic vodka and a cherry vodka (handy for Green Bay winters) and expanded to gin and whiskey in subsequent years. Their restaurant has a full menu – including a full menu of macro- and craft-brewed beers if spirits aren’t your thing. Either way, both Badger State Brewing and the Green Bay Distillery are easy walking distance to Lambeau Field, the Resch Center, Ray Nitschke Field, the Brown County Arena, the famous Stadium View bar, the BEST WESTERN Green Bay Inn Conference Center, and more.
Towards downtown along the Fox River, one of the few northward-flowing rivers in North America, bridges are lit up at night with condos, bars and shops springing up around them. A little past where Highway 54/Mason Street joins in at the intersection with Broadway, a Farmers Market offers produce and other items on Wednesday afternoons from June through September from 3pm-8pm. The Neville Public Museum focuses on art, history and science for northeastern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula; it’s a great stop for an afternoon, especially before or after hitting Titletown and/or Hinterland Brewing, which are both within eyeshot.
Green Bay does have a bit of a nightlife area downtown, east along the Fox River. Centered on Washington Street adjacent to Highway 29 (which meets Highway 57 downtown, just east of the river), the area features an array of bars and restaurants. Places to party include Kittner’s Pub, Hip Cats, Liquid 8, Confetti, Washington Street Pub, the Fox Harbor Pub & Grill, and Stir-Ups (Stir-Ups is a country bar – yes, think about it.) Green Bay’s party crowd hangs out in this area, and it’s not uncommon for Packers players to be seen.
On the east bank of the Fox River, Highway 57 comes in as Monroe Avenue. At this point, Highway 54 leaves Mason Street and joins Highway 57 for the ride into downtown Green Bay. We’ve already mentioned much of the downtown attractions that tend to be just west of the Fox River, but one is coming up on the east side of the river if you detour under I-43 a bit. That’s Bay Beach Amusement Park, which offers everything from roller coasters to carousels and water rides from May through September. The biggest coaster is Zippin’ Pippin, a 2,800-foot long wooden coaster with nearly hundred-year-old origins in Memphis, Tennessee. It was moved to Green Bay and re-opened in 2011 and has remained quite popular.
Just next door to the action and noise, the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary is next door, providing 700 acres of refuge for animals. The Sanctuary features live animal exhibits, educational displays, miles of hiking/skiing trails and various wildlife viewing opportunities; they care for more than 4,500 orphaned and injured animals each year. It traces its roots to 1936, when it established as a site for waterfowl rehabilitation with an assist from Aldo Leopold. The Sanctuary is free and open year ’round. The whole area of Bay Beach lies along the waters of Green Bay, adjacent to where the Fox River empties into this arm of Lake Michigan.
From the east side of Green Bay – now as University Avenue – Highway 54 & 57 are coupled together past the interchange with I-43 and begins a push northeast. After five miles, Highway 54 branches off to head east towards Lake Michigan.
Waterfall Alert. If you like waterfalls, you may want to check out Wequiock Falls. Shortly past Highway 54’s exit, take a left on Van Laanen Road and follow the signs into the park where the falls can be found after heading down some stone stairs. Wequiock Falls tends to have the most water flowing in spring (snowmelt, obviously), but most times of the year it’s a nice little setting regardless. Find out more here.
Today’s Wequiock Park served as a campsite for French explorer Jean Nicolet, whose 1634 arrival foreshadowed the European settlement to follow. Nicolet was the first European to cross Lake Michigan and landed near here in Red Banks, meeting the natives who were of the Ho-Chunk Nation. They appreciated his brightly-colored robes and pistols, and his arrival began an era of fur trading. The joke was on Nicolet in a sense, though, since he thought he’d landed – or was on his way to – Asia. Since there was no GPS, he had to settle for making history in helping to explore the Great Lakes and Wisconsin. Nicolet’s statue went up in Wequiock Park in 1950.
While the French were the earliest settlers in the area, the Belgians, Swedes, and Norwegians weren’t far behind. British and German settlers followed… and it just kept going.
Long a key route from Green Bay to the Door Peninsula, Highway 57 was recently upgraded (and in many cases, relocated) to a 4-lane highway all the way through to Sturgeon Bay. While this is a great timesaver, for the full State Trunk Tour experience we recommend popping off at a few destinations along the “old” road we discuss on the way to the “Bay.” Dyckesville is a tiny town along the bay accessible during the mile or so Highway 57 ducks into Kewaunee County; the Door County line happens after a few eye blinks. at Dyckesville and Brussels.
Into Door County
As an exposed rock cut for the new highway you’re on beckons, Highway 57 enters Door County, or as some people call it, “The Thumb.” Geologists note that the Door Peninsula is the western segment of the Niagara Escarpment, which runs along the north shores of Lakes Michigan and Huron, through Niagara Falls and along the southern shore of Lake Ontario to Rochester, New York. It’s a significant geographical feature through the Great Lakes and forms much of Door County’s landscape, as well as the cliffs lining the east coast of Lake Winnebago further south. Others may not care as much, so we’ll just move on…
Door County is divided into south and north regions; it used to be a full peninsula, but the 1882 completion of the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal made northern Door essentially an island. The county itself is named after the passage between the peninsula’s tip and Washington Island, known then in French as Porte des Morts and more commonly to this day as “Death’s Door” (“Door County” sounded better than “Death’s County”, right?) The passage is the site of many shipwrecks over the years.
Winding through southern Door County, Highway 42 joins in for the next five miles to Sturgeon Bay. Entering town, County S comes in from Algoma. It offers a connection to the northern trailhead of the Ahnapee State Trail, a rail-to-trail biking and snowmobiling route that runs back towards Algoma.
Entering Sturgeon Bay (pop. 9,437), you’re in the first of many tourism-heavy towns in Door County. Strugeon Bay is the county seat and the final place on the peninsula where chain stores exist, so if you need something at Target or Wal-Mart, better stock up. Sturgeon Bay has a history of massive shipbuilding and serves as a regional port city. Shipyard tours are available near the many cranes that abound to the north during the Ship Canal crossing. The original bridge downtown, officially called the Michigan Street Bridge and referred to by most as the “Steel Bridge”, opened in 1930 as the original path of Highways 42 & 57. Before the bypass opened in 1977, it was the source of massive traffic jams when the bridge opened to let boats pass. During a multi-year closure of the Steel Bridge, the Oregon Street Bridge opened a block south in 2008 and now serves as a modern downtown crossing as Business 42 & 57. The view of and from the bridge is quite nice, though, and a series of restaurants, hotels, resorts and shops surround the streets on either side. A number of bed and breakfasts in town also makes Sturgeon Bay a popular overnight stop for Door County travelers. Including today’s bypass that serves as the mainline Highways 42 and 57, there are now a total of three crossings between northern and southern Door County.
Sturgeon Bay itself has two sets of “downtowns,” really – one on the “mainland” and the other across the waters of its namesake bay. On the mainland side, you’ll find some good shops and restaurants as well as the main campus of the Door County Maritime Museum, which has been undergoing significant expansion lately.
Across from the museum where the Steel Bridge begins, you’ll also find Sonny’s Italian Kitchen and Pizzeria, which offers one of the coolest patio views in town, and Bridge Up Brewing, which started the fermentation process in Sonny’s lower level in 2019.
The eastern shore – technically “upper Door” – is where the rest of Sturgeon Bay lies, including its primary downtown strip along 3rd Street, which is also part of Business Highways 42 & 57. There’s more boutique shopping along this stretch, along with Door County Candy Co. (we love the mint-covered Oreos, but they have thousands of other options as well) and the craft brews you’ll find at Starboard Brewing Company.
A cool place to check out is Olde Stone Quarry County Park, accessible via County B from 42/57 just north of Sturgeon Bay. Once a quarry (no doy), this land was redeveloped to offer a harbor, boat launch, ship artifacts, and beautiful views of both rock walls and the shoreline.
The “Business” and mainline routes of Highways 42 and 57 reunite north of Sturgeon Bay and stay together for about two miles before Highway 57 breaks east. This is the northernmost traffic light in Door County – with about 40 miles of peninsula left! Highway 42 basically follows the Green Bay bay side of the peninsula while Highway 57 heads for the more dune-filled and serene Lake Michigan side, including Jacksonport, Whitefish Dunes State Park and Bailey’s Harbor. Since this is the Highway 57 tour, we’ll follow the Lake Michigan side. It’s a more serene drive up the peninsula than Highway 42.
The Lake Michigan side is often referred to as “the quieter side” of the peninsula. One of the first places you come across on this “quieter side” can involve a lot of mooing, neighhing and other noises because you reach The Farm in Door County (not a farm, The Farm). Billing itself as a “living museum of rural America”, The Farm is a delight for kids, families and anyone who loves animals – we’re talking goats (also called “kids” if they’re young), chickens, turkeys, pigs and piglets, a variety of cattle, even kittens that are available for adoption. The adorable factor is ridiculously high, so go with caution!
Past unincorporated Valmy and Institute, where you have to slow a bit for the school and other facilities serving local residents, there’s access down County WD to Whitefish Dunes State Park (hence, the name “WD” for the county road). At 865 acres, this park was established in 1967 to preserve the dunes along Lake Michigan. Included are boardwalks, wetlands, walking trails, eight miles of cross-country ski trails for winter use, and a nice, sandy beach for summer use. A nature and learning center near the parking area features exhibits, artifacts and thankfully, restrooms. Next door is Cave Point County Park, where you can stand above the waves of Lake Michigan and listen to them crash into the shore.
Highway 57 continues along toward the Lake Michigan shore, which it parallels closely getting into Jacksonport. Once a bustling town filled with the sounds of lumber mills and fishing boats along the shore, Jacksonport today brags about being on the “quiet” side of the Door Peninsula.
Right before a major bend to the left, the waters of a large harbor come into view, and that’s when you find yourself entering Baileys Harbor, the largest settlement on the Lake Michigan side of Door County, with all of 1,000 people. Nestled on the beautiful harbor of the same name, it was founded in 1848 – the year of Wisconsin’s statehood – when Captain Justice Bailey pulled ashore to seek refuge from a storm as he was making his way from Racine to Detroit with cargo shipments and a few sightseeing relatives in tow. He returned shortly thereafter, having been impressed at the beauty of the area, the safe natural harbor and ample timber that could prove lucrative. By 1852, the first lighthouse opened and before long lumber businesses were thriving.
|State Trunk Tour Tidbit:|
|Baileys Harbor was Door County’s first county seat, using the name Gibraltar from 1851 to 1858, when the seat moved to Sturgeon Bay and the town’s original name was reinstated.|
Today, Baileys Harbor remains unincorporated (and small) but features plenty to see and do. Their marina is popular with Lake Michigan boaters, sightseers, and even windsurfers, who like how the harbor amplifies waves. The harbor turns this area into a cozy cove.
*** Brewery Alert ***
Just off 57 on County F in Baileys Harbor you’ll find the Door County Brewing Company. Launched in 2013, their brewery and Tap Room is open year ’round with plenty of brews and activities. Their signature beer is the Polka King Porter, but others like the Little Sister Witbier, the Goat Parade Smoked Imperial Stout (remember, goats eat grass on rooftops in Door County), Bière de Seigle saison, Pastoral Farmhouse Ale, and Silurian Stout – a creamy milk stout named after the ancient sea that once covered this thumb of land – are also great for sampling and more. They offer light foodstuffs and occasionally have live music, too.
On the east side of Baileys Harbor is Bird’s Park, the front of which features the former home of Albert Zahn, an early Baileys Harbor resident who carved whimsical wood pieces of birds. Retiring in the 1920s from being a farmer, he sold some of his works to passersby. But they’ve proven to be impressive creations, indeed: his carvings have since found their into museums from the Milwaukee Art Museum to Chicago’s Art Institute and New York’s Guggenheim. The John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan features a permanent collection of Zahn’s works.
Birds aren’t just for carving in this area, either. Appreciation of them and nature in general has been a staple around here since the beginning due in part to the Door Peninsula’s position as a key flyway for many bird species. The Ridges Sanctuary became Wisconsin’s first land trust back in 1937 and protects 1,600 acres of biologically diverse ecosystems for conservation, study, and exploration. The “Ridges” in question include 30 ridges and swales formed by Lake Michigan over millenia; the land includes sandy ridges, wooden bogs, forest, wildflowers, and a beach that is open to the public. Self-guided walking tours are available via walking trails and boardwalks for a small fee. The Cana Island Lighthouse, built in 1870, rises 89 feet and projects a guiding light 18 miles out on Lake Michigan.
Heading away from Baileys Harbor, Highway 57 turns away from the Lake Michigan shore and heads due across the peninsula on a beeline towards Sister Bay. There are a few shops scattered along this drive, and a State Trunk Tour favorite watering hole called A.C.’s Pub. A little lacking on curb appeal for city slickers, the bar is inviting on the inside and the home of good bar food, a solid beer and soda selection, a nice patio and on Tuesday nights, sushi. Look at the place and tell me if you’d imagine sushi in there. But yes, they do. Burgers are available too, just in case you get cold feet.
As you reach the Green Bay side of the peninsula, Highway 57 comes to its final village: Sister Bay (pop. 886). Sister Bay bills itself as the “festival village” and there are quite a few. Voted the “#1 Small Town in Wisconsin for Dining” by, well, they don’t tell us who, but who are we to question it? Everything from Mexican to Swedish, and from subs to fine dining can be found here.
A “can’t miss” – and it’s hard to when goats are grazing on the grass roof – is Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant and Butik (800-241-9914). Al Johnson’s whips up a ton of great Swedish fare, including pickled herring, pytt i panna, and the ever-popular Swedish meatballs. And it’s probably the only restaurant in the country where the roof needs to be mowed. However, the job is often done by 4-6 goats that use the ramp in the back. They much away from about 8:30am to 5pm during nice weather days while guests munch inside all year ’round.
Sister Bay also hosts several amusement parks, including Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf and Johnson’s Park Go-Kart Racing, both just south by less than a mile on Highway 42. Basically, you have to take Highway 42 to go anywhere else from this point. So there you have it. After about 192 miles, from Milwaukee, through a whole host of towns including Green Bay, along bustling freeway stretches and fairly calm 2-lane roads, Highway 57 comes to an end at the junction with Highway 42 in Sister Bay, just down the hill from this sign. The “grass under the roof” was back at the Mitchell Park Domes in Milwaukee; the “grass on top of the roof” lies just to the right along 42, at the almost world-famous Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant. Enjoy!
Then, either check out Highway 42 or enjoy the reverse trip on 57!
Can connect immediately to: Highway 59
Can connect nearby to: Highway 175/Miller Park Way, about one mile west; Highway 38, about 1.5 miles east; Highway 32, about 2 miles east; I-43, about 1.5 miles east; I-94, about 2 miles north; U.S. 18, about 3 miles north; Highway 181, about 3 miles west; Highway 145, about 3.5 miles north or 2 miles northeast; I-41/894, about 4.5 miles west; Highway 100, about 5 miles west or 8 miles north
Can connect immediately to: Highway 42