John Manke is an active former Bay View resident who is involved in numerous neighborhood organizations, including the Bay View Historical Society, the Humboldt Park Fourth of July Association and the Shore Shore Farmers Market. He believes Bay View has a fine tradition in its past that we do not want to lose in the future.
On Saturday, August 25, 1979, at the South Shore Park Pavilion, at 5:30 PM, assembled were Milwaukee County Executive Bill O'Donnell, County Supervisor Daniel Cupertino, Alderman Clifford Draeger and Daniel Zilokowski along with a host of many other elected officials and dignitaries who accompanied the Bay View Centennial Walking Tour of 1979 at its forefront. The massive crowd was greeted by John Utzat and Ray Bethke. A plaque located in the park dedicated to the people of Bay View's past and its present residents. Looking south from the top of the bluff at E. Russell Avenue across from what is now Cupertino Park was a mass of humanity. At times sections of the tour were escorted by police department motorcycles with red lights. At the triangle on St. Clair Street, the site of the original Beulah Brinton Community Center and the Puddler's Hall, that ws open to the centennial tour. The triangle streets were filled by many people. The estimates of tour attendance came from the Milwaukee Police Department and from Milwaukee County personnel. They estimated that 8,000 people were at the tour and 5,000 at the St. Clair triangle.
A steering committee was to form a Bay View Historical Society in 1979. The steering committee was chaired by Ray Ropel and had many members of the local community involved. At the meeting, John Utzat, then a very popular historical columnist for the South Side Urban News, "The Sun", proposed his idea for a centennial walking tour. His suggestion was championed by Ray Bethke, Norm Hundt, Vern and Lee Markussen, Floyd Boyce, Daisy Estes Tucker and John Utzat was formed.
Ray Bethke who had been a former director of the old Beulah Brinton Community Center in the heart of "Little Italy" served as chairman and spokesman of the walking tour committee. The committee's function was to promote and corodinate the event which included seven tour guides with voice guns, hand held loud speakers. Sponsorship for the tour was provided by Ray Ropel, who operated a Mobil Service Sation at S. Clement Avenue and E. Oklahoma Avenue.
So successful was this tour that three more Bay View tours were created by John Utzat and embellished by Ray bethke. These were named the Mid-Town Walk, The KK Link and the Western Walk. All of these were conducted before 1984. These very popular tours were well attended. Of historical significance, is that these tours provided about 90% of what is known about the history of Bay View today. It should be noted that the 3rd annual walk was solely designed by Walter Hirthe and took place on August 15, 1981. Sites as the Starkey home, the Welsh Church, the 1925 Gordon Bennett balloon landing and a mystery home were featured. John Utzat was a tour guide on this memorable walk.
John Utzat is a 53 year resident of Bay View. He is a historical newspaper columnist who wrote for almost every South Side and Bay View newspaper in the last 34 years. He is the author of two local history books: "Southside in the Sun" and Red Skies over Bay View". Southside in the Sun is available at the library, but his other book has not been published yet. He hopes to make it available soon. John has given many historical presentations at libraries, churches and other places. He has provided me with most of the material in this story.
The Bay View Historical Society, established in 1979, is dedicated to maintaining the Bay View community through conserving, celebrating and sharing Bay View's rich history. With more than 500 members, it is one of the most prominent historical societies in the area. The Society maintains its headquarters at one of the most prominent historical sites in Bay View, The Beulah Brinton House. Built in 1872, it is consdiered to be among the best Gothic Revival residences in the city and formerly was home to Beulah Brinton, a community leader who turned her home into an informal social center ( the first in the United States) and Bay View's first lending library. The Society also designates landmarks throughout Bay View and publishes a newsletter, The Historian , which contains articles of local interest. During the year, the Society conducts general membership meetings, historical walks and other social events. Membership in the Society is open to anybody interested in supporting the Society's programs.
The Society has helped Bay View residents and visiters gain an appreciation of the history, architecture and lifestyle of the Bay View National Historic District. The district, which is listed in the State and National Register of Historic Places in 1982, includes 329 buildings that date as far back as the early 1860's. The headquarters of the Society is 2590 S. Superior Street, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53207.
The web site is: http://www.bayviewhistoricalsociety.org/index/php
There are many stories about Bay View in the Archive Section at the Beulah Brinton House, located at 2590 S. Superior Street. Please check the web site to find out on which dates the building is open to the public. Please lend your support to the Bay View Historical Society and help with its Capital Campaign to help pay for this building that we use for our headquarters.