Milwaukee: A City Built on Water
by John Gurda
Wisconsin Historical Society Press
Paper: 978-0-87020-865-2 | eISBN: 978-0-87020-866-9

Paddle through the watery history of the Midwest’s Cream City. 

The success and survival of Milwaukee lies in the rivers that meander through its streets and the great lake at its shore. The area’s earliest inhabitants recognized the value of an abundant, clean water supply for food and transportation. Settlers, shipbuilders, and city leaders used the same waters to travel greater distances, power million-dollar industries, and even have a bit of fun. 

In Milwaukee: A City Built on Water, celebrated historian John Gurda expands on his popular Milwaukee Public Television documentary, relating the mucky history of the waters that gave Milwaukee life—and occasionally threatened the city through erosion, invasive species, and water-borne diseases.

Telling tales of brewers, brickmakers, ecologists, and engineers, Gurda explores the city’s complicated connection with its most precious resource and greatest challenge. You’ll meet the generations of people, from a Potawatomi chief to fur traders and fishermen, who settled on the small spit of land known as Jones Island; learn how Milwaukee’s unique water composition creates its distinct cream-colored bricks; visit Wisconsin’s first waterparks; and see how city leaders transformed the Milwaukee River—once described as a “vast sewer” with an “odorous tide”—into today’s lively and lovely Riverwalk.

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