Abandoned for years, the old Pabst Brewing complex on the west end of downtown Milwaukee was redeveloped over the past decade by the Zilber Property Group. The area contains many of the brewery’s original buildings, with their signature crenallated rooftop “battlements,” standing alongside new buildings that have a distinctly contemporary appearance even as they also complement the century-old Cream City brick structures.

The developers wisely kept the vintage neon “PABST” sign that spans the complex’s west entrance—although you can no longer actually approach from the west since the freeway reconstruction at the Marquette Interchange took down the Juneau Avenue bridge. You can still see the sign from Juneau across the way, though. Over at Juneau and 13th the street is on a level with where it starts up again on the other side of the freeway. In fact, from that vantage point you hardly even notice where the sunken freeway cuts through in between. Standing there you can sort of get a sense of what workers might have seen as they walked to the plant from the neighbood just west of the brewery.

The “PABST” sign can also be seen from the east, all along the northern edge of Fiserv Forum. As Juneau sweeps west across 6th Street and ascends the hill to the narrow, crooked streets winding among the old brewery buildings, that giant neon sign looms watchfully over the complex below.

Kind of like the giant eyeglasses of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg gazing down from that billboard in The Great Gatsby 🙂

Driving west on Juneau last night, I noticed that the sign’s letter “B” had burned out, adding a layer of commentary to the scene that seems somehow rather worthy of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

(Update: Zilber is fast! Drove by tonight and the “B” was already fixed.)

About Katherine Wikoff

I am a college professor at Milwaukee School of Engineering, where I teach literature, film studies, political science, and communication. I also volunteer with a Milwaukee homeless sanctuary, Repairers of the Breach, as chair of the Communications and Fund Development Committee.
This entry was posted in architecture, History, Milwaukee and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to PA ST

  1. Sally Cissna says:

    Katie, this is so cool. I miss exploring those avenues around MSOE and MATC. I’m sure that when I return I will blown away by the new construction. Thanks for keeping us updated, both metaphorically and in reality.

    Liked by 1 person

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