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Discovering New Secrets Beneath Juneau Park In Downtown Milwaukee

Most people would never guess that Juneau Park, located along Lake Michigan in downtown Milwaukee, was once home to some of Milwaukee’s founding citizens.  While the former homes are no longer standing, over the past four seasons, Discovery World’s staff archaeologist and director of the Distant Mirror archaeology program, Kevin Cullen, has led an archaeological survey in the park to document and excavate the remains of these 19th century affluent residences.


Known as the “Lost Neighborhood” site, this elegant lakefront green space is slowly revealing its buried secrets through hands-on archaeological research and cutting-edge technology.  This years participants in the Lost Neighborhood survey included Milwaukee Area Technical College civil engineering instructor David Langhoff, two of his students, eight Bay View High School students who are part of a semester-long program with Discovery World called “The Art & Archaeology of Me”, several Milwaukee-area residents, a re-enactor and scholar (Rob Nurre) of the 19th century scientist Increase Lapham, as well as members of the Juneau Park Friends.

This years survey focused in former block 106, located in the north third of Juneau Park.  We began work in this section of the park last year, yet, because of the potential for intact buried features it was decided to refocus our attention this season in this area.  The survey began on a sunny Friday, May 20th, with the establishment of the former lot boundaries inside the park, from which we could then determine the location of the former houses inside these lots. Once these former lots were reestablished, three archaeological survey grids were overlaid inside these lots corresponding to the hypothesized house locations.  The intention for these grids were for the use of  ground penetrating radar (GPR) to map the buried remains inside these grids using Discovery Worlds’ Noggin 500 smart cart.


Saturday May 21st began as an overcast Spring morning with the threat of sustained rain.  Despite a subsequent soaking rain, we forged on and began collecting GPR data, soil coring, test excavations, as well as GPS and compass mapping.  Our first test excavation was placed on the western edge of former lot 20 in block 106.  Deed research revealed that this property was first purchased by Charles Church from James Kneeland in the 1860s, but it wasn’t until the early 1870s that Timothy and Mary Dore built a two story brick veneered house and a two story brick veneered carriage house in the rear of the property.  In December of 1876 the Dore’s sold the property to Hugh L. and Margret Johnston for $16,000.  The family owned the property until 1926 when the City purchased it for $68,000 in order to demolish it for the expansion of Juneau Park.


As we began excavating a 50 cm X 50 cm shovel test above the former carriage house / garden shed, we began finding 19th century ceramics, brick fragments, etc. in the first 20 centimeters below the surface.  Below this we encountered a strata of clay between 20-60 cm below the ground surface.  Then all of a sudden we hit a layer of earthenware flower pots, square nails and brick fragments.  This pottery “midden” persisted for another 25+ cm until we hit a limestone base at 85 cm below the surface, which then filled with water.  This halted our excavation, but in all we had uncovered a surprisingly immense amount of late 19th-early 20th century artifacts.  Several of the flower pots were still intact, some of which were nested inside one another.  In all we recovered about 18 earthenware flowerpots, some with visible finger prints of the potter on the exterior!   This was a very exciting find for the students and everyone involved.


We completed our survey on Sunday May 22nd with another interesting discovery.  In another shovel test excavation, we discovered an unassuming prehistoric artifact.  It was a chipped-stone “flake” that is the result of manufacturing a stone tool, likely a spear or arrow point.  While we cannot date this flake accurately, we do know it was made prior to European’s arrival in this area.  Soon we had completed our GPR survey and test excavations, packed up the site and headed back to Discovery World to process the GP data.  The image below is the resulting GPR map of the grid we collected over the pottery midden feature in former lot 20.  The middle depth slice clearly shows the presence of several dense concentrations of artifacts, likely more pottery and construction material.

Overall, everyone was very surprised with what we found and all deserve credit for contributing to the discovery of the Lost Neighborhood of Juneau Park. After all, communities that document and protect their own cultural histories are more conscientious about the importance of preserving the past, which results in a greater appreciation for one’s own sense of place in time and space, particularly in the ever-changing human-built environment.  A final report on the past four seasons of survey will be available following laboratory analysis of the artifacts and GPR data obtained this season.

Ale Through the Ages: Grätzer Smoked Wheat Ale

The second recipe we brewed during this season’s Ale through the Ages at Discovery World was a traditional Grätzer Ale.  There was great crowd on hand to participate in this brewing session to learn about the origins of this enigmatic smoked wheat ale.  Grätzer is the German name derived from the town of Grätz, formerly in western Prussia.  Today this town is known as Grodzisk, located in the province of Wielkopolski in western Poland. Therefore, this style of smoked wheat ale is known as Grodziskie (Grodzisz) in Polish.

The history of brewing in Western Prussia is quite extensive. For instance, during the 15th Century in the port town of Gdansk on the Baltic Sea, the city’s output of beer was ca. 25 million liters (6.6 million gallons) (ca. 210,000 barrels).  Indeed in the year 1416, 378 breweries were in operation (Unger 2004:121).  The Posnań district of western Poland also has a deep brewing tradition, most notably as the birth place of Grodziskie smoked wheat ale. In 1890s Poznań (Posen) had 158 breweries, 101 of which were ale breweries producing between them 177,038 hl (148,471 Barrels) (4,676,849.2 US Gallons).  The other 57 breweries were lager breweries producing 307,800 hl. (258,134 Barrels) among them.  Hence, lager production accounted for 63% of the total output from Posnań, compared to 37% for ale production (Zeitschrift für das gesammte Brauwesen 1894, p.23).

In the town of Grodzisk (Grätz) alone, there were five breweries in operation in 1900.  While several styles of beer were being produced in Grodzisk, the most distinct was the Grodziskie smoked wheat ale. Sadly, in 1994 the large Grodziskie Brewery closed when it was bought by local rival Lech Brewery, which ostensibly ended the commercial production of this style of beer in Poland.

According to legend, the popularity of this type of beer is associated with the Benedictine monk Bernard of Wąbrzeźno (1575-1603). After blessing a dried well in Grodzik, it eventually refilled, which allowed brewers to produce their famous Grodziskie smoked beer.  Moreover, Jedrzej Kitowicz (1728-1804) wrote in A Description of Manners under Augustus III the following: “Grodzisk was famous and increasingly after the Greater Poland (mid 15th century)…(Grodziskie) is a thin and tasty beer…doctors which prohibit all alcoholic beverages to patients permit drinking Grodziskie beer.”

Traditional Grodziskie is produced by smoking wheat malt with oak or beech wood.  This I had to do myself on a grill, as smoked wheat malt is difficult to obtain. I cut out the base of an aluminum foil tray and stapled metal mesh screen to the bottom, in order to allow the smoke to filter through the grain bed.  After letting the wheat malt soak in water overnight, it was ready to be placed in the smoker.  I used wet oak placed over a low flame to produce a heavy smoke atmosphere in which the wet grain was subjected to for a minimum of three hours.

Once the smoked wheat malt was dry it was time to grind it and get it ready for brewing.  Given the large number of participants in this brewing session, we brewed 10 gallons of Grätzer.  This required 20 lbs of wheat malt, 16 lbs of which was oak-smoked.  The mash stabilized at 150F for 40minunts before the program began.  We sparged the mash with 180F water and brought the wort to a rolling boil.  Polish Marinka hops, Hallertau Mittelfruh and German Spalt hops were added throughout the boil.  Once the wort was cooled one five gallon carboy was fermented with German Ale/Kolsh yeast from White Labs, while the other was fermented with German Wheat yeast from Wyeast.

Traditionally isinglass was used in Northern Europe and Britain to accelerate the clarification (fining) of cask-conditioned ales. Isinglass is a fining that is produced from sturgeon bladders, which causes the live yeast to flocculate into a jelly-like mass that settles to the bottom of the cask. For optimum performance, the beer must be fined at the coldest point in the process (ca. 50 F).  This was done during during secondary fermentation, at which point the carboy was chilled outside (40-55 F).

The results of this traditional Grätzer are quite pleasing.  At 4% ABV this smoked wheat ale slightly hazy with distinct smoky notes and a crisp hop finish.

It would be a shame for this ale to fade into the ether like so many other lost styles.  Fortunately there a revival may be taking place in Grodzisk Poland.  In August of 2010, a home brewing competition was held during the 31st International Breweriana Exchange called, “Almost like Grodzisz.” The goal was to recreate and revive the legendary Grodzisk beer brewing tradition, which was judged by former Grodziskie Brewery workers.  Perhaps this is incentive to maintain the longevity of this very old style of ale for generations to come. Na Zdrowie!

Rediscovering the Lost Neighborhood of Juneautown

Did you know that Juneau Park located along Lake Michigan in downtown Milwaukee was once home to some of Milwaukee’s founding citizens? As early as the 1850s, several structures once stood in this location and building continued up until the parks construction in the early 20th Century.  Please join us for a unique opportunity to help discover a fascinating chapter of Milwaukee’s history through hands-on research in identifying important 19th century residential houses beneath Juneau Park.

Juneau Park Survey Area

Through Discovery World’s Distant Mirror Archaeology Program and in collaboration with the Juneau Park Friends group, all are welcomed to participate in an exciting program that will bring the rich history of the park back to life.  Through the use of cutting-edge technology such as Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) you will be able to locate the buried remains of this former residential neighborhood.  Program activities also include an Archive Research Workshop, Lectures, Historic Open House Tours, and more.

Lost Neighborhood Program of Events

Friday May 14th 10am-4pm

Learn how to research who lived in the “lost neighborhood” beneath Juneau Park by examining public records at the Register of Deeds and in the archives at the Milwaukee Public Library.

Archive Research Rate: * Members: $30 ** Non-Members $35 *** Students $ 25

Public Lectures

Saturday May 15th 11am and 2pm

Come to Discovery World to hear exciting free lectures about Milwaukee’s historic parks.

** Free with admission to Discovery World

Juneau Park 1910

Lost Neighborhood Archaeology Survey

Friday May 21st 9:00am-5:00pm

    • Overview of the Project and History of the Lost Neighborhood.
    • Pedestrian survey along the bluff edge, following historic foot paths.
    • Begin to lay in historic streets with pin flags and place original street

Saturday May 22nd 9:00am-5:00pm

    • Juneau Park Friends group on hand to lead historic open house tours and more.
    • Remote sensing archaeology survey using Ground Penetrating Radar
    • Soil coring to identify buried remains.
    • Increase Lapham re-enactor to demonstrate 19th Century surveying while in character.

Sunday May 23rd 10:00am-3pm

    • Continue collecting GPR data within survey area.
    • Use soil probe to “ground truth” significant anomalies.
    • Relocate to Discovery World for data processing and conclusion

Discovering Buried Remains Beneath Our Urban Parks

What: Discovery World‘s Archaeologist, Kevin Cullen, is giving a talk.
Where: Marcia Coles Community Room, Lake Park, Milwaukee
When: January 23rd at 1:00 p.m.

**This event is free and open to the public.

2009 Lost Neighborhood of Juneautown Survey

This talk will cover Discovery World’s Distant Mirror Archaeology Program and particularly the use of cutting-edge archaeology surveying technology, namely, Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR). Deceptively simple, GPR looks like a lawnmower, but acts like a CT scanner, as it uses radar signals to create a 3D picture of buried remains. In 2008, we began our geophysical archaeology survey in Juneau Park, where we began discovering evidence of a 19th century residential neighborhood which was removed to create the park. In his talk, Kevin will showcase these discoveries and Discovery World’s plans for future explorations including possible answers to some of Lake Park’s secrets and buried history. For instance, could there be evidence of other prehistoric burial mounds? Is there evidence of an Indian village in the park? Was there a tavern located inside what became the park?

This program will be a must-see for anyone interested in history, archaeology, and love of Milwaukee’s Parks.