Milwaukee’s Grand Plan
Wisconsin was in a mood to dream big in the years following the end of the Civil War. One idea involved extending Grand Avenue (today’s Wisconsin Avenue) from the shore of Lake Michigan all the way to Madison—creating an 80-mile-long boulevard lined the entire distance, they were certain, by elegant mansions and places of worship.
A suitably impressive way had to be found to carry Grand Avenue across the broad Menomonee River valley before anything like that could happen. So, after years of indecision and political infighting, Milwaukee set to work on a massive viaduct. Its construction sparked lawsuits, took far longer than expected, and cost much more than estimated.
Pretty much every Milwaukee road project ever, in other words.
But the Grand Avenue viaduct was also a triumph. Upon its completion in 1911, it was immediately regarded as one of the world’s most notable structures.