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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Brady Street Lives

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Brady Street has a well-established reputation as one of Milwaukee’s most exciting and diverse neighborhoods, and one that deserves respect for its resilience to great industrial, social, economic and demographic changes. A new book by Frank Alioto, a Milwaukee fire captain and columnist for the neighborhood newsletter Brady Street News, offers an engaging visual survey of the area from the mid-19th century to today.

Milwaukee’s Brady Street Neighborhood offers glimpses of the various phases that the area has been through, from its early days of rapidly expanding history, when beer barons ruled, tanning factories glowered on the horizon and the stoic faces of factory employees looked up from their work, to the summer of love when hippies swarmed the streets during the Brady Street Festival. Some of the most endearing photos date from the ’50s and ’60s, showing lines of impeccably dressed Polish siblings assembled for their yearly photos, or local personalities like Jim and Jo D’Amato playing craps. It was a deliberate decision by the author to make his pictorial study rich in this human element. “What I try to do in the book is combine people’s everyday life activities as well as buildings and architecture,” he says. “I think historians often focus on [the latter] rather than how people lived.”

As part of his research Alioto tirelessly scoured the basements of longtime Brady Street residents for photos, not to mention collections belonging to institutions like the Milwaukee County Historical Society and the Milwaukee Public Museum. He has assembled an impressive album that attests to the evolving personality of the area—an element that he feels lends Brady Street its greatest appeal.

“It’s gone through many eras and kind of reinvents itself every decade or two,” he says. “Milwaukee’s full of wonderful neighborhoods, and as we update and renovate, it’s important to have recordings of what preceded, even if it’s the lean years.”

Alioto will be presenting a slide show of photos from his book (as well as some that aren’t included in the book) and signing copies at the East Library at 2 p.m. on April 12. You can also see him on Channel 10’s “I Remember” at 6:30 p.m. on April 14. Copies of Milwaukee’s Brady Street Neighborhood are sold by numerous businesses on Brady Street, as well as at local bookstores.
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