Milwaukee is the largest city within the state of Wisconsin and 25th largest (by population) in the United States. The city is the county seat of Milwaukee County and is located on the southwestern shore of Lake Michigan. As of the 2006 U.S. Census estimate, Milwaukee had a population of 573,378. The city is the main cultural and economic center of the Milwaukee–Racine–Waukesha Metropolitan Area with a population of 1,753,355.
The first Europeans to pass through the area were French missionaries and fur traders. In 1818, Frenchman Solomon Juneau settled in the area, and in 1846 Juneau's town combined with two neighboring towns to incorporate as the City of Milwaukee. Large numbers of German and other immigrants helped increase the city's population during the 1840s and the following decades.
Once known almost exclusively as a brewing and manufacturing powerhouse, Milwaukee has taken steps in recent years to reshape its image. In the past decade, major new additions to the city have included the Milwaukee Riverwalk, the Midwest Airlines Center, an internationally renowned addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum, and Pier Wisconsin, as well as major renovations to the Milwaukee Auditorium and U.S. Cellular Arena. In addition, many new skyscrapers, condos, lofts, and apartments have been constructed in neighborhoods on and near the lakefront and riverbanks for the purpose of attracting new residents to the city.
The name "Milwaukee" comes from an Algonquian word Millioke, meaning either "Good/Beautiful/Pleasant Land" (c.f. Potawatomi language minwaking, Ojibwe language ominowakiing) or "Gathering place [by the water]" (c.f. Potawatomi language manwaking, Ojibwe language omaniwakiing). Early explorers called the Milwaukee River and surrounding lands various names: Melleorki, Milwacky, Mahn-a-waukie, Milwarck, and Milwaucki. For many years, printed records gave the name as "Milwaukie". A Short History of Milwaukee, by William George Bruce, gives the story of Milwaukee's final name:
The spelling "Milwaukie" lives on in Milwaukie, Oregon, named after the Wisconsin city in 1847, before the current spelling was universally accepted.
The city runs largely on the grid system, although in the far northwest and southwest corners of the city, the grid pattern gives way to a more suburban-style streetscape. This is no coincidence as former mayor Henry Maier sought to create "suburbs within the city" using recently annexed land to help counteract the urban sprawl that was damaging the city's economy. North-south streets are numbered, and east-west streets are named. However north-south streets east of 1st street are named, like east-west streets. The north-south numbering line is along the Menomonee River (east of Hawley Road) and Fairview Avenue/Golfview Parkway (west of Hawley Road), with the east-west numbering line defined along 1st Street (north of Oklahoma Avenue) and Chase/Howell Avenue (south of Oklahoma Avenue). This numbering system is also used to the north by Mequon in Ozaukee County, and by some Waukesha County communities.
It is crossed by Interstate 43 and Interstate 94, which come together downtown at the Marquette Interchange, which is currently under an extensive construction project set to be completed in 2008. The cost of the reconstruction will be around $810 million. The Interstate 894 bypass runs through portions of the city's southwest side, and Interstate 794 comes out of the Marquette interchange eastbound, bends south along the lakefront and crosses the harbor over the Hoan Bridge, then ends near the Bay View neighborhood and becomes the "Lake Parkway" (WIS-794).
Milwaukee and its suburbs are the home to the headquarters of 13 Fortune 1000 companies, including Johnson Controls, Northwestern Mutual, Manpower Inc., Kohl's, Harley-Davidson, Rockwell Automation, Fiserv, Marshall & Ilsley Corp., Wisconsin Energy, Briggs & Stratton, Joy Global, A.O. Smith, and MGIC Investments. The Milwaukee metropolitan area ranks fifth in the United States in terms of the number of Fortune 500 company headquarters as a share of the population. Milwaukee also has a large number of financial service firms, particularly those specializing in mutual funds and transaction processing systems, and a number of publishing and printing companies, including Quad/Graphics. Milwaukee is also the headquarters of Midwest Airlines, the Koss Corporation, Master Lock, and C&H Distributors.
Service and managerial jobs are the fastest-growing segments of the Milwaukee economy, and health care alone makes up 27% the jobs in the city. Twenty-two percent of Milwaukee's workforce is involved in manufacturing, second only to San Jose, California, and far higher than the national average of 16.5%.
Milwaukee was once the home to four of the world's largest breweries (Schlitz, Blatz, Pabst, and Miller), and was the number one beer producing city in the world for many years. Despite the decline in its position as the world's leading beer producer after the loss of three of those breweries, its one remaining major brewery, Miller Brewing Company, remains a key employer by employing over 1,700 of the city's workers. Due to Miller's solid position as the second-largest beer-maker in the U.S., as well as basing its world headquarters in Milwaukee, the city remains known as a beer town despite now only representing a fraction of its economy. The historic Milwaukee Brewery, located in "Miller Valley" at 4000 West State Street, is the oldest still-functioning major brewery in the United States.
Milwaukee's most visually prominent cultural attraction is the Milwaukee Art Museum, especially its new $100 million wing designed by Santiago Calatrava in his first American commission. The museum includes a "brise soleil," a moving sunscreen that unfolds like the wing of a bird. Milwaukee is also home to the America's Black Holocaust Museum. Founded by lynching survivor James Cameron, the museum features exhibits which chronicle the injustices suffered throughout history by people of African descent in the United States. The Milwaukee Public Museum, Discovery World Museum, Betty Brinn Children's Museum, Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum, the Charles Allis Art Museum, Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory and Milwaukee County Zoo are also notable public attractions.
Milwaukee, "A Great Place on a Great Lake" has also advertised itself as the "City of Festivals," emphasizing an annual lakefront fair called Summerfest. Listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest music festival in the world, Summerfest attracts around 1,000,000 visitors a year to its twelve stages.
Along with Summerfest, Milwaukee is home to a variety of ethnic and socially themed festivals throughout the summer. Held primarily on the lakefront Summerfest grounds, these festivals span several days (typically Friday plus the weekend) and celebrate Milwaukee's history and diversity. PrideFest-a celebration of Milwaukee's LGBT community-typically kicks off the festival season in early June. The season is concluded with Indian Summer in early September. Polish, Greek, French, Italian, German, African-American, Arab, Irish, Native American, Asian and Mexican heritages are celebrated throughout the summer.
The Greater Milwaukee Convention & Visitors Bureau publishes a schedule of major events.