This week I conclude my series of posts from the shores of Lake Michigan with a visit to Manitowoc, Wisconsin. If you missed my previous articles, here are the links: A Peek at Two Rivers, Wisconsin and Point Beach State Forest. Some readers may wonder about the odd title of this post. As my Traveling Partner and I drove around the City of Manitowoc, we kept looking for one of it’s most famous residents, Charlie Berens. He’s the brains behind the weekly video “Manitowoc Minute.” Charlie and his guests poke fun at all things Wisconsin. Things like: our odd use of the English language; the weird stuff we sell on Craigslist; and our cult like worship of brats, beer and brandy old fashions. He always ends his videos with a Wisconsin salute to the Green Bay Packers and a curse (and I mean a curse!) on their closest rivals, the Chicago Bears. He sells merch that help support a variety of local charities. Follow Charlie and the Manitowoc Minute on Facebook and Youtube. We never did find Charlie wandering around the city but we did get to see some of Manitowoc. As Charlie says: “keep ‘er movin’.”
The city of Manitowoc is located about halfway between Milwaukee and Green Bay. It has a population of nearly 34,000 people and is the county seat of Manitowoc County. The name comes from the Ojibwe and Memominee words meaning “the dwelling or land of the great spirit.” They inhabited this land at the mouth of the Manitowoc River for thousands of years. French fur traders first arrived in the area in the 1670’s with the first trading post established in the 1790’s. The Menominee ceded the land to the U. S. in 1836. This was followed by years of settlement in the region by European immigrants. Manitowoc, the city, was chartered as a village in 1851 and promoted to a city in 1870. Manitowoc is the main retail destination for the area and boasts two hospitals with several supporting clinics. In addition to retail and health care, the main industries are shipbuilding, construction, light manufacturing, and food processing. With that background, let’s take a tour around the city.
Our first connection with Manitowoc was made in the downtown area near where the Manitowoc River flows into Lake Michigan. The event was the Saturday morning farmers market. Wearing our masks, we checked out the vendors with most selling vegetables, apples, and pumpkins. There were also sellers of masks, crafts, and food. It’s a nice market in the parking lot across from the new, large city library.
We purchased some butternut squash from this vendor. I couldn’t believe the size of some of the squash, I asked her to pose for this photo and she agreed. It looks to me it would take a large family or an Army squad to eat that squash!
On one of our visits to the farmer’s market, we observed an outdoor yoga class was in progress. I couldn’t resist a photo!
The next week, we were entertained by Rock N Roll Ricky playing his saxophone.
Manitowoc is the city of murals, at least twenty-three according to the local newspaper. The mural below is across the street from the farmer’s market on Quay Street. It celebrates the contribution of agriculture to the vitality of the community and to those who toil on the farms and fields.
This mural is the newest and directly across the river from the market. It’s a tribute to Ruth St. John West, a prominent civic figure and a friend of the arts in Manitowoc. She was a native of New York and came to Manitowoc in 1932 with her husband, John West who would become CEO of the Manitowoc Company. Upon arrival, the couple purchased six acres of waterfront property where they built a home and established beautiful flower gardens, now open to the public as West of the Lake Gardens. Ruth believed world-class art should be assessable to all and made that possible by heading campaigns to raise funds to purchase art for the Rahr-West Art Museum.
Another nearby mural captured our attention the first time we drove through Manitowoc. The Briess Malt and Ingredients Company has been a fixture in Manitowoc since 1876. This family-owned business makes specialty ingredients for the food and beverage industries, it’s a big company and important to the vitality of the surrounding area. The concrete silos in the photos until being repainted had the Budweiser beer logo. Personally, I like this one better.
Nearby is another family owned business, Lakeside Foods, a producer of canned and frozen vegetables plus many other food and pet products. During our month long stay in the area, we saw semi-loads of what looked like green beans and wondered what happened to them. They ended up at this plant for processing. Being the curious farm kid, I wondered where and how they are planted, grown, and harvested. This fall, I picked enough greens beans from my garden to eat several meals and freeze ten quarts. I can’t imagine picking, cleaning and processing a truck load of beans. Good thing it’s mechanized!
They also must produce baked beans as evidenced by the Serious Bean trailer waiting to be loaded at the dock.
Also across the Manitowoc River from the farmer’s market is the Wisconsin Maritime Museum. This museum contains the largest collection of artifacts related to Great Lakes maritime history. The museum founders and city leaders lobbied to bring a decommissioned World War II submarine to Manitowoc where subs were built for the war effort by the Manitowoc Company. The US Navy donated the USS Cobia to the museum and is permanently moored in the harbor next to the museum. Although it wasn’t built in Manitowoc, it represents the type of submarine constructed here during the war. It’s been designated a National Historic Landmark and one of the main tourist attractions in the Manitowoc area.
One pleasant Saturday morning, my Traveling Partner and I made a walk around the downtown area. Some businesses were open while others were closed due to the virus. There were some empty storefronts undergoing renovation, likely waiting for the pandemic to pass before committing further resources.
I saw this church across the street from the Manitowoc County Courthouse and wondered, in my smart aleck way, if there was a Second or Third German Lutheran Church in town.
The Capitol Civic Centre was yearning for the days when people could gather to enjoy the arts and fellowship.
The Manitowoc River is one of the highways of commerce in the city. In the early days, it was the main mode of transportation both of people and goods.
Another reason to come to Manitowoc is to catch the car ferry, SS Badger, across the lake to Ludington, Michigan. The sixty-two mile ride over the water avoids the crazy and confusing traffic through Chicago. Plus it saves a few hours, hundreds of miles, and toll roads. Near the ferry is a metal badger, it was socially distanced from all the other badgers and wearing a mask to boot! From there we could also see the Manitowoc Breakwater Light.
On a chilly, windy, and foggy afternoon, we walked out to the Light so I could make a few photos. At the beginning of our walk, these boys were braving the inclement weather to swim in the lake. They looked cold, on the return they were gone!
The marina was filled with sailboats with tall masts. The weather was just right for a black and white photo.
The high water and wind were whipping the water over the walkway leading to the Light. Even on a calmer day, I don’t think I would risk the walk any further.
These two photos of the Manitowoc skyline were taken at the same spot about ten minutes apart. The fog moved into nearly obscure the city. Five miles north in Two Rivers, there wasn’t any fog to be seen, go figure!
The locals told us that we had to try Cedar Crest Ice Cream manufactured in Manitowoc. I’m happy to report that the concession stand at the Point Beach State Forest offers several flavors of Cedar Crest. The company boasts more than 100 flavors, many that are created by 4-Hers in Wisconsin. I liked the big fiberglass Guernsey cow, proudly standing at the entrance to the plant and parlor. We had Guernsey cows on our farm when I was growing up, brings back some fond memories.
Well it’s been more than a minute, more like five, six or seven! There’s more to see and experience so plan your visit for the time when the virus is under control Hope you enjoyed our brief visit to the city by the lake, Manitowoc.
Until next week, happy virtual travels!