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Landmark Lanes at 95: The 'Underground City' continues to entertain new generations of Milwaukeeans

Joy Powers
Front entrance of Landmark Lanes in Milwaukee.

A Milwaukee institution is celebrating a big milestone: Landmark Lanes turns 95. When it was first created in 1927, it would’ve been hard to imagine how the east side would evolve in the coming decades.

Landmark Lanes gif
Joy Powers
The sign atop the stairs leading into Landmark Lanes.

As a longtime East Sider, Milwaukee Record’s Matt Wild is a regular visiter to Landmark, and WUWM met up with him there. "I live fairly close to here. So I find myself, these days, spending a fair amount of time here... with my 8-year-old daughter and we go bowling, we play video games, and we just hang out. And we're here at least once a week, sometimes two times a week," says Widl.

Landmark was originally called Bensinger's Recreation and in 1946 became a part of the Oriental Theatre complex. It was renamed Oriental Lanes at that time, then renamed the Oriental Landmark Lanes, and eventually became just Landmark Lanes. Although some things have changed over those 95 years (including the invention of automatic pinsetters and most arcade games), Landmark's core business as a bowling alley and bar, have remained the same.

The entertainment center now includes three bars, a full-scale bowling alley, arcade, and pool hall. As preferences over entertainment have changed, Wild says Landmark has changed, as well.

Landmark Bowling
Joy Powers
People bowling at Landmark Lanes.

"In the last few years there's been kind of a push for so-called 'activity bars'... The thinking is: People don't just want to go out anymore and sit and drink, they want to go out and do something else... I find it funny because, the Landmark, in many ways, is Milwaukee’s original activity bar," says Wild.

Landmark Lanes is celebrating its 95th anniversary with a week of activities, starting September 26 through September 30.

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Joy Powers hosts and produces Lake Effect. She joined WUWM in 2016.
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