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Explore the city through the eyes of one of its biggest fans with 'John Gurda's Milwaukee'

Milwaukee river in downtown, harbor districts of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Stock Adobe
Milwaukee river in downtown, harbor districts of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

For fans of Milwaukee history, there’s one name that comes to mind as the leading expert on the city: John Gurda. He’s written extensively about the city in his columns in the Journal Sentinel, his many books on the city, and even in the documentary series: The Making of Milwaukee.

But his new guide is perhaps the project most closely based on his life’s work. John Gurda’s Milwaukee is a guide book to the city that provides detailed maps of routes through different Milwaukee neighborhoods.

The idea for the book began with tours that Gurda led in the 1970s.

"I did that for close to 50 years and developed a route that I thought kind of showed off Milwaukee at its most characteristic and I always had — it wasn't quite a bucket list — but I knew that as I took people around the city, all this knowledge would kind of die with me if I didn't have some way of getting this into the public domain," he explains.

The book features detailed routes of different neighborhoods, with instructions on when to turn and when to pull over to see different sites. Gurda says it's a snapshot of both what Milwaukee has been in the past, and what it is today.

"Just as you can't step into the same river twice, you can't tour the same city twice. It's always changing," he says.

The guide features mostly central city neighbors, with the hope that readers can finish all of the routes in a single day, if they wish. Still, it covers a large swath of the city, and features a diverse array of neighborhoods.

Gurda says, "My hope is that [readers] kind of come back with an enlarged sense of what Milwaukee is and who Milwaukee is and also, kind of a sense of the diversity and vitality."

John Gurda’s Milwaukee is out now and available at several local shops, including Boswell Book Company, Historic Milwaukee, and the Historical Society gift shop.


Joy is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.