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Milwaukee's Port at Heart of Commerce, City's Soul

The History Press

Please note: This interview originally aired Jan. 14, 2011.

While the Port of Milwaukee is not in the heart of the city, it may just be the heart of its commerce.

The waterfront hub transports goods to and from all around the world, thanks to its proximity to highway and train systems, and of course, the Great Lakes. But for as many ships, trains and trucks that navigate the Port of Milwaukee, there are at least five times as many stories coming through it.

Writer Leah Dobkin has collected many of these tales, captured the culture of the port and documented its history in the new book Soul of a Port.  Dobkin says most Milwaukeeans aren't aware of what really goes on down at the port.

"I think it's the best kept secret in Milwaukee," she says. "I mean we go across the Hoan Bridge I don't know how many times a year and we pass the port all the time and no one knows anything about it and it's a really important place for our prosperity."

And she says there are many surprising facts about the port that she didn't know until she researched the book.

"It’s very rare for a city to own a port but what’s even more rare is that most ports don't make money and our port makes like $1.3 million over average over five years that gives back to the city," she says.