Is Lovers Lane Really For Lovers?

Jan 18, 2019

Bubbler Talk — our series that answers your questions about Milwaukee and the region — gets a lot of questions about street numbering and street names. Not too long ago, Mike Zabel submitted a question about Lovers Lane Road on Milwaukee’s far northwest side.

I was wondering why the north part of Highway 100 is called Lovers Lane?

“My theory was actually a joke, but I suggested to my coworkers after getting lunch from Sinbad’s  and describing the location, I suggested that it’s called Lovers Lane because of Silk Exotic, which is right up the road," he explains.

The red pin marks part of Lovers Lane Road, which is on the north section of Highway 100.
Credit Google Maps

Yep, Mike's theory is that it's called Lovers Lane because of a strip club.

Before we go any further, here's what Lovers Lane currently looks like.

Credit LaToya Dennis

There's a Taco Bell, KFC and Sinbad’s restaurant. Lovers Lane itself is a busy highway. There are a couple of hotels and at least one gas station. In other words, there’s nothing remotely romantic about Lovers Lane Road.

Credit LaToya Dennis

So, where does the name come from? After reaching out to many Milwaukee-area experts, each one said to talk to Carl Baehr. He's the author of the book Milwaukee Streets: The Stories Behind Their Names.

Behind The Name

To understand the history of the name, Carl says you have to imagine Milwaukee’s Lover Lane Road as it used to be.

“We’re looking at a very narrow rural road. It looks like if two cars were trying to pass each other they’d have to slow down and be careful because it is so narrow. And it looks like it’s wooded on both sides of the road still so not much development at all. No, no development,” he explains.

An undated photo of Lovers Lane Road in Milwaukee County. The image likely dates back to the 1910s-1920s.
Credit Courtesy of Milwaukee County Historical Society

Carl says this is important for one reason: “Typically, lovers lanes were dark, secluded areas where young people could go and park their cars and kiss and stuff.”

Yep. The Netflix and chill before Neflix was even a thing. And if you’re not sure what the term Netflix and Chill means, consult Google.

Carl says the first mention he’s seen of Lovers Lane Road dates back to 1911.

“Now, I don’t know if in the horse and buggy days there was a Lovers Lane Road. If they could find the seclusion in a buggy or if they had to wait until automobiles came along,” he says.

The SafeHouse in Milwaukee.
Credit Thomas Hawk/Flickr

This got some of the news team thinking, what are some places around town known for public frisky behavior? So, we posed the question to you on social media.

While most of you were quite shy, we did get a few responses: Kayaks waiting for rental at Urban Ecology Centers across the city, the SafeHouse in downtown Milwaukee, and of course public restrooms (supposedly one at the Riverwest Co-op used to be fair game for getting lucky).

Have a question you'd like WUWM to answer? Submit your query below.

_