Going Home: Lincoln Village

Travel is usually thought of as going out into the world and seeing exciting new places.

But it can also mean going home. The places I thought I knew are a bit different nowadays, seen with older eyes. Take Lincoln Village, a neighborhood on Milwaukee's near south side. I spent many of my formative years there, playing in those narrow streets, among the slouching duplexes, corner taverns, and tiny lawns. We moved in when I was around 6. We didn't leave until I was 13. The place was home, and then it wasn't.

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Lincoln Village started as a Polish enclave, but the demographic tides were already shifting by the time my family arrived. Today, much of the population is Hispanic, from Mexico and South America, and that's reflected in the local businesses.

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It was a neighborhood with character, and it still is... just not the one I remember.

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Taco trucks are now the norm, alongside street vendors selling Mexican cuisine.

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Still, it's a charming place, and it was nice to reminisce. I visited a few of the old haunts. St. Josaphat's School looked a lot bigger when I was six.

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But Kościuszko Park across the street was just as I remembered. I used to try and catch fish in the pond with my best friend Tom. We weren't very good... okay, wasn't very good, but it was fun and we were kids. Today, the pond still drew determined fishermen.

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And the statue of General Tadeusz Kościuszko, Polish immigrant and hero of the American Revolution, still stood proud over the entrance.

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Then I wandered down the street to the Basilica.

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Dedicated in 1901, St. Josaphat's Basilica has been the spiritual heart of Lincoln Village for more than a century. It's a Milwaukee landmark, dominating the skyline for miles, with rich history and culture. But for a long time, it was just where I went to church on Sunday.

Today, I walked inside and gawked. And I was left wondering how I ever thought this space was ordinary.

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Outside, the sun seemed faded after the Basilica's splendor. I'd spent a few hours trying to find a piece of my childhood. But I guess this wasn't my ground anymore.

The bell at St. Josaphat's School rang, and a horde of uniformed children poured out into the park. They dashed to the swings, playing and laughing and generally behaving like kids. I'm not going to lie... it made me feel a little old. But in a good way. All the taco trucks and colorful buildings were the backdrop to someone else's childhood.

I imagined them coming back in thirty years to find the neighborhood transformed once more. Because everything changes. And we're all traveling to the next place.

And on that note, it was time for lunch. So of course, I headed for a taco truck.

-Sam

I heartily endorse a visit to St. Josaphat's Basilica and Lincoln Village. Here's the Basilica's website. And here's a map of the local area.

Take 94 to the Becher Street, Lincoln Avenue Exit. There are plenty of signs directing visitors to the Basilica.