A History of KK and Bay View

Bay View WI – Kinnickinnic Ave – the nerve center of Milwaukee

Kinnickinnic Avenue was once the most frequently traveled road connecting Milwaukee and Chicago. It began as a modest country trail, existing even before the Village of Bay View was established, and, as early as the 1880s, eventually grew to become Bay View’s main commercial artery. The word ‘Kinnickinnic’ translates to ‘what is mixed’ in the Ojibwe language, originally referring to the variant of mixed plants used as an alternative or supplement to tobacco. It’s an equally apt description for Bay View, however, reflecting the neighborhood’s reputation for being an eclectic, independent and creative hub. KK, as the street is familiarly called, is as culturally diverse as it is architecturally.

One thing most Bay Viewites will agree upon is that Bay View is not necessarily defined by precise boundaries; it is more a state of mind influenced by both Lake Michigan and a strong historical sense of community.

The Lake Shore Railroad completed a connection between Milwaukee and Chicago in 1855 and the first train depot in the Milwaukee area was located on South Bay Street in Bay View. Cottages erected for mill workers became the center of the village. Many of these cottages are still occupied today and are a part of the diverse architecture of the Bay View neighborhood. By 1886, Bay View had become a center of workers’ rights activism, the culmination of which was the Bay View Massacre.

In 1887, the village’s approximately 4,000 residents voted overwhelmingly to be annexed to the city of Milwaukee, becoming the city’s 17th ward and ending the community’s independent identity. With its quaint neighborhoods, interesting architecture, friendly people and a local business district, this South Shore Community still has the feel of a small village. It’s probably why this Milwaukee neighborhood continues to be referred to as Bay View.

The rolling mills at Bay View in 1882


“A Link in the Chain: The History of Kinnickinnic Avenue” published in the Milwaukee Sentinel – September, 14, 1922.