95 years of history and entertainment at Milwaukee's iconic Landmark Lanes
MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- From the outside it's unassuming and looks like your average bowling alley, but step inside and descend the carpeted stairs and Landmark Lanes opens to reveal the unexpected - a kind of underground city steeped in history and entertainment.
"There's so much to do. Whatever you want you can find it here," said Kevin Glass, general manager of Landmark Lanes.
For the uninitiated Landmark Lanes is 24,000 square feet with an arcade, three bars, darts, pool tables, foosball, and a stage for karaoke, live music, and comedy.
"It's a pillar of the East Side for sure," said Amy Westrup, a customer and cast member of Voyager, a local comedy group that performs at Landmark Lanes.
First opening its' doors on Sept. 24, 1927, the venue was an instant hit. Earning a reputation as 'the hangout spot' in pre-war Milwaukee.
"A guy named Saxe from Chicago who came up here built the lanes. He built the theater upstairs and a couple of years later it got bought by Pritchett and now its owned by Slover and still going strong," said Glass.
The underground city was originally called Bensinger's Recreation. It was built on an old horse-drawn streetcar barn site. This year the building was recognized as a national historic landmark.
Regulars like Debra Guy have enjoyed Landmark Lanes for decades.
"When I came in the 70s, we just had been playing pinball. Then the 80's came along and we started playing with the Pac Man and all of that. Myself, my sisters and friends, everyone would meet up down here after work," said Guy.
Guy now enjoys shooting some pool with her husband and makes sure she pays a visit to her favorite spot at least once or twice a week.
"The neighborhood appreciates it. Everything about it is good and all the people come together right here. It's like a family," said Guy.
It also turned into a platform for local comedians. Voyager does shows here once a month with comedians and improv-artists who patrol the moon room stage.
"It is a really unique venue though and a lot of the standup comedians will come to do sets from all over the Midwest and they just love the room and the whole vibe of Landmark is just incredible," said Westrup.
Tim Higgins, co-founder of Voyager, says it's special to have the opportunity to perform at Landmark Lanes, especially as a longtime customer himself.
"I remember when I just came of age, and I would go into the side bar and just sit there with friends at the big old booths and just spend all night there. It's nice to come back and actually have a show in a space that I've spent so much time in," said Higgins.
It's a place that many politicians, celebrities, and athletes have enjoyed.
"We've had a lot of Bucks players and Admirals," said Glass
And now, more recognition - last month Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson declared September 26 to be Landmark Lanes Day throughout the city.
"The city recognizes its' status as one of the oldest and longest running bowling alleys in the country and an icon on Milwaukee's East Side and wishes it many more years of success," said Johnson.
Landmark recently went through some renovations - adding new arcade games and replacing the marquee above the front entrance. If you miss the old marquee, don't worry, you can still admire it by the pool table area.
"I think (Landmark Lanes) it's going to be a staple for the area for a long time," said Glass.
"Ninety-five years and it is still going. Its' probably got a few more years to go. Everyone loves it here. All walks, all people, all nationalities, all of us," said Guy.