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History in your hands: New Milwaukee LGBT walking tour app launches in honor of Pride month

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Posted at 10:18 PM, May 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-01 19:56:46-04

MILWAUKEE — Connecting people with Milwaukee’s LGBT history.

The LGBT milWALKee app launched Wednesday, showing off the rich history of the LGBTQ community. The app allows users to take several walking tours of the city with dozens of sites to stop and learn.

“I feel strongly that when we get to know each other, through our stories and our history, it helps us to care about one another and can help us confront misconceptions that we have,” said Dr. Brice Smith of LGBT Milwaukee.

The app, LGBT milWALKee, put an emphasis on the “walk.” Right now, the app boasts three tours and dozens of sites – all on your phone.

“I was trying to come up with a way people can see the places in which our history was made. Everybody can see the fact that we have been here and have made history and it couldn’t be taken away from them because It would be in the palm of your hands,” Dr. Smith said.

Dr. Smith came up with the idea for the app last year. This year, it will coincide with the beginning of Pride Month. Every stop on the tours will produce a video, giving a historical recount of the location’s significance.

Dr. Smith said its important to provide a place to preserve history of Milwaukee’s LGBT community.

"It’s also an acute awareness there is little to no physical representation of the history we’ve made around the City of Milwaukee that you can’t really see that we’ve made our mark on the city,” he said. “I see it as providing multiple opportunities for people to get out there to engage with our physical cityscape because there’s something about being able to experience history."

One of the many stops from the app's walking tour includes two former bars that had a huge impact on the LGBTQ community. One building, located on South 2nd Street, is now a bridal shop, but nearly 50 years ago it was home to a gay bar called Ballgame Tavern. It was a place where many felt safe to be themselves.

"That was one of the key things for many of these bar owners in a day when it wasn't okay to be out and open in the LGBTQ community," said LGBT milWALKee narrator, Aimee Gironimi. "They were very giving. They raised a lot of money when HIV/Aids first showed up in Milwaukee. They supported people in the community who didn't have what they needed."

Right next door was Blunt's Saloon, a bar owned by Frank Blunt. Blunt was a man who stole the hearts of many women back in the 1800s. But what made him remarkable was the fact Blunt was assigned female at birth.

"I, myself, am a trans. I'm a trans man, so I imagine what it would've been like to have lived during his time and the amount of courage that it would've taken to lead that kind of life. It means so much to be able to see and know that people like myself have always existed," said the creator of LGBT milWALKee, Brice Smith.

And now that the app is available to download, the creators say it will give even more people the opportunity to realize all the rich history that lies in their own backyards.

"We are telling our history in ways in which people can come to know us and care about us and really feel like they understand who we are as people," said Smith.

To download the app, click here.

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