Turning past the rustic sign that announces “Hillcrest Park,” you might think you’ve just found a mediocre place to have a picnic. Turning in, however, and you’ll see the 30-foot-tall metal tower and vast concrete pad. Chances are, you’ll be the only one in the parking lot no matter what time of day it is.
The main tower, painted a seafoam green, is what is left from the M74 Nike Missile Base. During the cold war era, it housed all sorts of radar equipment and possible weapons that have since been removed, leaving behind nothing but massive metal bolts and holes in the cement.
The base is one of the eight missile sites built around Milwaukee. It was in operation from the mid-1950s to the early 1970s and was meant to protect the city from any enemy attacks.
By the end of the Cold War, the park was abandoned and left to fall into decay. The remaining structure is little more than crumbling cement smeared on exposed bits of metal. There is a massive cylinder in the center, but it leaves a ring of space between the center column and the outer ring of metal sheeting. On top of the tower, colorful graffiti and layers of paint offer a glimpse into locals’ experience at the site, expressing sentiments from “Cross Country Was Here” to “find me on Twitter” to “Save the Bees.”
Know Before You Go
Be aware that climbing the tower is considered trespassing.