Milwaukee is currently in the throes of a mural renaissance. It seems a week can’t go by without the unveiling of another gorgeous mural on a previously unadorned side of a prominent building. There are colorful murals by local artists. There are politically charged murals by national artists. There are murals of local sports superstars. There are entire alleys filled with murals. It’s a far cry from the days when Milwaukee lost its shit over a “COUPLES ARE BORING AND EVERYONE KNOWS IT” sign at Fink’s.
And then there are the murals that have been with the city for decades. The “Mural Of Peace” on the South Side. “Dancing Through The Decades” at Golda Meir School. And, of course, that painted Culver’s mural/sign on the East Side. You know, the one on the north side of the ABC Kortsch Moving & Storage Co. building, at 2409 N. Maryland Ave.? The one that looms above the Farwell Food Mart gas station? Yeah, that one.
Is it a mural? Is it a sign? Is it a few more winters away from becoming a ghost sign? All we know for sure is that it’s art.
There’s a lot to love about this pop-art (?) masterpiece. The fact that it skillfully depicts not just any ButterBurger, but a Deluxe ButterBurger. The fact that it isn’t for a Culver’s in Milwaukee, but for the Culver’s in Shorewood. (You know, the one with a Shorewood High School Wall of Fame?) The fact that it includes a shout-out to UWM’s long-running B.O.S.S. (“Be On the Safe Side”) van. The fact that there appears to be a ghost sign beneath it. (We can make out “National” and maybe “Yoga.” Anyone?) The fact that both this sign and the ABC Kortsch sign to its left have seen better days.
How long has this painted Culver’s sign been here? How long has it beckoned hungry and safety-conscious East Siders approximately three miles north to Capitol Drive? The Shorewood Culver’s opened in 2002, so no more than 22 years. The weathered quality of the sign, however, suggests it’s as old as the building itself, which was built between 1912 and 1919.
Also: shout-out to Milwaukee’s Certified Trapper for featuring the mural (well, the ABC Kortsch part, anyway) in his 2022 “When I Sneeze” video. (Also also: apologies to Bug Moment.)
But maybe the best thing about this Culver’s mural/sign is its permanence. This ain’t some fly-by-night billboard from a cheeky basement finisher or a Wu Tang-loving realtor. This is (lead?) paint on brick, baby, forever promoting a fast food location that’s just outside city limits (though not outside B.O.S.S. limits). This is faith in commerce, in fast food, in a burger-and-frozen-custard purveyor that’s been Handcrafting Every Meal Fresh Since 1984. Welcome to delicious.
This is something that, while not exactly fascinating and hilarious, is at least vaguely interesting and kind of funny. As such, it’s perfect for a Milwaukee Record Review.
10/10 Deluxe ButterBurgers. Bonus points for the ancient payphone in the gas station parking lot.