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One man turned them into his house.
I had the opportunity to visit one of my best friends this past weekend in Houston and wanted to check out some off-the-beaten-path tourist opps. When I stumbled upon the ultimately sustainable Beer Can House, I was sold.
Driving through downtown Houston, it looked like we were in any other neighborhood (similar to Chestnut Hill) until we pulled in front of 222 Malone Street. There an aluminum wonderland awaited us:
John & Mary Milkovisch resided in this gem in downtown Houston. After John retired from the Southern Pacific Railroad as an upholsterer, he decided that he should just start ‘upholstering’ his house with beer cans. His wife wasn’t crazy about the idea at first, but then decided to join in with the drinking. Mary even contributed this witty ‘Lemon Tree” in the outdoor space to match the Beer Can House theme:
The beer can decorations didn’t stop on the actual house. John created walls around the house as barriers from the neighbors. This one included all parts of the beer as well as a few glass bottles, appearing like an actual bar:
The tops of beer cans & tabs were tied together carefully to have the same effect as wind chimes, perched on top of a concrete statue. At one point, wind would catch the top of it and spin it around like a carousel:
Truly a recycled house, every beer was drank before it was used. (Apparently John & Mary put a big dent in their stock, but had the assistance of friends & family as well. Only the outside is decorated with beer can labels, tops & tabs. Not limiting his recycled & reused goods to beer, John also enjoyed inlaying marbles, brass, rocks and metal pieces in cement for a truly interesting image:
Luckily, Houston non-profit Orange Show Center for Visionary Art maintains the grounds & preservation of this fine estate. Now complete with a gift shop with recycled products, you can enjoy the grounds and reflect on one man’s mission. John made sure to make his mark on the world with his Beer Can House. Although they have both passed, I was happy to take a moment for the ultimate recyclers in between Mary & John’s ‘territory’, appropriately close to a recycling bin:
Simple as the “Beer Can House” name, his motivation was simple: I just thought it was a good idea. And it’s easier than painting. Never wanting to make anything elaborate, his favorite beer was always the one “on special”.
The garlands around the house not only provided a decoration and wind chimes, but also lowered the family’s energy bills.
Overall, John proved the ultimate lesson that you can recycle & make art out of anything. While this house reminded me of Philly’s own Isaiah Zagar’s Magic Gardens, it was cool to see a similar concept out in the Lone Star state. Twenty years after John began his project, it was complete. And definitely an area to check out if you’re in the Houston area or visiting old friends:
If you go: the Beer Can House is located on 222 Malone Street in Houston’s Rice Military neighborhood. Plug it into your smart phone or GPS & get there!
Open Wednesday-Friday from 10 AM – 2 PM, Weekends 12 – 5 PM. Admission is $2, but you can also hear a 30 minute tour for an extra $3. I highly recommend the splurge so someone (like our awesome tour guide Christian) can give you a few insider tips and point out some gems you may miss otherwise. Contact the Orange Show with any questions.
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