|April 23, 2007|
In early 2007, I wrote an article exploring the world of beer geeks for Beer Advocate magazine. In researching the piece, I came across the Houston Beer Can House, of which I had only been vaguely aware of before that time. But I’d never visited it, so after I attended the Craft Brewers Conference in Austin, the family and I headed to Houston to take my son Porter to the Space Center. But we found time to stop by the Beer Can House, which is now owned by a local arts foundation, The Orange House Center For Visionary Art. They recently renovated it, inside and out, and now it’s open to the public. Here’s the history of the house.
John Milkovisch, a retired upholsterer for the Southern Pacific Railroad, started his project now known as The Beer Can House in 1968 when he began inlaying thousands of marbles, rocks, brass figures and metal pieces into concrete and redwood to form unique landscaping features. When the entire front and back yard were completely covered because he “got sick of mowing the grass”, he turned to the house itself and began adding aluminum siding – aluminum beer can siding, that is. Over the next 18 years the house disappeared under a cover of flattened beer cans for both practical and decorative reasons. Garlands made of cut beer cans hanging from the roof edges not only made the house sing in the wind, but also lowered the family’s energy bills. Ripley’s Believe It or Not estimated that over 50,000 cans adorn this monument to recycling.
John considered his work an enjoyable pastime rather than a work of art, but he did enjoy people’s reaction to his creations. He once said, “It tickles me to watch people screech to a halt. They get embarrassed. Sometimes they drive around the block a couple of times. Later they come back with a car-load of friends…”
The house and landscape are adorned with many different types of beer that John, himself, drank (though his neighbors and his wife, Mary, were always glad to lend a hand!). Did he prefer one brand to the next? His favorite beer was always “whatever’s on special”.
When we were there, it still wasn’t open, so we could only see it from the sidewalk, but even from there we could see quite a bit.
Me in front of the Beer Can House.
The mailbox out front.
From the left side of the house.
And from the right side.
Here are some close-ups of the front of the house.
222 Malone is the address, and you can see it here on the ground.
And here on the ground, it’s just “222” in marbles.
The rock sculpture in the front yard.