First published: Spring 2022
A beer-loving Houston man used his empties to create a local landmark of beauty and renown
When there’s a breeze, you can hear it before you can see it, as you head north on Malone Street in Houston’s west end. A gentle metallic tinkling. Pleasant. Then you see it – an otherwise unremarkable mid-century bungalow sandwiched between monstrous, three-story town houses. Except this bungalow seems to be heavily draped in Christmas tree tinsel. But closer up, you see that it is decorated entirely in beer cans. It is The Beer Can House.
Street-facing signage spreads a positive message and shows the house number, 222, in Roman numerals, photo: Larry Harris
Starting in 1968, when he was 56, until just before his death in 1988, John Milkovisch covered his garden with intricately decorated concrete, and clad his house in an armour of flattened aluminium cans. He linked the leftover rims with wire hooks and hung them like chain mail curtains from the gabled roof, and surrounded the plot with a picket fence studded with glass marbles that allowed sunlight through, creating an iridescent glow.
The Beer Can House is on a regular residential road, photo: Larry Harris
Milkovisch was an upholsterer who worked on railroad cars, a practical man who decorated his house intuitively on his days off and after his retirement. He told anyone who asked about his creation that he did it because he hated mowing the lawn and painting the house. But he loved to drink beer – whatever was on special.
Garlands of beer can lids hang from the gables and eaves of the house, while flattened empties cover the walls, photo: Larry Harris
A pop culture icon for over 30 years, The Beer Can House is now owned and maintained by The Orange Show Center for Visionary Art in Houston, and – since a meticulous restoration ending in 2008 – it is open to the public most weekends. Before cutting an orange ceremonial ribbon festooned with can tops, Mayor Bill White declared The Beer Can House to be an example of Houston’s “fun, quirky alter-ego to the high-architecture downtown skyline”, adding that “often what some regard as strange at the time, turns out to be the most memorable aspect of a city or culture.”
by PETE GERSHON
This is an article extract; read the full article in Raw Vision #110