16th Street Viaduct

Also known as: James E. Groppi Unity Bridge
N. 16th from W. Clybourn to W. Pierce Sts., Milwaukee, Wisconsin

One of four ways to cross the Menomonee River valley


Father James E. Groppi was a Milwaukee native who was ordained to the priesthood in 1959. He worked with inner city youth and became a leader during the Civil Rights movement. In 1965, he became an advisor to the NAACP. He led several protest marches across the 16th Street Viaduct, later renamed in his honor. (Most Milwaukeeans still refer to the bridge as the 16th Street viaduct.) Groppi later left the priesthood, married and had three children. Groppi became a Milwaukee County bus driver and eventually was elected to president of the union local. Groppi died of brain cancer at the age of 54 in 1985.

Photo taken by J.R. Manning May 2019



Street View 


The 16th Street Viaduct traverses the Menomonee River Valley, one of four ways to cross the valley. Viaducts carry 6th Street, 27th Street and 35th Street in addition to the 16th Street Viaduct.

The viaduct is actually comprised of 20 separate bridges, mostly steel girder bridges although two are steel stringer bridges. One bridge contains a two-leaf bascule bridge that spans the Menomonee River. (At one time, heavy industry in the valley required the use of large ships and even as high as the viaduct is, the ships required a span that would open. Those industries are no longer there, and the bridge has not opened in years.)

Each span has a State of Wisconsin serial number

The first span actually crosses land, parallel to S. Muskego Street that allows access to the south valley. The abutment is now fenced off because it used to be a popular squatting place for homeless folks.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 7, 2019.

Update Log 

  • April 29, 2020: New photos from J.R. Manning
  • April 29, 2020: Updated by J.R. Manning: Added description and photos
  • June 10, 2019: Added by Michael Miller

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