HOUSTON- From his front porch, John Milkovisch was able to see the beer truck heading for the local grocery, spurring him into action. “He’d run over there and clean them out,” recalled his son Ronald. “He never had less than 8 to 10 cases stacked up in the garage.”
From 1968 until his death 20 years later, Mr. Milkovisch, an upholsterer for the Southern Pacific Railroad, not only emptied 50,000 cans or more of his favorite beverage but also put the containers to good use, cladding his house and workshop with thousands of maintenance-free flattened beer cans (Falstaff was a favorite) and shading the sun with garlands of tinkling beer can tops and tabs.
Known to generations of sidewalk gawkers as the Beer Can House, the folk art monument was dedicated Thursday and will open to the public on Saturday for the first time since its purchase from the Milkovisch family and a seven-year restoration project totaling $400,000.
“Most people who take the lead in doing something truly innovative are considered a little bit crazy,” said Mayor Bill White, cutting a ribbon and paying tribute to “the hard work of generating all those beer cans.”
Inside, a quote from Mr. Milkovisch adorns a wall. “They say every man should leave something to be remembered by. At least I accomplished that goal.”
What may now be Houston’s second-zaniest spectacle was bought by the zaniest — the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art, a foundation growing out of one man’s obsession with his favorite citrus fruit.
Working alone from 1956 to his death in 1980, Jeff McKissack, a Houston postman, built a maze of connected chambers, balconies and tiled walkways extolling the health benefits of oranges. The structure costs a dollar to tour, the same as the Beer Can House.
Marilyn Oshman, the art patron who founded the Orange Show, said it was no accident Houston played host to such attractions. “One good thing about not having any zoning is you can do stuff,” Ms. Oshman said.