There’s really nothing special about Malone Street in Houston, Texas.
Until you come upon Number 222,
John Milkovisch’s Beer Can House.
A native of Houston, John moved into this three-bedroom bungalow in 1940 after marrying a woman named Mary. The couple raised their three children in the home and lived in it until their deaths. But it didn’t always look like it does today.
Historians say the transformation began in 1968 with a purchased patio cover. John wanted to sit under the cover and enjoy a beer after work so he created a solid floor with painted concrete stepping stones. In between he poured cement and decorated it with marbles and brass.
John continued the “arte brut mosaic” style along the rear sidewalk, driveway (in which he inscribed the property’s address),
and up to the front sidewalk.
Confused? Well, John grew up during the Great Depression and like many people of his generation hated waste. For 17 years he saved empty beer cans, always knowing he would do something with them but never exactly what.
After considerable trial and error in his workshop,
John focused on using the can tops, bottoms, and pull-tabs for curtains and the flattened cans themselves as aluminum siding.
The pull-tab curtains that line the front of the house and porch make a delicate wind chime sound as they blow in the warm Texan breeze.
There’s very little on the property that isn’t covered in beer cans, even the mailbox
are adorned! But occasionally you find spots of color, like this wheelbarrow in the front yard, used by John from childhood to adulthood to collect construction materials.
Because it was responsible for so much hard work during his lifetime, John retired the wheelbarrow in 1985 and named it “Culprit”.
Mary added some colorful art of her own in the backyard, erecting this lemon tree made of plastic lemon juice bottles.
By all accounts, Mary was a patient and open-minded woman. She and John had an agreement, however — John could do whatever he wanted on the outside, but the inside of the house was hers.
And stepping inside, visitors can see Mary’s kitchen exactly as it was when the couple lived at 222 Malone Street.
John was quoted as saying, “I had no idea people would be so interested in beer cans. I wouldn’t go around the block to see it.” After all, he always claimed these “crazy notions” merely kept him from having to mow the grass and paint the house! But, to this day, people do go and see it and consider it folk art and a cultural icon in Houston.
Now that summer is here and the backyard barbecues have begun, each time I see a beer bottle or can go into the recycle container, I can’t help but wonder what John would have done with it — or what Mary would have done with all that beer! To me, something about her kitchen says muffins…Raspberry Ale Crumb Muffins!
- 2 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup raspberry ale
- 1/2 cup fresh raspberries
For Crumb Topping:
- 1/3 cup flour
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins with cupcake liners.
- In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt; set aside.
- Make topping by cutting butter into remaining topping ingredients; set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat egg, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla. Mix in dry ingredients. (Mixture will look dry and crumbly.)
- Stir in melted butter and raspberry ale. Gently fold in raspberries.
- Using an ice cream scoop, divide batter among muffin cups, trying to ensure there is at least one raspberry in each muffin.
- Sprinkle topping over muffins.
- Bake for 18 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center of muffin comes out clean.
- Cool in pan for 2 minutes; transfer to wire rack to cool completely.
DISTANCE TRAVELED FROM PHILADELPHIA TO HOUSTON: 1,341 miles