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Houston's Beer Can House Acts as a Monument to Recycling

By S. Mathur

The Beer Can House is a Houston landmark, even though it just doesn't fit in. Jonathan Beitler, PR/Media Rep says "As you drive down Malone street, The Beer Can House seems completely out of place next to the modern residences surrounding it. That's what makes it so much fun - it's a departure from Houston's modernization and rapid growth, harking back to a simpler era and embracing its quirky, artistic and no holds barred nature that it has become known for.

Visiting The Beer Can House is quite a bit different than visiting NASA, the Downtown Aquarium, the Galleria, and many other notable landmarks (yet it's often lumped into the same category with them). You won't find high high admission prices or long lines, and the only thing flashy is the tens of thousands of beer cans lining its walls and hanging off its eaves."

The house is a tribute to the "skill, imagination, and beer drinking abilities of its creator John Milkovich," says Beitler. John Milkovich, was a retired railroad car upholsterer who began decorating his home with his collection of beer cans in 1968: "...and for the next 18 years, the home disappeared under a cover of flattened cans - both for practical and decorative reasons. Garlands made of cut beer can tops hanging from the roof edges not only made the house sing in the wind, but also lowered the family's energy bills. Rather than a work of art, John considered his work an enjoyable pastime, though he always enjoyed people's reactions to his creations."

Photo Credit: David Brown

Beer Can House is featured in Ripley's Believe it or Not, which estimates that 50,000 beer cans were used, and calls it "a monument to recycling". Most of the cans came from beer drunk by John, his wife Mary, and their family and neighbors. They don't seem to have had a favorite brand, as most popular labels are represented.

The house has always been a traffic stopper and after John and Mary passed away, it was acquired by the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art, which celebrates "the artist in everyone". After renovation and restoration with the help of volunteers, Beer Can House was opened as a museum in 2009. The house is considered an important cultural asset, and a major contribution to Folk Art in Texas.

The work of maintaining and restoring the house is carried on by the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art, says Beitler "... continuously repairing the fragile garlands or replacing pieces of beer can siding that come loose, especially due to Houston's often extreme weather.

Ruben Guevara, the organizations preservation manager, utilizes the same techniques that John Milkovich used when making repairs, and spends time researching and acquiring period-era beer cans ensure continuity. The organization receives a great deal of support for these ongoing restorations in part from private and public foundations, corporations, and individuals who all share the vision of the Orange Show, which is to preserve, promote and document visionary art environments."

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