The Beer Can House in Houston: A Local Folk Art Attraction

Updated on June 29, 2018
Peggy W profile image

I live in Houston, and I have worked as a nurse. My interests include art, traveling, reading, gardening, cooking, and our wonderful pets.

The Beer Can House in Houston, Texas
The Beer Can House in Houston, Texas | Source

Folk Art at Its Best!

If you live in Houston, Texas or plan to visit, be sure to put the Beer Can House on your list of places to see. It is a folk art treasure! It was deemed to be the number one Houston landmark in 2010 by Click2Houston, which is one of our local television channels.

The Beer Can House at 222 Malone Street has been drawing hoards of visitors ever since John Milkovisch, the owner of the property, started making eccentric embellishments to his property in what used to be a middle-class neighborhood.

Suffice it to say that John liked his beer. He started collecting the empties of his six-pack-a-day personal consumption, collapsing them, and storing them in his garage (which eventually became his workshop).

Beer Can House in Houston, Texas
Beer Can House in Houston, Texas | Source

John Milkovisch

Milkovisch retired from the upholstery business for Southern Pacific Railroad and decided that mowing the grass and painting his house for regular maintenance was not something he enjoyed doing. So his creativity started with getting rid of his grass by putting down concrete and artistically placing thousands of marbles, stones, and other collected and found materials into the concrete for aesthetic reasons. This even included utilizing things like doorknobs!

His neighbors were probably amused in the beginning but had no idea just how far this man’s ideas would continue to blossom and evolve.

Sign on the Beer Can House says LIVE BY THE GOLDEN RULE.
Sign on the Beer Can House says LIVE BY THE GOLDEN RULE. | Source

Quite the eccentric man—and possessed of a great sense of humor—it was reported that when he would go to the beach in Galveston, he would put a pipe fitted with a faucet into the sand and sit nearby eating his picnic lunch. He would lie in wait for visitors to try to get some water from the tap!

Mr. Milkovisch started to overlay the boards of the house with flattened beer cans of every brand and description. It was a colorful mix of whatever happened to be on sale in the grocery stores. He did mix in a few soda cans for good measure, but the vast majority of his cans came from recycled aluminum beer cans.

He started from the bottom up, and his wife kept admonishing him to stop, but stop he did not. Eventually, the entire house was covered with beer cans. The fence, mailbox, and sculptures in the yard (of every size and description) did not escape his attention. He was quite the craftsman and artist.

One can often hear the house prior to seeing it, as the wind chime garlands made out of can tops and pulls make a tinkling sound when the wind blows. This also offered additional shade for John and Mary Milkovisch when sitting on their front porch.

John Milkovisch devoted 20 years of his life to fashioning what is now known as the Beer Can House. Over 50,000 beer cans are reported to have been used in its creation.

The inside of the house was left to Mary Milkovisch to decorate. Apparently, she liked it feminine and filled with bric-a-brac. It must have been quite a contrast between the outside of the house and the inside.

The Beer Can House in Houston, Texas
The Beer Can House in Houston, Texas | Source

Touring the Beer Can House

As time evolved and word of this folk art house spread, more and more people started driving by and photographing the house. When the Milkovisch’s still lived there, they took this activity in good stride, as did the neighbors.

Since the owners are now both deceased, Houston’s Orange Show Foundation purchased the Beer Can House with the intent of preserving this folk art monument. They intend to maintain the house in as close to its original shape as possible.

In my husband's and my last visit to this unique folk art attraction, the Milkovisch’s grandson was there leading people through the house and yard and answering people’s queries about his grandparents.

  • The house is now open for weekend tours on Saturdays and Sundays from 12 to 5 PM, weather permitting. On major holidays, the house is closed.
  • Costs for touring the house and grounds include viewing a film inside of the house plus exhibits.
  • Adult tickets cost $5 per person and children under 12 have free admission.
  • For special group tours or private rentals, contact the Orange Foundation at 713-926-6368.

Many people merely drive by this eye-catching attraction and photograph it from the exterior, which is what we used to do with visitors to our city prior to knowing that it was open on weekends.

At the top of a ladder at the Beer Can House it says AMEN.
At the top of a ladder at the Beer Can House it says AMEN. | Source

Recycling to the Nth Degree!

John Milkovisch took recycling to a whole new level. As you now know, he used every type of object besides his beer cans to create this now famous Beer Can House in Houston.

We get the biggest kick out of our showing our visitors this site. Of all the wonderful things in and around Houston, Texas to enjoy and photograph, without exception the Beer Can House always goes home with them as a photographic memory of their trip here.

Be sure and visit this attraction for some recycling ideas of your own. You just might create your own unique masterpiece!

What do you think of the way John Milkovisch did recycling?

See results

Location of the Beer Can House in Houston, Texas

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Peggy Woods

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      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        4 days ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Lorelei,

        The Beer Can House certainly draws interest from people because of how different it is. I would love to see photos of that house built from formaldehyde bottles! That must be an amazing site!

      • Ladymermaid profile image

        Lorelei Cohen 

        4 days ago from Canada

        Wow indeed. It never ceases to amaze me the creativity (or compulsions) of some individuals. Near where I live there is a house built from vintage formaldehyde bottles. I have to say that these creations are beautiful in their very own unique way.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        2 months ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Ethel,

        The Beer Can House is certainly out of the norm but certainly attracts visitors.

      • ethel smith profile image

        Ethel Smith 

        2 months ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

        Crazy but I like it

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        2 months ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Natalie,

        Yes, we did tour the inside of the house. There are some rare beer cans on shelving in the house along with other items of interest. I think that Mr. Milkovisch's efforts on transforming the outside of his house and yard took many years to complete. Apparently, his garage was his storehouse and he flattened most of the cans which would have taken up less space until he started using them.

      • Natalie Frank profile image

        Natalie Frank 

        2 months ago from Chicago, IL

        What an interesting article and an interesting house! I can't imagine how anyone could have collected that many beer cans or where he stored them before beginning to build. Did you get to see the inside of it? I'm curious what it looks like. Thanks for writing this.

      • Robert Sacchi profile image

        Robert Sacchi 

        2 months ago

        That's true.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        2 months ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Robert,

        It would indeed be interesting but I doubt that it would pass muster in most home owners associations agreed upon rules. That is also why places like the Beer Can House draw interested viewers. It is unique.

      • Robert Sacchi profile image

        Robert Sacchi 

        2 months ago

        It would be tempting to ask for a variance to do something like that just to see the reaction.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        2 months ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Robert,

        Home owners associations definitely have set rules aimed to primarily protect home values and keep more of a consistent appearance in the neighborhoods if they are operated well. A Beer Can House would not meet those standards in most cases. That is true.

      • Robert Sacchi profile image

        Robert Sacchi 

        2 months ago

        The advantages and disadvantages of a HOA. Disadvantage - you never get anything that resembles art in your neighborhood. Advantage - you don't find yourself living next to a dump.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        2 months ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Robert,

        Houston has no zoning laws. Unless a person lives in a subdivision where there is a home owner's association and rules regarding what is and is not allowed, this can happen and often does. Given the part of town where the Beer Can House is located there was undoubtedly no HOA in place when this happened.

      • Robert Sacchi profile image

        Robert Sacchi 

        2 months ago

        I don't think an HOA would allow this to happen these days.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        3 months ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Cynthia,

        So glad to know that you enjoyed learning about the beer can house located in Houston. That video at the end is a good one! Thanks for your comment.

      • techygran profile image

        Cynthia 

        3 months ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

        Hilarious and amazing! I love this eccentric art and enjoyed this article and the video you added to it, Peggy.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        3 months ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Audrey,

        We have endless things to do and see in Houston. I have now lived here most of my life and have yet to discover them all. John Milkovisch certainly created a great local folk art attraction! Happy to be able to show it to you. :)

      • vocalcoach profile image

        Audrey Hunt 

        3 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

        Good for you John! This beer house is really something I can't imagine the patience it must have taken to construct this house. Thank you for the wonderful photos. My goodness, I had no idea there is so much to see in Houston.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        3 months ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Patricia,

        That would indeed have been funny to see Mr. Milkovisch on the beach with a faucet stuck into the sand pretending that water could have come out of it. He must have had a great sense of humor! Thanks for the visit and wishes of angels. Hope they are surrounding you today.

      • pstraubie48 profile image

        Patricia Scott 

        3 months ago from sunny Florida

        Mr. M sounds like he was quite a character...how funny it would be to see folks trying to get some water at the beach!!! This really is quite something...who would have thought of doing that....take care of you my friend. Angels once again are headed your way ps.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        3 months ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Barbara,

        Yes I would have to agree that John Milkovisch certainly did not march to just anybody's drummer. He did his own thing when creating his beer can house.

      • Brite-Ideas profile image

        Barbara Tremblay Cipak 

        3 months ago from Toronto, Canada

        Well isn't this cool! He's creative and inventive, great traits to separate you out from the crowd that's for sure!

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        3 months ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi C E Clark,

        I am unaware that any comments have been eliminated from this post. Perhaps you are thinking of something other than the Beer Can House. Houston has its share of folk art oddities that can be fun to visit.

      • Au fait profile image

        C E Clark 

        3 months ago from North Texas

        Definitely worth seeing as it's so unusual and imaginative. Know I've read and commented on this previously, but it looks like all but a very few of the comments have been removed with no means to access them. I always like to read the comments on an article too and I miss the ones that had to have been on here.

        It seems that HubPages has no end of ideas for taking things away from writers who help pay their salaries even if our own are too minimal to mention. I used to have 15 accolades under my name and now there are only 8. I guess the ones taken away weren't worth much to begin with if HP doesn't deem them worth leaving.

        It's like deleting articles that aren't performing well. All the views those articles received are wiped off the record as if they never happened. They are removed from the total number of views a writer's work has received and HP is basically saying they never happened.

        There are an awful lot of negatives on this site. As a Psych major I've learned that the carrot usually achieves more than the stick, but I guess the stick is more satisfying to the one who wields it.

        This is an excellent an interesting article and I enjoyed revisiting it!

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        3 months ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi manatita,

        The video truly portrays this beer can house in a manner that still photos cannot capture. Glad to know that you watched it. John Milkovisch did leave a lasting gift to Houston as well as visitors to our city. Thanks for your comment.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        3 months ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi FlourishAnyway,

        He drank a good bit of it but I never heard that he had a problem. It took him many years to accumulate all of those beer cans. He probably had neighbors and friends join him and I am sure all of those cans would have also been saved for what turned into a monumental project.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        3 months ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Linda,

        If your travels ever take you to Houston you will now know where to go to see this unusual attraction. There certainly was creativity involved in fashioning this house and yard.

      • manatita44 profile image

        manatita44 

        3 months ago from london

        Well Peggy.

        This man was an eccentric, all right. Ingenious and yes, brought many tourists, but he was a bit like you and I, in the sense that the passion and sense of purpose never left him.

        I think he was a genius! Born for this purpose; with tremendous innovative skills. The video is amazing! A great gift he left to Houston. Extremely cool!

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 

        3 months ago from USA

        Did he personally drink all of that beer? Makes you wonder whether he had a problem.

      • AliciaC profile image

        Linda Crampton 

        3 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

        I admire the creativity and dedication involved in decorating the house. I enjoyed looking at your photos and reading the description. If I'm ever in Houston, it would be fun to visit the house in person.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        3 months ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Gerry,

        That is what I would have voted with regard to the Beer Can House. It definitely is a draw for people once they know about it.

      • Gerry Glenn Jones profile image

        Gerry Glenn Jones 

        3 months ago from Somerville, Tennessee

        Peggy, I had never heard of the house until I read your article. I must say that if I get back to Houston, I'll check it out. I enjoyed the article and voted in the poll. I voted, whether it is ingenious or crazy I think that it makes a great tourist attraction.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        3 months ago from Houston, Texas

        Hello ptosis,

        Those wind chimes made out of parts of the beer cans definitely make a sound when the wind is blowing.

      • ptosis profile image

        ptosis 

        3 months ago from Arizona

        Makes a lot of noise in the wind, probably keeps all the birds away.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        3 months ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Bill,

        I agree with you. The Beer Can House is quirky but also "American" in nature. Glad you liked reading about this.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        3 months ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Jackie,

        This definitely rates the word "wacky" but the Beer Can House is fun and definitely draws interested parties in viewing it.

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        3 months ago from Olympia, WA

        As quirky as this is, there is something terribly charming and it seems about as "American" as you are ever likely to see.

      • Jackie Lynnley profile image

        Jackie Lynnley 

        3 months ago from The Beautiful South

        I bet he had a great time collecting! Running a Nik Nak store years ago I know how much things like this interest people. The wackier the better usually. Don't think I would want one for myself but would love to see this close up!

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        3 months ago from Houston, Texas

        Hello Alexander James Guckenberger,

        If you get to visit Houston you will now know about one of more unusual folk art attractions. Glad to know you liked learning about this.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        3 months ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Mary,

        I am sure some of his neighbors thought that he was a bit crazy when he started plastering his house with flattened beer cans. It has now become quite the folk art attraction in our city. He certainly did a nice recycling job!

      • Guckenberger profile image

        Alexander James Guckenberger 

        3 months ago from Maryland, United States of America

        This is fascinating! I hope I am in Texas someday soon!!!

      • aesta1 profile image

        Mary Norton 

        3 months ago from Ontario, Canada

        What a great idea. He brought together everything he loves and made a fascinating work of art that now everyone can enjoy.

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