The Beer Can House


The spectacle has elicited its share of screeching brakes, gaping mouths and national publicity (including a segment of Ripley's Believe It Or Not, whose staff estimated in 1985 that 50,000 cans covered the house.) The response amused Milkovisch, who until the stroke that preceded his death talked openly and genially to any visitors that dared approach him. He claimed the project was nothing more than something to do, however, and scoffed at comparisons

While most homes in a modest neighborhood just west of downtown sport wooden or asbestos siding, one has aluminum -- and it's all recycled. This is a testimony to the retirement pastime of the late John Milkovisch, when he put the tools of his upholstery trade to more expressive use. About two decades worth of empties, in varying states of intactness, adorn the house, trees and fence. Flattened cylinders (of a panoply of labels, reflecting his allegiance to whatever brand was on sale), blanket the exterior walls. Bits of cans form an altar-like construction at the driveway’s edge, fill out of the fence, and cover sidewalk planters. Garlands of beer-can tops and bottoms dangle from the eaves and form a canopy over the driveway. Even a slight breeze turns this house into giant wind chimes.

when manufacturers switched to biodegradable materials and the loops began degenerating quickly. For a while he saved the leftover can sides, after splitting and flattening the cylinders and tying them into bundles. In the mid 70s the availability of aluminum tacks inspired him to assemble his stash of sides in large sheets and fasten them to the house. He later used beer cans to repair hurricane damage to the fence.

Cans aren’t the only yard decorations. A faucet and bucket hang from the address sign. Marbles are everywhere -- embedded in the sidewalk spelling out the address in the driveway, and wedged into the wooden slats that make up the fence and planter boxes. The backyard houses a catholic array of yard statuary (just about everything but the Hispanic with a burro), including his wife's contribution, a tiny tree covered with plastic lemons from the grocery store.

to art. (His view of high art rests in the yard's enigmatic ladder crowned with moon and stars -- the Ladder to Success, he called it, with one rung painted black to show that some people don’t make it.) When his work caught the attention of a local folk art foundation, he refused all invitations to visit similar sights in the city. He said he wouldn’t walk around the block to see his place.

Copyright 1996 by Kathy Biehl. All rights reserved. Permission is granted for electronic replication of this article only if you include the copyright notice.

More, please! / Take me back!

This is CCXXII Malone, commonly known as the beer can house. It grew, strangely enough, out of a desire to make curtains. Its creator, who died in 1988, began cutting the ends off cans with a hook knife and hanging strings of the tops and bottoms from the eaves in the early 1970s. Milkovisch initially decorated his eaves with links of plastic loops  that  connect  six-packs,  a  process  he  abandoned

The back yard, long ago.

After covering his house, he found new uses for his supply of cans, which he constantly replenished by drinking six or so beers a day. He fortified his fence with them, threw them into trees, arranged pieces of them into arches, and made scores of replacement strings. Since his death, his family has taken over upkeep. It is now owned by The Orange Show Foundation.

222 Malone is north off Memorial Drive, between Shepherd Drive and Loop 610.