The Beer Can House: Recycling at its Best

“They say every man should leave something to be remembered by.  At least I accomplished that goal.”  – John Martin Milkovisch

By Terri Marshall

Are you a beer drinker?  I don’t mean just an occasional beer drinker, but one with a regular beer consumption schedule!  Well if you are, I am sure you have accumulated your share of beer cans over the years.  We all know beer cans are recyclable, but one Houston, Texas resident took recycling to a whole new level.  You might say he was “green” before green was fashionable!

John Milkovisch, a retired upholsterer for the Southern Pacific Railroad and the creator of The Beer Can House was definitely one of a kind!  In 1968 John decided to begin inlaying thousands of marbles and rocks to create unique landscaping for his Malone Street home because he “got sick of mowing the grass.” This little project soon spread to an aluminum siding project – only the aluminum siding was made from aluminum beer cans. 

For the next 18 years John continued covering his home with flattened beer cans.  He created garlands of cut beer cans to hang from the roof edges, which reduced his family’s energy bills.  It also gave the house a special song in the wind.

John’s wife, Mary, learned to live with and accept his unusual home improvement projects.  Her only stipulation was that John install nice flooring inside their home.  Ever the recycler, John created beautiful tile floors from scraps of tile he brought home from the trains he was upholstering – I suppose aluminum flooring would not have been functional!

John was a good guy.  In the front yard of the Beer Can House there is a sign reminding us to live by the Golden Rule.  There is also a yellow ladder with one black rung.  The ladder represents the climb we all have in life to reach our goals.  The black rung serves as a reminder of the struggles we will encounter along the way.  John said we have the choice to slip backwards when we encounter the black rung or continue the climb.  Wise words!

John did not consider his project to be a work of art, or a champion for recycling – he was just enjoying himself.  Mary and the neighbors got into the act by helping drink the beer.  Even the neighborhood children contributed their Mountain Dew and
Coca Cola cans to the project at times.  John always said his favorite beer was “Whatever’s on special”!  The Beer Can House is maintained by the Orange Show, a non-profit foundation, and is open to visitors and events throughout the year.  The Beer Can House is located at 222 Malone Street between Memorial Drive and Washington Avenue in Houston, Texas.  It is open for visitors Saturdays and Sundays from 12:00 pm until 5:00 pm.  Next time you are in Houston, check out this landmark to recycling and originality!