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The Beer Can House

To say John Milkovisch merely enjoyed a cold one is like saying Houston roads occasionally experience a little congestion. The man simply loved brew. At the pace of a six-pack a day, he loved it. He believed it was the cure to whatever ailed him.

He also believed in never throwing anything away. Of course, at a rate of roughly 2,200 beers a year, that sort of thinking quickly generates an overwhelming stockpile of empties. And there's only so much room in the garage.

Eventually, something had to be done. If he couldn't throw the cans away, then recycling was Milkovisch's only option. Now, to most people, recycling would mean dumping the cans off at the local sorting facility and collecting a few quarters. But John had a better idea.

By 1968, he had already begun to demonstrate a knack for distinctive home improvement. Milkovisch was paving over both his front and back lawns in concrete – he said he was tired of mowing – embedding rocks, bits of metal and other items as he went. He created mosaics in the pavement and erected woodwork inlayed with marbles.

Then the cans came into play. John cut off the ends and flattened the cylinders to form sheets. The sheets he connected to form panels, which he fastened to the outside of his house. The tops and bottoms he joined into chains and hung from the eaves. Keeping in line with his philosophy of not throwing anything out, he even saved the pull-tabs, linking them to create glistening curtains of beverage-container nostalgia. From the looks of it, John didn't appear to favor one brand of beer over another. Reportedly, he would buy whatever was on sale, a practice made evident in the assortment of labels adorning the house: Jax, Texas Pride, Pearl Light, Falstaff. Some you can't even buy anymore.

The additions continued until John's death in 1988, though his son Ronnie carried on his father's work for a short time, completing some beer-can fencing. Today, the house is pretty much the way John left it, though the labels are fading badly and the occasional aluminum chain comes free.

Luckily, after John's wife Mary passed away in 2002, the house was acquired by the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art, a Houston organization dedicated to preserving folk-art projects. At present, the Beer Can House is closed to visitors, but plans are on the table to restore the site and eventually open it as a museum.

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