On an otherwise unremarkable Wednesday in 1978, photographer Mark Gubin was a bit bored at his studio. He decided to take a tub of white paint and write out “Welcome to Cleveland” in big block letters on his rooftop—nevermind that Gubin and his studio both reside in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The rooftop, and the “Welcome to Cleveland” sign that adorns it, line right up with the flight path to runway 19 at the Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport. Decades of perplexed passengers have spotted the sign and rung their attendant call buttons just to double-check that they’re heading to the right city.
The sign sits atop Gubin’s studio and home, a defunct single-screen theatre off of Delaware Avenue in Milwaukee. The studio sprawls across several enormous rooms packed with countless collectibles, like a Civil War-era cannon or millennia-old Roman artifacts. By way of explanation, Gubin once off-handedly mentioned to a reporter that he “worked for Smithsonian for a while.”
The “Welcome to Cleveland” sign has garnered years of notoriety for Gubin, who has been interviewed about it on the Today show and by publications like the Huffington Post, GQ, Slate, Daily Mail, Yahoo, among others. “It just keeps coming around,” explains Gubin. “It will not go away. Every now and then I’ll go online and look up my name and I get an incredible number of hits.”
Gubin’s sign even inspired imitation—in 2021, a man in Sydney, Australia painted a “Welcome to Perth” sign on the roof of his own business.
Next time you’re flying into Milwaukee Airport, remember to take a look out the window to spy Gubin’s sign. And, remember not to worry, you are indeed in Milwaukee.
Know Before You Go
The best way to view the sign is from the air, specifically when landing on runway 19 at the Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport. You can also catch the sign on the satellite view of Google Maps here.