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  Village of Shorewood

Village History

The area that became Shorewood in 1917 was first sighted 343 years earlier by the French explorer Pere Jacques Marquette and his party as they canoed past this virgin territory on Lake Michigan. The area was then the hunting grounds of the Sioux and Algonquin Indians.

Explorer and trappers soon found their way to this territory. The area remained Indian property until 1832 when the United States government purchased the land east of the Milwaukee River from the Menominees. The natural resources of water power and valuable timber attracted settlers who struggled to establish industries and communities for the next 85 years. For example:


Mechanicsville, in 1836, built around the site of a dam and two sawmills on the east bank of the Milwaukee River, just south of the present Capitol Drive bridge.


Humboldt, in 1850, included a paper mill and flour mill


Cementville, in 1876, built a mill to grind the natural limestone, added additional plants and a post office. This industry survived for the next  20 years.

In 1872, a resort proprietor opened Lueddemann's-on-the River on the current site of Hubbard Park which attracted visitors by boat from the city. Just a year later, the steam engines and cars of the Northwestern Union Railway laid the first tracks across the Shorewood plateau and, by 1886, the Whitefish Bay Railway Company extended the route to that neighboring north suburb.

Lueddemann's resort profited from this new mode of transportation and was the beginning of a succession of amusement parks that stretched east from the river to what is now Oakland Ave. (Zwietusch's Mineral Springs, Coney Island in 1900, Wonderland in 1905, and Ravenna in 1909.) The era of resort/amusement parks ended in 1916. However, it was the Coney Island Park that prompted the break from the Town of Milwaukee to what was renamed East Milwaukee.

City dwellers who had begun to settle in the area were dissatisfied with Milwaukee's lack of attention to road improvement, and they were reluctant to pay taxes to the town on the thriving amusement parks, to say nothing of the raucous visitors who were far more disturbing than previous enterprises.

In August, 1900, (with a population of 300), 68 voters went to the polls, and, with 45 votes needed, established the new entity that was named East Milwaukee. The small village grew to 1,255 by 1913; cement sidewalks were added (1910); street signs and gas mains (1911) and the first paved street (1913) was Richland Court.

In 1917, the name was changed to Shorewood to more accurately reflect the environment that attracted business and professional people who built substantial homes outside the city but convenient to city resources.

The population reached 13,479 by 1930, with a peak population of 16,199 in 1950.

Today, with a stable population of 14,000, the one-mile square Village of Shorewood is the most densely populated community in the State of Wisconsin.

The current Shorewood Village Hall was originally built as a four-room schoolhouse in 1908 by the Town of Milwaukee. In 1916 the Village of East Milwaukee purchased the building to house its offices. Named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, the building has undergone a series of renovations.

The current Shorewood business district (the area of Oakland Ave. and Capitol Drive) was originally the home of the Light Horse Squadron. Between 1910 and 1929, the 105th Cavalry Unit of the Wisconsin National Guard had its armory and drill fields between the present Sendik's and Walgreen's. The squadron, on horseback, trained and paraded on the ground. The site is marked with a State Historical Society plaque on the southwest corner of Oakland and Kenmore.

Originally, the Village Board was composed of six trustees and a Village president who assumed the full responsibility and management of the community. However, with the growth of the Village in the 1920's and increasing demands on the trustees' time, the Board hired a Village Manager in 1928. The trustee/manager form of government has been in place since then.

Original library services in Shorewood date to 1903 when East Milwaukee funded a librarian and appointed a library board. From the early 1900's until 1965, the library occupied various locations, including the basement of the Village Hall and five different storefront locations. With its permanent location, completed in 1965, the village had its first full service library.  In 2003 the current library was completely renovated and expanded to include the Historical Society, Health Department, and Senior Center.

The Shorewood Police Department was organized in 1920 and, since 1929, has been headquartered in its present building, earlier called the Safety Building.

The Shorewood Fire Department was organized in 1929. Headquartered with the police department, the North Shore's only remaining original brass fire pole was retained when the building was expanded in 1965.

The first Health officer in the Village was appointed in 1901 and a Health Department was organized in 1918. A school nurse was hired and a program for child health care was developed. In the 1930's, the department received national recognition for its measles- surveillance program.


"Profile of Shorewood" published in 1978

"Images of America -Shorewood, Wisconsin published in 2000


Wisconsin Historical Society
Milwaukee County  Historical Society
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