Estabrook Park

Grenades and underwear

A woman mills munitions primers at the Eddystone Ammunitions Plant, Eddystone, Pennsylvania, during World War I. Women did similar work at the Briggs Loading Co.in Milwaukee. Library of Congress LC-DIG-ppmsca-40775

A woman mills munitions primers at the Eddystone Ammunitions Plant, Eddystone, Pennsylvania, during World War I. Women did similar work at the Briggs Loading Co.in Milwaukee. Library of Congress LC-DIG-ppmsca-40775

A few months after the United States entered the First World War Milwaukee investors established a company to make munitions, built a factory along the Milwaukee River in Glendale, and hired an all-female workforce.

Many Milwaukeeans fought the Kaiser. The women of Briggs Loading Co. did so in their underpants. (more…)

County debates fate of aging Estabrook Park dam

The Depression-era dam across the Milwaukee River in Estabrook Park. Photo by Carl Swanson

The Depression-era dam across the Milwaukee River in Estabrook Park. Photo by Carl Swanson

The Milwaukee County Executive wants it gone, Milwaukee County Parks wants it gone, but the deteriorating Estabrook Park dam got a vote of confidence this week from the County Board, which voted $1.6 million in repairs. Read about the dam and its roots in a Depression-era make-work program in my latest OnMilwaukee.com article.

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Estabrook Park is a reminder of Milwaukee’s mining days

One-Hundred and thirty years ago, Estabrook Park was an immense cement quarry, the largest of its kind in the United States. Operates ceased but the impact on the land can still be seen. This illustration is from an 1890 booklet and shows the Milwaukee Cement Co. works on the upper Milwaukee River, north of Capitol Drive.

One-Hundred and thirty years ago, Estabrook Park was an immense cement quarry, the largest of its kind in the United States and the impact on the land can still be seen – if you know where to look. This illustration from an 1890 booklet shows the Milwaukee Cement Co. works on the upper Milwaukee River, north of Capitol Drive.

Estabrook Park, on the east bank of the Milwaukee River north of Capitol Drive, has an odd claim to fame. It rests on an unusual layer of pale gray Devonian limestone. A high-grade natural cement, this rock was extensively quarried a century ago. It forever altered the natural landscape on this stretch of the river.

The cement works were massive – producing 530 tons each day – but short-lived. The kilns operated for only about 25 years, but while it lasted Milwaukee led the nation in cement production.

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Did Uncle Sam steal part of Estabrook Park?

The Federal government claims to own the small island in the center of this photo. The island divides the Estabrook Park dam's gated channel (at right) and the dam's low serpentine spillway (at left). How this man-made island became Federal property is unclear. Photo by Carl Swanson

The Federal government claims to own the small island in the center of this photo. The island divides the Estabrook Park dam’s gated channel (at right) and the dam’s low serpentine spillway (at left). How this man-made island became Federal property is unclear. Photo by Carl Swanson

Note: Scroll to the bottom for updated information.

No one can explain exactly how it happened, but the Federal government claims to own a piece of Estabrook Park.

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Estabrook dam: interesting past, uncertain future

Photo by Rachel Swanson

The fate of the 77-year-old Milwaukee River dam at Estabrook Park will be decided in the coming months. Photo by Rachel Swanson

After years of debate, Milwaukee County is moving closer to a decision concerning its 1937 dam across the Milwaukee River at Estabrook Park and, no matter the outcome, at least some river users are bound to be disappointed. Those who wish to see the Milwaukee River flowing unimpeded argue forcefully for its removal, while others are just as vehement in demanding a new or rebuilt dam.

In 2009, the state Department of Natural Resources, after a long, worried look at the present dam’s condition, ordered Milwaukee County to either fix it by the end of 2014 or remove the dam. The 2009 order also required the dam gates be left permanently open to alleviate stress on the structure. (more…)

An ignored Estabrook Park artifact hints at early Indian settlement

This large, flat rock in Estabrook Park with its two deep oval-shaped hollows, was thought to have been used by early Native Americans to grind corn. The rock was once quite a historic attraction for the park. It appears to be completely forgotten now. Photo by Carl Swanson

This large, flat rock in Estabrook Park with its two deep oval-shaped hollows was said to have been used by early Native Americans to grind corn. Once this was an important  historic attraction for the park but now has seemingly been forgotten. Photo by Carl Swanson

On May 14, 1952, the Milwaukee Journal printed an article promoting the idea of an automobile trip to various Milwaukee County Parks, including Estabrook. The article advised visitors not to miss an artifact that was then a well-known attraction in the park but today has been forgotten. (more…)

Estabrook Park’s forgotten swimming beach

Built along a bend in the Milwaukee River, the swimming beach at Estabrook Park was a popular place to cool off on a hot day. The river is unusually wide here because the river bed was heavily quarried more than a century ago, creating a deep man-made lake known as the "blue hole." Photo by Carl Swanson

Built along a bend in the Milwaukee River, the swimming beach at Estabrook Park was a popular place to cool off on a hot day. The beach was abandoned almost 70 years ago. Photo by Carl Swanson

Estabrook Park, on the east side of the Milwaukee River north of Capitol Drive, has much to offer. There is a disc golf course, a popular dog exercise area, and an even more popular beer garden. The swimming beach, however, has been closed for nearly 70 years.

In other news: There was a swimming beach at Estabrook Park.

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