Cambridge Woods

River Colony, Milwaukee’s lost neighborhood

River Colony foundation

Only foundations remain of River Colony, a former neighborhood of a half-dozen year-round homes on the east bank of the Milwaukee River on the north side of the Locust Street bridge. The homes faced the water. Immediately to their rear the river bank climbed steeply to a railroad cut made by the Chicago & North Western Railway (today’s Oak Leaf Trail). East of the railroad tracks, the ground again rose steeply to Cambridge Avenue, about forty feet above the colony. Photo by Carl Swanson

Just north of the Locust Street bridge, Cambridge Woods Park narrows considerably squeezed between the Milwaukee River and the Oak Leaf Trail. Here the walking path passes a number of tightly spaced crumbling concrete foundations, some covered with graffiti, some barely more than rubble amid the weeds and wildflowers.

You are walking across the doorsteps of River Colony and in its day this was one of the most unusual neighborhoods in Milwaukee.

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Photo Friday: River reflections

Dividing the heavily populated East Side from the just as heavily populated Riverwest neighborhood is the Milwaukee River looking much as it did when Native Americans were the only residents. How cool is that? Especially when you recall this stretch through Cambridge Woods Park was part of a planned but never-built four-lane riverside parkway. Shorewood residents were instrumental in fighting that project to a standstill back in the 1970s. Photo by Carl Swanson

Dividing the heavily populated East Side from the just as heavily populated Riverwest neighborhood is the Milwaukee River looking, in places, much as it did when Native Americans were the only area residents. Its survival in a relatively natural state is pretty amazing when you think about it, especially when you recall this stretch through Cambridge Woods Park was part of a planned but never-built four-lane riverside parkway. To their eternal credit, Shorewood residents were instrumental in fighting this ill-advised proposal to a standstill back in the 1970s. Photo by Carl Swanson

400 miles in 400 minutes on Milwaukee’s Oak Leaf Trail

This segment of Milwaukee's Oak Leaf Trail between the Lakefront and Estabrook Park follows the route of the Chicago and North Western's main line north from the former location of its lakefront depot. Photo by Carl Swanson

This segment of Milwaukee’s Oak Leaf Trail between the lake front and Estabrook Park was built on the former Chicago & North Western Railway’s main line north of its former lake front depot. Eighty years ago, this was the route of the fastest long-distance passenger train in the world. Photo by Carl Swanson

Most users of Milwaukee’s Oak Leaf Trail between the lake front and Estabrook Park are aware, or could easily guess, they are using an old railroad right-of-way. Few realize this was once the route of the fastest long-distance passenger train in the world – the Chicago & North Western Ry.’s 400, which routinely covered the 400 miles between St. Paul, Minn., and Chicago in just 400 minutes – and that included all station stops in between.

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