Milwaukee County Parks

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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Secrets of Shorewood’s Hubbard Park

These dapper gents are enjoying the rustic bridge at Mineral Spring Park in the 1890s. Courtesy Milwaukee County Historical Society

These dapper gents are enjoying the rustic bridge at Mineral Spring Park in the 1890s. Today’s Hubbard Park in Shorewood occupies part of the old resort. Courtesy Milwaukee County Historical Society

Hubbard Park on the Milwaukee River in Shorewood is a quiet place with a long and surprising history. It was once a farm that became a summer resort. The sleepy resort (activities included fishing, strolling the shady paths, and drinking allegedly health-giving spring water) evolved into a sprawling, boisterous amusement park complete with thrill rides and – I don’t wish to shock you with this – dancing girls.

If you thought a huge and raucous amusement park would be frowned upon in Shorewood, you would be right. It was eventually shut down, chopped up into parcels and sold for development, leaving only Hubbard Park, a narrow strip of land, 1,400 feet long between the Milwaukee River and the former railroad right-of-way now used by the Oak Leaf Recreational Trail. (more…)

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.

(more…)