Shorewood

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…)

1935 bomb terror started in Shorewood

In 1935, Village Hall in Shorewood was damaged by a powerful explosion. It was the first of an eight-day wave of terror bombings that spread across Milwaukee. Photo illustration by Carl Swanson

In 1935, Village Hall in Shorewood was damaged by a powerful explosion. It was the first of an nine-day wave of terror bombings that spread across Milwaukee. Photo illustration by Carl Swanson

At 7:23 p.m. on Oct. 26, 1935, 2-year-old William Shea was asleep in his crib when a tremendous explosion blew in his bedroom window and peppered his blanket with needle-sharp glass shards. Young William was unhurt, but 12 windows in his family’s house were shattered as were most of the windows in residences up and down the 3900 block of Murray Avenue in Shorewood.

Dust and smoke swirled in the air as neighbors ran from their homes seeking the cause of the intense blast. Dynamite! No mistaking the sweetish smell or the headache-inducing nitroglycerine fumes.

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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…)

The Shorewood apple orchard standoff

The Northwestern Union built north out of downtown in the 1880s, cutting through hills and filling in ravines as they went. This photo was taken at the location of today's Hubbard Park. Courtesy Milwaukee County Historical Society

The Northwestern Union built north out of downtown in the 1880s, cutting through hills and filling in ravines as they went. This photo was taken at the location of today’s Hubbard Park in Shorewood. Courtesy Milwaukee County Historical Society

In the 1880s the Northwestern Union Ry. began building north along the east bank of the Milwaukee River. In time these tracks became part of the Chicago & North Western system and hosted some of the fastest long-distance passenger trains in the world. But before that could happen, the railroad had to resolve the great apple orchard standoff.

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How the 1927 Capitol Drive bridge saved part of the Milwaukee River

Spanning 532 feet and requiring more than 20,000 tons of concrete, the former Capitol Drive bridge over the Milwaukee River was an imposing structure. The bridge was built in 1927. This postcard was mailed in 1946. Carl Swanson collection

Spanning 532 feet and requiring more than 20,000 tons of concrete, the former Capitol Drive bridge over the Milwaukee River was an imposing structure. The bridge was built in 1927. This postcard was mailed in 1946. Carl Swanson collection

Vintage postcards can be odd. Why on earth would a visitor send the folks back home this picture of the 1927 Capitol Drive bridge?

Before answering that question, there’s a funny thing about this bridge. In a roundabout way, it saved part of the Milwaukee River from being filled in for a riverside roadway.

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